Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Globalization and You: Becoming a Global Thinker

The globalization panel, the final session of the 2011 convention, started at 4:45 pm, with a packed house in the East ballroom on the third floor of the Hilton. The focus of this session, globalization, has been a consistent trend for the last two decades, as borders fast disappear and the world becomes a ‘global information village.’ The session address how this will affect Ascend members and help map how they can become truly global thinkers, and compete in this increasingly borderless world.

The moderator introduced the three speakers, all seasoned veterans of global industry. He explained “this panel is not about globalization, it’s about you!” Referring to the logo on an Ascend brochure, he explained “we chose this particular design” in part because there are “no lines or borders” and “in the middle is you.” He explained that “we are living in a global world, and can go in any direction.” He then introduced the “distinguished panelists,” starting with Bill Wong, Managing Director & Vice Chairman who serves as Managing Director of HSBC’s Global Banking for the Americas and who has been “a big champion of Ascend.” Next was Larry Chang, co-president at Ascend who in his 32 year career with HP held “multiple leadership roles” and who since 2008 has served on Ascend’s board. And, “last but not least” is a “new panelist, Buck Gee, who retired from Cisco on 2008, and who served as Vice President and General Manager of its Data Center, Switching & Security Technology Group (DCSSTG).

The panelists started with introductory remarks on their experiences with globalization.

Bill Wong noted he’s been in the financial service industry for over 30 years and said he found “with globalization” that he was increasingly “in Asia, Europe and traveling a lot in Latin America” where he “found vast differences in cultures and core competencies and needs. That is what brought me closer to the topic here today.”

Next up, Larry Chang noted he had been at HP for 32 years and in this time held “thirteen distinctive different jobs, in four different business units” and that he also has “participated in four functions” with 60 percent of his time in finance, and also spent time in IT; ran the supply chain for HP’s global PC business, and managed innovation to integrate Compaq with HP. On top of this, he added, “I touched four geographies,” including the U.S., Latin America, and Asia and as a consequence, “60 percent of my time was traveling to those regions” resulting in a “thick passport” and in addition, “my wife was really upset I was never home!”

Buck Gee was up next and noted he was a “surprise guest” and was “known to be trouble,” and shifted focus to the previous sessions (Men of Ascend, and Women of Ascend, where leadership was discussed.) He observed, “I am a true believer in strong leadership,” and he said that he “had problems with some comments at the close of the Men’s session,” and what he found to be excessive concern with being perceived as humble. He described someone who was “a smart hardworking team player” by stating, “I know where that person sits – he is not a leader. If you have to worry about being humble,” he found, it inhibited leadership confidence and assertion of influence. “Don’t worry about being humble enough – you are humble enough!” On the issue of Asian empowerment at the highest levels of corporate America, he commented, “Why hasn’t there been progress? Precisely because of this. That’s the problem.” He was intrigued to note that “in the woman’s session,” things were much better than in the men’s session. He noted a common expression many of the men seemed to agree with: “It is better to be liked than lead. To my value, it’s ‘if you do a good job of leading, you will be liked.’ If you have an opinion and worry you won’t be liked, that is the problem.” He noted that “in the woman’s session, one woman said when she became partner, she received feedback that she was too arrogant,” to which responded, “that was bull—!” While “in the men’s session they are arguing they don’t want to be perceived for being too arrogant.” Gee was struck by how the “two panels ended with two totally different results” and speculated that perhaps “the women have gone to enough women’s panels, so they know what the problem is. I say to the men, ‘man up!’ The women are way ahead of you.”

Gee was asked by the moderator what are other ways globalization impacts us at individual level? And he replied, “If you look at where the growth is, you’re going to see that the growth businesses are in Asia. If you have the opportunity when young to work there, you should do it.” He recalled how “at Cisco it was difficult to get people to move from Silicon Valley to China,” and agreed that “when you have families and houses, it’s really hard.” But if young, it’s much easier. So if you can “spend a couple of years in Asia and make a name for yourself, it’s a good thing.”

Larry Chang was next up, and he suggested working “for an Asian company looking to come to the U.S. And they’re coming to the U.S. Like LG and Samsung. They’re coming!” He believes there is a window of opportunity to go work for these companies, and noted he has a niece who has experienced globalization as an individual at many levels: she “just got her MBA, and she’s half Chinese, half Irish; her boyfriend is half Korean and half Caucasian, and he chose to work in Korea as his opening job – and has working with Samsung for about two years now, just out of business school.” New graduates like them, he observed, are now “looking to overseas, not even thinking of working here.”

Bill Wong followed Chang, noting that he agrees “everything Buck and Larry said,” and reiterated that for young people to “find opportunity to go to Asia or Latin America or Europe, basically the one thing you have to do is prepare yourself: you’re going into a different land, and will interact with different people, different cultures – you have to prepare yourself for that.”.

Wong recalled that within HSBC, “we provide a training program” that includes “a rigorous nine month program” and “throughout this time period there are six exams or hurdles you have to pass” and that you “must be proficient in three separate languages! If you want to participate in a global network, in a global workforce, in such a program or in any corporate company’s program, you must start to prepare in terms of language skills, global customs, things of that nature.”

Larry Chang followed suit, saying, “Let me talk a little bit about HP. We’re not as rigorous as HSBC in terms of passing tests or requirements but we do require two languages – English and the language of the country you are going to.” He recommended either Spanish or Chinese as “the two to choose” to prepare for the globalized world. He has found it to be “really hard to find people wanting to move” and recalls that many “candidates say they may not want to leave their friends, or miss Saturday football games,” so that “for those willing to move, the supply and demand is more in favor of the youth than the employee – there are opportunities everywhere!” He described the complex global geography of HP product development, noting that the U.S., Brazil and China are the “three places new ideas come from,” and then India is where things are sent to be tested. So something may be “designed here, then sent to India to test,” and then its marketing will be done “largely in the U.S.,” and then “must be customized for the geographic regions.” As for the supply chain, it “is everywhere” as there are “five factories around the world – the U.S., China, India, Brazil and Ireland.” Chang believes that overseas is where the opportunity lies: “That’s where the jobs are. If you have the interest, you have to raise your hand, and have another language – you have the opportunity!”

After the panelists concluded their remarks on globalization, a Q&A followed, after which attendees exited the ballroom for the Happy Hour Networking session at 6:00 pm, and then the much-anticipated Gala Awards Dinner at 7:00 pm back in the Sutton complex on floor two.

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