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May 12, 2009 

 Q&A: ‘Get Ahead By Going Abroad’ Author C. Perry Yeatman on Working Abroad 5/11/2009
The mission of Going Global, which appears on MidwestBusiness.com on most Tuesdays, is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.

CHICAGO – International expert Michael Muth interviews “Get Ahead By Going Abroad” author C. Perry Yeatman. Listen to the interview here. Muth’s comments are here.

MM: What are the advantages and disadvantages of living and working abroad?
PY: It’s easy for people to identify the disadvantages such as being away from home and family. I’d like to focus on the advantages. There is a constant sense of learning and wonder. With greater learning comes a different and broader point of view. That’s tied to senior management.

It also lends itself to taking on greater responsibility, which lends itself to more money. On the personal side, it can be a real life-changing experience. It made me respect and think of America differently. We need to learn from others, too.

MM: What problems do women encounter when pursuing international jobs?
PY: As a woman, I found it to be more to my advantage. Where I lived, men and age were revered. If I had been an older man, it would have been a confrontational power conflict. If you’re a young woman and not worried about your ego, you have a better chance of selling an idea.

A friend of mine was a journalist with BusinessWeek in Russia. She got eight cover stories there. As they discount women, they said all sorts of things they never would have said to a man. It was in the international and U.S. editions worldwide. They knew it came out. She got better access and less restrained quotes.

MM: How do families deal with foreign assignments?
PY: It could be one of the greatest gifts you can give a family. A lot of families can adapt more than you would think. But watch out if you have children of a high school age.

MM: How are the opportunities for working for foreign firms in foreign countries?
PY: My experience is with large U.S. or European multinationals. The fastest-growing trend is intraregional expatriation. It has taken off in Asia in Latin America. Big icons in native markets are looking to expand with Americans to get into business here.

MM: Are opportunities any less or greater for techies?
PY: I see it from both sides. Technology is the equalizer of the world. They can talk regardless of your culture. I also see that there’s a huge capability. They have their own technology firms and experts.

Do they need to buy it from elsewhere? Do you have a transferable skill? The question is whether or not you’re unique.

MM: What opportunities are available for more experienced workers?
PY: It depends. The historical model was you take both sides of the spectrum. You take younger people and let them develop and spread their wings. They’re inexpensive with no families. They also send people in their 50s or 60s to open up a market.

Headquarters needs to feel confident with someone and be able to trust him or her. Stature matters and age matters, too. The difference in the older set is for women. They are volunteering not for more money but to get amazing life experiences in the developing world.

MM: Where’s the best place to start to find a position abroad?
PY: The most important thing is to decide what you want. Is it the money, the power or the life experience? The more clear you can be, the better chance your have of succeeding.

MM: What experience is required to work abroad?
PY: There are a couple questions any organization asks itself before it sends someone overseas.

What’s in it for the company? What’s this person going to get that will be helpful to us? What’s the chance of this person being able to survive? Are they going to be interested? You need to look at your company strategy. Is your company investing in Asia or Latin America? If so, in what products?

Match that up with your skill set. Are they targeting you for senior management? You need to be honest with yourself. They’re still going to be worried if you can make it there. You should join organizations or associations to get comfortable with the culture.

Learn the language. Take a vacation and go there. Look around. Set up interviews and meetings with some of the heads of the firm while you’re there so they can see you. You have a much higher likelihood of getting the position. There is more clear benefit and you are a lower risk.

MM: Should one alter his or her resume to the national norm?
PY: If you’re trying to be hired locally, go local. I’ve had a curriculum vitae everywhere else except America. The set up, structure and length of a curriculum vitae differs with an American resume. It’s longer and more descriptive.

It’s still about what skills you have. It’s just a different format. You need to appear as desirable as possible to the hiring manager.

MM: How does the interviewing process differ?
PY: It depends on whether you interview here for a position elsewhere or there for a position abroad. They’re different depending on the culture in which you’re interviewing. The onus is on the interviewee to make your uniqueness and qualifications stand out.

MM: Is getting that international job just available at big companies?
PY: There are opportunities with firms of all sizes. There are more with big firms. They have more money so they can take more risks. It’s the law of numbers.

MM: How important is knowing the local language in getting the job?
PY: What’s the role you’re going to play? It’s essential in some, but not all. If you don’t speak a foreign language, it doesn’t rule out getting a foreign job. If you do speak a foreign language, it can only help.

MM: What if you get “culture shock?”
PY: Recognize it’s going to happen regardless of where you go. It’s hard every single time. When you question why you’re doing something, it has always paid off professionally and personally. I’m always so glad I didn’t give up.

MM: How would you estimate the international opportunities in business versus government versus education versus at a non-profit?
PY: While there are opportunities in all four spaces, there are more in business or government. Non-profits are a growing opportunity to get into developing markets. Though they can’t pay a lot, they offer some of the most phenomenal opportunities.

MM: How did your work experience abroad change you?
PY: My husband is a foreigner and is not an American in mindset or attitude. I can appreciate a global mindset. While America is all about “me,” what I learned overseas is there has to be a blend of what’s in it for me and what’s good for the greater good of society.

I’m a lot more tolerant. I learned to appreciate differences. I learned to listen and how to communicate the essence of the point rather correcting than the grammar of the point. Yes, I really love America, but there’s a lot of the rest of the world to explore as well.

MM: What are your impressions of Chicago as an international region?
PY: Chicago is a fabulous city. I will always be a fan of the Met. I was drawn to the Midwest by the family values. I have a global job and a 15-minute commute. That doesn’t exist in New York. While it’s not that international, it’s increasing. We have to choose to want it.

MM: Anything else?
PY: If you have any desire to go overseas, go for it. You will never ever regret it.

Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at muth@midwestbusiness.com.
Click here for Muth’s full biography.

Previous Columns in 2007:
Q&A: Changes From Siemens, Toshiba Amid Today’s Economic Recession (4/27/2009)
Q&A: Lih Tah Wong of Computer Mail Services on E-Mail Filtering, Blacklisting (4/13/2009)
Q&A: World Trade Center Illinois Chairman Neil F. Hartigan, Director Bilal Ozer (3/3/2009)
Recession: International Causes, Effects of Today’s Global Financial Crisis (1/19/2009)
Q&A: Ex-Chicago Tribune, ‘Caught in the Middle’ Writer Richard Longworth (1/5/2009)
Q&A: Midwest Regional Director Michael E. Howard of Export-Import Bank (6/17/2008)
Q&A: Intetics Managing Partner Alex Golod on Belarusian Economy (4/15/2008)
Q&A: Intetics Managing Partner Alex Golod on Protecting Intellectual Property (4/9/2008)
Q&A: Intetics Partner Alex Golod on Being a Jack of All Trades (3/31/2008)
Q&A: Motorola WiMAX Director Tom Mitoraj on Unstoppable Freight Train (11/26/2007)
Q&A: Motorola WiMAX Director Tom Mitoraj on Global WiMAX Differences (11/20/2007)
Q&A: Motorola WiMAX Director Tom Mitoraj on Widespread WiMAX Growth (11/12/2007)
Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Translation Tools, Costs (9/18/2007)
Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Globalization, Translation (9/11/2007)
Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Intercultural Translation Issues (8/7/2007)
Q&A: Madison Capital Partners CEO Larry W. Gies on Specific Country Issues (7/10/2007)
Q&A: Madison Capital Partners CEO Larry W. Gies Jr. on Cultural Differences (6/26/2007)
Q&A: Madison Capital Partners CEO Larry Gies on International Private Equity (6/11/2007)
Q&A: Scott H. Lang of S.H. Lang & Co. in Chicago on Foreign Deal Making (5/15/2007)
Q&A: Scott H. Lang of S.H. Lang & Co. in Chicago on Middle-Market M&A (5/8/2007)
Q&A: Scott H. Lang of S.H. Lang & Co. in Chicago on Middle-Market Firms (4/24/2007)
Q&A: George Filley of NAVTEQ in Chicago on Data Localization, Reach (3/27/2007)
Q&A: George Filley of NAVTEQ in Chicago on Partners, Personal Privacy (3/20/2007)
Q&A: George Filley of NAVTEQ in Chicago on Digital Mapping (3/7/2007)
Click for 2006 column archive.
Click for 2005 column archive.
Click for 2004 column archive.

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