Recently, I received a Facebook message from a former Allshore employee who I had managed until he moved to Italy last summer. I was touched that he remembered me. He told me about his time in Italy, how he was adjusting, and that he missed his home in Pakistan and everyone at Allshore. I was empathetic because I had experienced a semester abroad in Spain; adjusting to homesickness is never fun, no matter where you are from. If you would have told me eight months ago that I would have a Facebook conversation with a Pakistani in Italy, I never would have believed you. Working at Allshore for the past ten months, I have been introduced and immersed into this completely new culture, and even still today, I’m getting to know Pakistan.
I was asked in my interview if I knew anything about Pakistan. My answer was no. I really didn’t know anything about Pakistan. I knew Osama bin Laden was captured there by American military. I knew it was a predominately Islamic culture. I knew they had nuclear weapons. Basically, I knew what I read in the media. I had a lot of learning to do.
Learning about a different culture can be overwhelming and confusing. One of the most challenging things in the beginning was learning how to pronounce their names and cities. I learned about their holidays and their norms and began to learn about their religion. I was very surprised how welcoming and patient they are. For a country that seems to have so much instability, the developers seem so normal. I was even more surprised to learn how much we had in common. They have a great sense of humor and a goofy side. They watch American movies and eat at McDonalds.
Working with a different culture on a daily basis is an adjustment, but it is a great opportunity. Not only do you learn about their culture, but it also provides insight to your own culture. This job has even taught me more about the United States. Our clients are located all over the country so I frequently communicate with people from different states in different regions of the U.S. From New Jersey to Utah, I have learned about regional differences in my own country.
During this time of globalization, learning how to communicate and work with different cultures is an important skill. This will become increasingly important in the business world as businesses and economies intertwine.
I was once told I was working for the enemy when I told someone I worked with software developers in Pakistan. I was speechless and confused by this statement. I explained that they aren’t the enemy and not every Pakistani is a terrorist. There is more to Pakistan than news headlines. I was then told that I was sticking up for them because I worked with them. That may true to some extent but I was sticking up for them because I knew better. They are a great culture with great, hardworking people. They are my coworkers, no different from those I share an office with here in Norman. Thinking that someone is your enemy will not change your relations. We will never grow or improve if we don’t have an open mind and a positive attitude. Not every Pakistani is a terrorist nor an Islamist extremist. They have their own problems just like every other country. I’m not saying that everyone there is perfect or a saint; but neither are we.
Working at Allshore has expanded my curiosity and cultural awareness. I am learning to question stereotypes. I am learning how to be an effective leader and an effective communicator. Most importantly, however, I am learning to have a positive outlook and never judge someone by where they are from – an attitude that goes a long way in our ever-changing world.