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As a Mom and a Lead at a Cross-cultural Team

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Interviewee

The Global Development Division within KINTO Technologies has a DevOps team with multinational and diverse backgrounds. Although each member has different strengths in different languages, technologies, and experiences, they work very smoothly as a team. This time, we interviewed a team leader, Li-san (the author of the article "Introduction of Flyway"). If you are interested in managing an international team, please read on.

Self- and Team-Introduction

Self-introduction

I'm Li, a DevOps team leader in the Global Development Division at KINTO Technologies. After graduating, I spent five years working at an IT subsidiary of a Japanese manufacturer. During this period, Japanese was the common language used in the company, prompting me to learn Japanese, the Japanese culture, and enhance my communication skills across various cultures. At that time, I started out developing, designing, and evaluating web applications, and gained experience as a systems engineer and project manager. I gained not only development experience, but also knowledge of the development process and management. I then served as a lecturer at a university for three years, learning new technologies and pedagogy. This experience also deepened my understanding of effective learning methods. After moving to Japan, I returned to the IT field when my second daughter started preschool. With my cross-cultural communication skills, development experience, management skills and human resource development experience, I currently lead a DevOps team in the Global Development Division.

Team-introduction

At present, our DevOps team consists of three subteams: CI/CD, Infrastructure, and Test. The six members of the team are as follows, with different nationalities and areas of expertise. From the beginning, the DevOps team's philosophy has been to support application development teams by intentionally combining members with different skill sets.

No. Subteam Previous work experience Nationality English proficiency Japanese proficiency
1 CI/CD Development, project management, quality assurance, and system design China B B
2 Infra Infrastructure engineer, project promotion, integration, and design China C A
3 Infra Infrastructure engineer, development, and pre-sales China C B
4 Test Network engineer and project management New Zealand A C
5 Test Development engineer India A C
6 Test Testing, development, and design Myanmar B C

*Language proficiency: A: Can reconstruct and express subtle nuances
B: Can discuss a wide range of complex topics
C: Can express personal thoughts and reasoning
D: Can engage in everyday conversation

Q&A Corner

It can be hard to imagine the daily work of a team with diverse language, cultural, and technical backgrounds. So this time we asked a few questions to the team leader, Li-san. We would like to summarize them here in a Q&A format to provide you with some insight into the team.

Q&A Part 1

  • Q. How do you keep everyone on your DevOps team working toward a common goal, given the variety of professional backgrounds within the team?

  • A. We share a clear roadmap within our team as shown below. Based on this roadmap, we set specific goals so that all members are aligned and work towards the same direction. The team comprises members with a variety of aspirations; some are interested in quality assurance, others aspire to be in charge of infrastructure projects, while some want to be involved in development. We understand each of our strengths and aspirations, and work collaboratively to create a roadmap that everyone can agree with. Roadmap (example) Roadmap (example)

Q&A Part 2

  • Q. Seven people in your team speak four different native languages. What language do you use to communicate? What about documentation or messages?

  • A. When communicating verbally and writing documents, they use their preferred language (English or Japanese). Messages are mainly sent in English because everyone on the team can understand English. We also encourage the use of translation tools for better understanding each other. To communicate across languages and cultures, the presenter in our team will speak slowly, use simple words, and create an atmosphere in which questions are immediately asked if they are not understood.

Q&A Part 3

  • Q. How do you promote knowledge sharing in your culturally and technically diverse team?

  • A. Our team values knowledge sharing, and we use three methods:

Period Means Content Purpose
Ice breaking phase Knowledge sharing meeting for each member's field of expertise Previous knowledge To understand each other and expand their knowledge
One year after assignment Online course learning (e.g. automated testing tools and microservices architecture courses on Udemy) To enhance the skills lacking for the current job (e.g. system architecture, automated testing tools, or AWS)Improvement of skills needed in current job
At any time (after different tasks are completed) Document and retain Procedures, know-how, etc. (e.g. Automated test blocks) To facilitate horizontal development in the future

Q&A Part 4

  • Q. As a mother, is it difficult to lead a cross-cultural team?

  • A. My team is incredibly supportive and understanding of me being a mother. As a culture of the Global Development Division, we respect diversity, respect each other, and maintain an appropriate distance. I have two elementary school children, and when I need to participate in school events, my team members support me by adjusting schedules and reallocating tasks. For example, when my entire family recently contracted the flu, I couldn't come to work for about two weeks, but my team members were willing to take on duties to alleviate my workload. I am very grateful for their support.

Q&A Part 5

  • Q. When managing a multinational team, how can you unify the various standards (e.g. work ethics, professional standards, etc.) and keep members motivated while achieving a certain level of results?

  • A. It is important to recognize and respect the rationality of different cultures. As I am from a foreign country myself, I understand the differences between Japanese and foreign practices and can explain them to the team from this perspective. Since this is Japan, I basically adhere to Japanese standards, but I offer commentary from a foreigner's perspective. I also leverage knowledge of management studies and PMP (Project Management Professional) as well as adopt other common industry practices. I prioritize providing team members with significant autonomy, fostering motivation by enabling them to work on projects of their choosing.

Lastly

  • Q. What do you value the most or devise when managing such a global team?

  • A. I still think communication is the most important, in line with the philosophy of PMP. In our team, everyone is committed to communicating their ideas clearly and with precision. We always use the 5W1H framework to communicate in our work. We also respect different ways of thinking. Basically, we communicate with each other on the basis of the understanding that people are different.

  • Q. I think the support you receive from your team members stems from trust. What's your secret?

  • A. In my day-to-day work, I make a conscious effort to support and mentor our members. We work together to help members achieve their goals. As a team, each of us is an indispensable member. Because we work together to achieve our goals, I believe we can support each other regardless of our positions as leaders or members. I think sincerity is essential.

Summary and Future Prospects

In this article, we interviewed Li-san, the DevOps team leader of Global Development Division, about cross-cultural communication and knowledge sharing in a multinational team, balancing motherhood with leadership responsibilities, and managing a multinational team.

As she mentioned at the end, even in teams with members from diverse backgrounds, always be aware and respect that "people are different," and communicate ideas clearly through the 5W1H framework. We have found that the accumulation of these practices builds trust and enables us to efficiently support each other toward common goals. This is certainly not only true for multinational teams, but also for teams of the same nationality. We hope that this article will be of some help to those who are struggling to manage teams with diverse backgrounds.

In the future, the DevOps team will face additional challenges as their businesses develop and technology evolves. However, with the efforts made thus far and the team's spirit of embracing diversity, we are sure that they can overcome any obstacle. We look forward to the team's future success and growth.

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【部長・部長候補】/プラットフォーム開発部/東京

プラットフォーム開発部 について共通サービス開発GWebサービスやモバイルアプリの開発において、必要となる共通機能=会員プラットフォームや決済プラットフォームの開発を手がけるグループです。KINTOの名前が付くサービスやTFS関連のサービスをひとつのアカウントで利用できるよう、様々な共通機能を構築することを目的としています。

【プロダクト開発バックエンドエンジニア】共通サービス開発G/東京・大阪

共通サービス開発グループについてWebサービスやモバイルアプリの開発において、必要となる共通機能=会員プラットフォームや決済プラットフォームの開発を手がけるグループです。KINTOの名前が付くサービスやTFS関連のサービスをひとつのアカウントで利用できるよう、様々な共通機能を構築することを目的としています。