Building My Story: Takeaways from Maxine Lu
“Like always. Like never before.” This business slogan from Saturn Corporation represents the philosophy Maxine Lu follows as she builds her own story. Valuing both consistency and innovation, she demonstrates this idea by maintaining a strong work ethic while exploring new opportunities in the workforce. Maxine’s decisions to take her career across different countries and industries perfectly exemplify how intentionality can help develop a memorable story. Upon hearing the diverse experiences in Maxine’s story, I began to reflect on the direction I am taking with my narrative. Taking a deeper look into my story, I noticed that I have been walking down a career path without making purposeful plans to enhance my own experience and knowledge. Despite having relevant experience in my intended field, I have come to realize about myself that I am inclined to remain in my comfort zone when it comes to my career choices. Having never thought about venturing into different industries or relocating to unfamiliar places for my career, Maxine’s story encourages me to become intentional with my career decisions and take any chances to create a unique story.
Maxine’s journey speaks to me on a personal level because I am also an international student. Her perspective on studying abroad made me see the pros and cons attached to my decision to study in the United States. Identifying the opportunity to network with people from around the world, Maxine expressed how her MBA at McCombs and her career in multinational companies allowed her to gain exposure to different people and cultures. Similarly, I saw my education at UT Austin as a way that I can further develop my cultural and workplace competency. My time here will have honed my ability to understand the diverse culture clusters that were mentioned by Maxine. For example, Confucian Asia: having derived their values, customs, and beliefs from Confucian thinking, several East Asian nations demonstrate similar mannerisms in the business realm. Knowing the power of diverse culture clusters that are practiced in international and multinational companies can give you a window into that companies’ core values. An example that Maxine used was her experience working at a Japanese company. This company required its employees to know at least one Chinese karaoke song for interactions with Chinese clients. These employees’ commitment and dedication to their jobs showcase the aspect of Japanese workplace culture that values diligence. By working in multinational companies, people can learn from these different cultural practices. As Maxine suggested, these practices can be carried over to different companies as one continues to build workplace competency. Maxine’s experience working in international businesses made me recognize the importance and strength of understanding and appreciating cultural differences in the workforce. Taking in and utilizing the lessons from these cultural and workplace practices will make me a more well-rounded worker as I continue to build my career narrative.
On the other hand, Maxine also pointed out a disadvantage that is attached to building a career abroad. Noting that living abroad means being away from your family and friends, she acknowledges the emotions and difficulty international students experience as they create their stories. Although I am already familiar with the United States, the concept of being far from my family remains a huge factor when deciding what I want to do in the future.
While Maxine’s story instigates a period of self-reflection, her career advice motivates me to cultivate my transferrable skills continuously. In the talk, she listed the ability to communicate without borders, be driven by big picture vision, and observe with the science of anthropology as three main skills to foster in the workplace. Stating how these skills are necessary for the workplace, Maxine stressed the importance of language when unifying workers in a multinational business. Specifically, it is important to articulate properly when it comes to addressing one’s role in the organization. One piece of advice Maxine gave during the talk was to use the same language as the company’s leaders when communicating your understanding of the company’s strategy. This helps workers both comprehend the organization’s grand strategy and align to the company’s workplace culture.
This concept connects to Maxine’s second point which suggests the need to be driven by the big picture vision. Making sure to understand one’s position in the organization’s strategy makes it easier to integrate into the company and see oneself as a part of the company’s vision. This would allow for mobility within the organization which would build career security and leadership skills in the long run. Aware of the direction the company is heading towards, employees not only feel more secure in the organization but also more willing to invest in the company. Acknowledging their unique roles in the organization, employees will make the effort to build psychological safety and trust between colleagues.
Finally, in observing with the science of anthropology, one can understand that people are more than just their work personas. People have personal lives outside of work, and so one should be ready to accommodate for sudden changes and be flexible enough to efficiently manage unforeseen circumstances. By moderately and appropriately involving themselves in the lives of coworkers, leaders are able to foster a caring and personal environment that strengthens the interpersonal relationships within the team. Maxine briefly spoke about the importance of small talk before meetings. She mentioned that joining meetings earlier to engage in non-work-related conversations helps to close the gaps between colleagues and form closer bonds within the company. As a student who will be interning in a multinational company next summer, I see the significance of these three points. I will actively try to practice all of them, but the third point holds the most significance for me as it helps me gain deeper insights into the company, network with the diverse employees, and, hopefully, grow beyond my role in the company.
Global Leadership: Managing Across Cultures with Maxine Lu provided many great insights into international and multinational companies. Listening to stories of her experience helped me realize the importance of building a unique story that is both personal and memorable. As someone who shares a similar background to Maxine, I took her advice to heart as I continue to explore my international identity and figure out how to develop a narrative from my circumstances. I also plan to practice her career advice, focusing on cultivating those transferrable skills in my future careers. I believe the never-ending development journey will help me evolve into better versions of myself as I create my story.
You can view the recording of the Global Leadership: Managing Across Cultures here:
Written by Juolin Tsai, Intern at the Center for Global Business