Diversity in the Workplace: Creativity, Culture, and Collaboration
Diversity in four different languages; 多样性, विविधता, diversitate, çeşitlilik.
多样性! विविधता! diversitate! Çeşitlilik! Diversity! At Wavely, our team comes from all over the world, including India, Romania, and Turkey. We have an open and supportive environment where all team members feel comfortable sharing our values, cultures, and opinions. Hearing about other cultures expands the mind. Through constant exposure to different thought processes and ideas, I have realized there are often several solutions to one challenge. Multiple perspectives help us come to solutions that otherwise no one would have come to on their own.
Despite having different traditions, customs, and beliefs, diverse cultures often also share many similarities that bring people together. Diversity encourages creativity, increases emotional intelligence, and improves communication skills – all of which are very important qualities in a business. There are many reasons why I appreciate having a diverse work environment including a boost to creativity, an improvement in communication skills, and an increase in emotional intelligence. I hope to encourage you to seek out diversity in your next job!
Diversity Encourages Creativity
My team’s product managers show various local product examples and benchmarks during our brainstorm sessions. I feel that when I have multiple product examples, my ideas become well rounded, creative, and insightful. After listening to the different approaches, I am more curious about my team’s ideas, and do my best to learn more about the solutions and viewpoints they offer.
“Creativity is not only measured by the work you create, but also in the way you think.”
For example, when my team changed our onboarding pages of Android application, everyone worked to provide clear benchmarks, mockups, CTAs and visual details for the new page. From all of our perspectives, we were able to combine forces. I listened to everyone’s thought process and potential solutions. Together, we worked to find a solution that was the best fit for Wavely’s user interface and backend technology.
We also needed to create a design that required minimum engineering effort, but provided maximum business impact. We have people with backgrounds in engineering and design on our product team help us to evaluate our final design from both a technical and UI/UX perspective based on either data or voting methods.
At my previous company all product managers were engineers, rather than having a mix of design experience. At Wavely, product managers’ backgrounds are more diverse. It is important to evaluate our design based on users’ data, market needs, and our technical infrastructure. I am very appreciative that when my team needs a solution to a specific UI problem we are able to consider everyone’s ideas with respect. Respecting the ideas of each person on the team increases overall creativity because people do not feel scared to voice their ideas, rather everyone’s input is valued.
Different Work Cultures
I started working in the United States on January 27, 2019 after previously working in Turkey for two years. Since then, I have noticed big differences in U.S. and Turkey work culture. I realized in the U.S. people feel more free to express their ideas and ask questions. This freedom of expression is even more noticeable within startup companies!
In the U.S. both my managers and colleagues give feedback to one another. I feel that there are less people in the U.S. that take feedback as personally and emotionally than those in Turkey. It is a longstanding part of the culture in Turkey, that the banter between people is taken lightly. It is common for jokes and criticism to be more welcomed.
However, in the United States I have noticed that people are more accustomed to take thoughts, criticisms, and jokes more personally. Americans seem to not be able to separate work and emotion. The two are so tightly interwoven, that criticism on performance could mean that they are going to feel personally attacked.
It is important to be able to separate work from emotion, in most cases, in order to think critically and without bias. I believe open feedback increases work efficiency in the office and communication between colleagues and managers.
In Turkey there are still a lot of companies that have a high-level hierarchy, so sometimes it is difficult to share your ideas. It often feels impossible to have an impact on a business, which in return leads people to feel limited in their potential. Being vocal about your thought processes to people who listen and provide feedback allows others to improve their skill sets faster. Feedback helps me to realize my weaknesses, then improve on those weaknesses. However, for startups in Turkey, the old fashion hierarchy mindset has started to shift to a startup culture where people are comfortable to voice their opinion or ideas.
My product team works hard to come up with different approaches to problems we encounter. Our diverse team has the secret sauce – empathy. It helps us to embrace different opinions, and find the best solutions. I have learned how to better understand people’s ideas and opinions in a diverse team. From my perspective, empathy enhances people’s emotional intelligence, improving communication and collaboration with your team.
Emotional intelligence refers to a persons’ ability to both identify and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. In order to be emotionally intelligent, we must first have emotional awareness and be able to identify emotions. It also includes harnessing an emotion and applying it to tasks like problem solving and managing your emotions.
It is important to develop your emotional intelligence, as it helps immensely when working with a team of people with different personalities and cultures. It helps increase the quality of work and helps create a happy work environment. Interpreting your colleagues’ feelings and having better self-awareness helps me coordinate and complete tasks with my team more efficiently.
There is more than one decision-maker on my team, working together to select the best solution. I am very blessed to have a chance to work with different, beautiful minded people to expand my knowledge and see how other people attack different projects.They always encourage me to share my ideas, listen to my opinions carefully, and encourage me to continuously improve.
The feedback I get from my team helps me develop my skills and grow in my position. Because of this open environment and feedback cycle, I feel more motivated to do my job because I know I can make a positive impact. I am more dedicated to improving my skills within my industry in order to provide the best support to my team and to my company.
Celebrating Cultural Holidays Together
Our team continues to become more diverse as we grow. I am always very excited to hear about different cultures and countries. I often ask my team a lot of questions regarding their cultures, and find that they are always willing to share a lot with me.
I am from Instanbul, Turkey and last month, while we were chatting and spending quality time with my team, we realized that the Turkish and Indian cultures are very similar to each other. It is very interesting to me to learn that two countries that are quite far away from each other still have common cultures and connections.
Turkey and India use a lot of the same words to express their feelings, and both countries have very friendly hospitable cultures; they consider their guests as extremely important. They also both believe in the evil eye, and have a unique way to protect themselves from it. Turkish people usually use bluestone, Indian people use lemon and chilies.
This past year, our team decided to celebrate Diwali in the office! Through our celebration we learned that Diwali is a festival of new and bright beginnings. In Turkey, I never had a chance to celebrate another country’s special celebration. I feel so blessed that working in a diverse environment in the Silicon Valley has given me the chance to not only learn more about India’s special festival, but also to celebrate it together with my Indian colleagues.
Since moving to the U.S., I have noticed that personal space is very important to people. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I see that Indian and Turkish cultures are more comfortable being closer to one another. In Turkish and Indian cultures, hugging is a very natural act, even in the workspace. On the opposite end of the spectrum, U.S. culture encourages more strict boundaries. In your own workplace, be careful and respectful of your colleagues’ preferences. An act you may consider as friendly, could make the other person feel uncomfortable.
Working in A New Country & Lifestyle Changes
When I moved to the Bay Area from Turkey, it was challenging for me. The lifestyle differences between the two locations were night and day. There were changes in how team members interacted, how they give and take criticism, office lifestyle, and company values.
Not only were there major differences in culture at the company I worked for, but there were also big changes in my life outside of work. I missed my family and friends a lot in my first months here, but then I decided to build my second family here in the Bay Area. I spent more time with my friends here, and it made it feel like I had a new community of people supporting me.
I reminded myself of my goals and my reasons to be here when I felt homesick, and used those reasons to motivate myself. I though about how central the Silicon Valley is in developing my career. After joining Wavely, I’ve met so many great people. I am so blessed that they are always open to hearing my ideas and that they always provide me great feedback about my work. I have never been so confident in my team and in my skills.
To anyone considering changing their job, moving out of their home country, or seeking to learn something new, I highly suggest looking for a position at a company where diversity is valued and celebrated. Not only will you learn about different culture’s celebrations, but also the way they work together with other and how they approach problem-solving. I believe that understanding and voicing your opinions makes you an asset to any team.