Friday, October 15, 2010
Yesterday I attended our monthly Toastmaster meeting. For the first time, I felt relaxed and confident. Usually in public settings, one’s has normal feelings of insecurity and awkwardness. But now I felt I was among friends who accept me for what I am. But it was also because one has found himself more since coming to a distant locale. I know who I am and it is usually in a foreign place that one discovers who he is. One understands the differences in one’s culture and upbringing when compared to the local born. For instance, I have purchased more books by Philippine authors since my days in college. It’s also the Toastmaster experience where one needs to have an image of one self to be able to communicate sincerely. I guess I have reached that stage in having formed a self-image adapted to local circumstances.
It is not that one has to form a ‘mask’ in order to face others. But one should seek a compromise that would fit the ‘stereotype’ that local born folks have of someone from Asia. At the end of the day, it’s an open culture with a mix of heritage although more of the European one. So ones need to assert his identity but not to the extent that it would prevent assimilation. It is seeking this compromise of retaining one’s identity while accepting the local perception of one’s culture that one avoids the chest-thumping chauvinism present in most immigrant experiences. It is this journey and eventual acceptance that is the subject of most migrant movies or of moving to a new neighborhood or school and so on. In most cases, it is not only a voyage for work but also of self-actualization.
In my vocation, I get to do what I usually do in the past but with different actors in a new culture. It’s intimidating because one needs a level of self-confidence beyond one’s usual capacity. But that is self-doubt because the job is not new except for the people and place. Instead of working with software developers in the Philippines or India, one is now working with developers from Cleveland, Ohio. The culture and pace of work plus the sensibilities are a lot different. The culture of working in the South is also a whole different encounter. It’s more delightful and relaxed as compared to the hectic and delirious pace of Asia. But it’s the same project based work with the same methodology and milestones. One is just applying the same principles that have helped me in the past: using visual techniques, consistent follow-up and attention to details.
The key anywhere in the world is interpersonal skills. In my case, it’s getting close to the folks but with the risk of losing sight of the big picture. So using visual techniques is a way to see the big picture as attention to details forces one to focus on the trees (not the forest). Visual techniques are especially good when working with remote teams spread out all over the country or the globe. I feel that it’s coming together and the Toastmaster experience has helped me in my new job by helping me think on my feet and speaking in front of people. It’s as if all the threads of my past experiences are coming together in a tapestry that is me; evolving to meet the current environment and achieving a sort of transformation. Writing workshops may be the final step in helping round out one’s experience and understanding. Being a writer is not only about one’s skills but also one’s growth as a person in his milieu.