Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Team

The functional analyst was born in the Philippines, lived in Singapore for seven years, a 16 year veteran of the company, who worked in Logistics projects in Japan, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, France, Brazil and Algeria, transferred to South Carolina 3 years ago, working in the same field that concerns warehouses and logistics, holds a Master Degree in Business, a licensed project manager and an  officer in Toastmaster, a book reading aspiring writer, the longest member of the team as the original members have either left or moved to other departments, some say a source of stability for the project, an expert in technology, not talkative though striving to be sociable, prefers to work alone, often the last person to leave a site, bringing the new members up to speed as they came into the project, working above and beyond what was expected of him, focused on the project for the three years since coming aboard, learning the American culture and working with outsource partners in India and Cleveland, Ohio, doing most of the heavy work, feeling stressed at times like carrying the whole project on his shoulders, feeling vindicated after going live in four sites.

These are the members of the project team – a transplanted Northerner from New York, a well-traveled Mormon - both young technology geeks with advanced degrees, a golf playing Southerner with a happy go lucky charm with significant working experiences in the warehouse, and a recently transplanted Asian who has done logistics projects in many countries, also a technology geek with an advanced degree,  working together to get the project running, traveling to different sites like Laurens, Reno, Houston and Chicago, facing glitches on-site, criticism from the bosses, tolerating the foot dragging attitude of the major developer, the skepticism of former project members, facing personal doubts but struggling forward, experiencing problem after problem in the first site, humiliation and grief, nasty emails from the logistics director, questioning if the problem can ever be solved, working with IBM to check the network, talking about bandwidth and major software redesign, finally hitting a solution that solves the key issue, bypassing any network bottle neck that would have stopped the roll out, getting the department leaders on-board to help overcome obstacles, successfully persevering in the end.

How did we end up together, with our different backgrounds, like ingredients in a tasty sauce, different experiences and viewpoints working together to get things done, springing into action collectively; the software not really a major product, but a small system, a side show that prints shipping labels, but a technical innovation, to perform in the cloud; a decentralized process that may entail changes in other areas, like a small rain drop that causes ripples and extends farther out the pond, a fresh wind that may prove to be a catalyst for larger things, perhaps that is what makes the project interesting, despite its meager role in the scheme of things. One recalls a key member leaving the team for a new job but the team moving on, he was the support manager, another 30 year veteran of the company, a former sergeant in the US marines, telling stories of training in the Panama jungle, well-traveled, who also worked with the Southerner in the warehouse, himself born in Alabama who moved to South Carolina decades ago; both these persons from support are middle-aged, while the other members are in their early or late forties,  the team moving like an old war horse, slow but determined with some challenging episodes.    

There is a ‘cowboy’ culture in the team, unlike in the East, the members are willing to crawl under tables, lift heavy equipment, ready to do the menial tasks like a ‘cowboy’, willing to ‘go at it alone’ mentality, whereas the Asian culture have managers or idea men as people who assign arduous stuff to ‘workers’, a level below senior employees, often to young people, delineating mental and physical chores to their appropriate personnel, unlike the ‘cowboy’ team who are willing to do anything, the democratic principle at work wherein everyone is equal, conscious of pulling their own weight with no distinction between leader and servant with regards to manual work, an egalitarian ideal that gives comfort, that everyone is in it for the duration, giving respect to mental work and idea men, but treating them equally just the same as a janitor, a natural tendency to be suspicious of intellectuals,  respecting only hard work and perseverance, perhaps that’s the greatness of the country; let’s roll up our sleeves and get down to business mentality, a no nonsense, practical approach to life, devoid of the French predilection to high thinking or Chinese subtle stratagems but an innocent and eager approach of the ‘cowboy’, the lonely hero in the range or part of a heroic group out to beat the bad guys.

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