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Lean IN – July Edition

Picture of Xu Han

Xu Han

 

This month, we invited Devmi to share her stories. 

Being exposed to both western and Sri Lankan cultures from a young age, how does she respond to Australian work culture? What about her friends raised in a traditional Sri Lankan family?

"Communication skills, and emotional intelligence"

Pronouns: she/her

Background: Sri Lanka

Years in Australia: 5+

Occupation: Business System Analyst

Education: Master of Information System

X: 'Hi Devmi! Glad to have you today! Please tell us about yourself!"

D: I came from Sri Lanka and got a Bachelor’s degree in biology. But I was working in business development back home. It’s my fifth year in Australia.

Considering my interest in IT, I studied and received my Master degree in information systems in Australia. Now I work as a business system analyst.

X: Comparing the work environment in Sri Lanka and Australia, did you experience any ‘cultural shock’?

D: Not much cultural shock for me because I was raised in a family where my parents are both well-educated and a bit ‘western’. But I could tell the differences. In Sri Lanka, RELATIONSHIP determines how far you will go in your career and how easy or hard when applying for a job. Australia is very different, it seems your achievements rely more on your skills and capability, and opportunities are open to everyone.

 

This didn’t happen to me, but to one of my friends. He is from Sri Lanka and was raised in a traditional family. He was working as a Uber driver in Australia. He met a female passenger once and then tried to make friends with her. But he didn’t realise his behavior was interpreted as harassment. And he ended up explaining the whole story to the police. It’s told from my friend’s perspective, but cultural differences played a role in this incident. 

X: In your understanding, what might cause discrimination at work?

D: I think it’s more like miscommunication and misunderstanding. For example, a person from Sri Lanka, like my friend I just mentioned, maybe he was not clear about the policies and what society values and does not value, also he might be unclear about the expectations from people, or he has communication problems. I mean language barriers. The communication style he finds appropriate in Sri Lanka doesn’t necessarily fit in Australia.

X: What advice will you give to people from different cultures and new to Australia?

D: Definitely develop soft skills! Especially communication skills, such as language proficiency and email writing. Also, emotional intelligence. If you are unsure about what you need to do, observe what people are doing around you

X: For you, what makes a good employer?

D: First, offering training. But I mean training on helping employees build soft skills, such as communication and presentation skills. Ensuring that they understand what is not appropriate to do/say at work even if it’s ok in their home countries. The training needs to face both sides, locally-born and overseas-born employees. It’s the employer’s responsibility to promote communication and eliminate bias. It’s also essential that a good employer should be able to recognise the values and potentials of staff and then offer opportunities to prove themselves.

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