Saturday Oct 11, 2008

Engineering Across Languages and Cultures

I had great fun earlier today participating on the cross-cultural engineering panel at the Pasona Tech conference in Tokyo (here, here). We addressed cultural, language, and career issues facing Japanese engineers as they engage employers and developers around the world. This is not only an interesting subject for me, but it's also an important issue since economies are globalizing and software development is moving to open source community development. Dealing with people from around the world every day is now normal. It's not an occasional interaction. So, having a sense of language and cultural issues is critical since these things pervade our jobs -- even if you work in the country in which you were born and even if you work in your native language.

Since I have an interest in China, I talked a bit about the changes occurring in Chinese technology universities, and especially how students, professors, and administrators are now assertively engaging westerners in English. That was not necessarily true a few years ago in China, and it's not especially true in Japan today so it will be interesting to see where those trends lead in the future. A side note: when I'm in China I talk a lot about what the Japanese are doing to build community here and how they contribute to communities in Japan and around the world (their contributions are substantial but many times difficult to find at first). So the learning can go both ways since both sides have a great deal to offer.

At the event, we also talked about different communication styles (face-to-face vs online) among Japanese and American developers. Again, both sides could do a bit more reaching out to each other in these areas. Americans tend to be direct and Japanese tend to be indirect, and this very obvious difference can lead to some rather interesting situations. Balance is critical. If you have too many Japanese in a given situation, it's too far skewed to the Japanese language and thought processes. The opposite is true, too. When you have too many Americans in the room there is too much English and American thinking going on. You need both to balance things. You should try to offer enough communication channels for everyone to participate at some level, while encouraging the bilingual people to serve as conversation facilitators reaching out to both sides simultaneously. I think Tokyo2Point0 and the Tokyo Linux User Group are good examples of communities who recognize this issue and address it very well. I'm sure there area others, too. This is how I'd like to work with the OpenSolaris community in Japan. If the community is built with an international focus as its foundation, then it has a good shot at growing large and connecting globally.

Many opinions were shared on the panel and at the nomikai afterwards and they all had validity. No single person has all the answers covering such subtle issues like these, and there is lots of room for humility and opportunity to rule the day. I look forward to the next cross-cultural engineering event in Tokyo. We should meet quarterly to continue these conversations. All posts on cross-cultural engineering will be here

Thanks to Toshiharu Harada, Edward Middleton, Gosuke Miyashita, Iwasa Takuma, Hiroumi Mitani, and Tomoyuki Sakurai for their participation at the event. And thanks to Shoji Haraguchi for snapping this image.

Tuesday Sep 30, 2008

Cross Cultural Engineering Panel

On Oct 11th, I'll be at Pasona Tech in Tokyo participating on a panel about cross-cultural engineering. Should be great fun and very educational as well. I love this topic and I live it every day. We'll explore how language and cultural issues affect Japanese engineers as they work and interact with other engineers from around the world. I'll be talking about my experiences in Japan, China, and India in particular, but I'll also probe some things I've learned from dealing with developers across many language and cultural barriers in other regions on the OpenSolaris project.

17:00〜18:30 エンジニア・グローバル・サミット2008

〜世界から見た日本のキャリア、日本から見た世界のキャリア〜

<パネラー>
サン・マイクロシステムズ
株式会社
東京ソフトウェア本部
Open Solaris技術部
主幹部長
Jim Grisanzio 氏

株式会社NTTデータ
技術開発本部
原田 季栄 氏

TLUG President
Edward Middleton 氏

株式会社paperboy&co.
事業戦略本部 副本部長
技術責任者
宮下 剛輔 氏

株式会社Cerevo
代表取締役
岩佐 琢磨 氏

<モデレーター>
櫻井 知之 氏

楽天株式会社
国際開発室
美谷 広海 氏

Sakurai-san will be monitoring the panel. Here we are together from a previous cross-cultural event.

Friday Feb 15, 2008

Cross Cultural Engineering

I had a great night tonight at an event in Tokyo at Pasona Tech right outside Shibuya. It was called Cross Cultural Engineer Party and was organized by Tomoyuki Sakurai. There were two technical presentations, a discussion of cross cultural and communication issues between Japanese and westerners, and some beer and pizza and open conversation. Wonderful experience. I met a lot of Japanese and western developers from various companies and from the Linux and BSD communities, and everyone mixed quite freely. The communication and cultural challenges between westerners and Japanese are pretty significant, so it's good to get together to specifically address them and move to new levels of understanding. The world is rapidly changing, and we need more cross-cultural communication and more diverse ideas. I hope Sakurai-san does this quarterly.

Cross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural EngineeringShibuyaShibuyaCross Cultural EngineeringCross Cultural Engineering

Flickr images here.
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