So, what was I have I been doing on this tiny island in the middle of nowhere for the past year? I’ve been working at a local consulting firm trying to do what I did back in the States. When I first arrived here I was terrified that I would not find a job. I don’t speak Creole nor do I speak French with any level of fluency that could be used to navigate the cubicle rows in an office. My skills in the world of ERP systems, one Cadillac-baby in particular, were rather good (toot-toot my tiny horn) and in demand back in the Motherland; but was anyone on the island even using such a system?
Answer: no. Or I should say, only one company at this point in time and they are only using a small portion of said system which was set up many, many cyclone seasons ago. But, it turns out that if you have serious skills in serious matters, they want to speak to you and yes, maybe even hire you. I think it’s simply because work skills like the ones I had gathered over the many years back in the States are of great interest here. But, I don’t know if it’s the actual techie skills or the soft skills that businesses here are more interested in tapping into.
‘The American way’ of doing business was something that I had heard plenty of times while I lived in the States, but never really paid too much attention to and I must admit many times it usually brought about visions of an evil, corporate America dressed in a suit and a tie, destroying the lives of poets, priests and babies simply because it existed and had one goal: to obtain piles of money at any cost. With the recent financial crises, I guess, the ‘at any cost’ part did eventually have to be paid up and settled. But, after living and working in Mauritius, I must say, there is something to the well-oiled machine, isn’t there?
I have had many conversations here with co-workers about how ‘the American way’ was a good way, but it wasn’t THE way. This, I too, believe to be true. But now, in my very personal experiences here, it does seem as if developed countries business models are good models. And after working in some of the manufacturing plants here in Mauritius, I also now realize that many of the organizations that were created years ago to protect consumers and workers like the FDA or OSHA are really necessary and relevant.
These organizations may not be perfect, but I’d rather have a system in place that has a set of rules and regulators than no system without rules or maybe, possibly, potentially under-the-table rules. The kind of unspoken rules that no one ever sees at first glance, but after walking in the hallways and drinking tea in the break rooms day after day, begin to appear in a fuzzy, soft haze. And then one day it becomes painfully apparent that you really are the stupid stranger sitting at a desk in your office trying to schedule a meeting using Outlook when no one uses Outlook to schedule meetings. You realize that you haven’t a clue about how it all goes down.
Giving recognition to and commenting on an observation that certain ways to do business were good models that should be followed vs. actually applying the rules to run a business in this way and on a consistent basis are two very different things. What I found here in my day-to-day office comings and goings, was a kind of a slicked over use of words and methodologies which never really became a full, breathing body that could stand on its own two feet and get quickly moving down the road. There were lots of negotiations and re-negotiations and just plain discussions of all sorts. Many times there were discussions about having a discussion.
We would spend many hours in a room simply asking questions, but providing no certain answers. How should things be done? What was the correct format? Should we meet to discuss when we should schedule a meeting to discuss? I guess progress does walk at all paces and time lines were meant to be extended, but after attending so many meetings which seemed to be repeats of meetings I had attended before, I grew weary and eventually would just sit there and listen as the giant circle of talk would completely envelop everyone and keep us all firmly at square one.
It was partially this sense of what I perceived to be as absolute non-motion that ultimately forced me to take the decision to stop working for the consulting firm. The helpless, sinking, frustrating feeling of wanting to have progress made and thinking many times that advances towards the goal were happening, but then realizing that no matter how many Outlook meeting notices were sent, no one was going to click on accept nor pay them any mind.