Two sides of a coin

Disclaimer: Thoughts here are my own, in no way are they representative of my previous or current employers

I mused and reflected on my experience of joining a big company after being in my first job for almost 7 years.

Being a newcomer, I have to admit that it was pretty daunting navigating a company of over 50,000 employees. Not to say that I’d be mingling or collaborating with everyone, but the sheer size of this company is already a 100 times the size of Carousell when I left it. 

Because I was with Carousell when they were a team of less than 10, I used to know everyone — until we got to a certain size. But here, it is with 100% certainty that I will never get to know everyone. 

Having been in a single company for so long, I realized that I took a lot of things for granted. For instance, the ‘why’ behind most decisions, and processes within the company. And our favorite phrase, “Oh, because it’s a legacy thing.” I recall onboarding newcomers, and also compiling an Onboarding Guidebook specifically for Product Managers.

And despite my Onboarding Guidebook which I thought answered most questions, my new peers always had more questions (which were specific to certain domains). But in most cases, I knew almost exactly where to get answers for them, or knew who to direct them to. It was like most things were clockwork, and I was just Googling my brain to sieve out the information.

Now that I’m in the shoes of a newcomer, I get to see for myself what it’s like to get newly onboarded to an already running company with years of decisions already made. (as opposed to being someone in a place relatively early on.)

There were lots of context to catch up in the first few days / weeks. You open document after document, with more hyperlinks to even more documents. (Are these documents even up to date, you wonder?) You get directed from person to person, trying to extract the information that you need. You attempt to understand the stakeholders and the organizational structure, and start to form your own mental model around how things work here.

No longer could you fit everyone in a single floor or a couple floors. You have multiple buildings within the regional office, of which they are of a 10 minutes walking distance from each other. And this isn’t even the HQ!

Gone were the frequent bumps with colleagues that you worked with during lunch breaks. Just cos’ the compound was so big and there were so many team mates. And because I was new, so I didn’t know many people, but this would change over time I guess. But would I still bump into people that I know as frequently as before?

Not only that, I also reflected on my experience of being a non-local. While I’m not well-versed in Mandarin, I can communicate and understand the language. However, the challenge comes in trying to grasp colloquial terms, like ‘抓手’, or ‘牛B’, ‘接地气’ and the likes. And the differences in working culture — for instance, taking afternoon naps are completely normal here, and I was asked: “Why don’t you take naps?” “你怎么吃午饭后不睡觉呢?”

“Just cos it’s not a habit,” “我没有这个习惯吧,” I replied. 

And I thought of my ex-colleagues at Carousell who relocated to Singapore and have not been to Singapore before. How we the local bunch used to speak Singlish and included lots of local slang like “can is can”, or “dapao food”, and probably left our non-local colleagues to catch up.

Is this how they felt?

I don’t particularly feel left out, because my team mates have been incredibly welcoming and friendly, but it was just an interesting observation to be on the other side of the coin, and to feel what my previous colleagues might’ve felt.

And I asked myself: Would I change anything for my ex-colleagues now that I experienced something similar?

I recall that during one of our Carousell events, we were showing some presentation across our regional offices that skewed very much to Singaporeans, and a colleague feedback-ed to me that she wasn’t that pleased with it because it made non-locals like herself feel a little out of place. 

If I could change anything, I’d probably care more about how well they are assimilating into a foreign environment than work related processes I suppose. Maybe it’s a gradual realization that effort has to be put into ensuring your non-local friends can adapt well to a new place, and that they feel like they can be part of the group. After all, it’s the people that make up the culture. 

I muddled different experiences together: from being in a company in its early stage to a late stage, and being long enough in a company to being a new comer, and from being a native to a non-local.

And do I prefer either?

Both sides of the coin are worth experiencing I suppose.