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GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY

LESSONS FROM AN EXPAT: DIVERSE TEAMS MAKE YOU THINK HARDER

By Rasa Bonyadlou, Manager, Accenture Technology, Copenhagen


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I grew up in Tabriz, one of the historical capitals of Iran and the present capital of the East Azerbaijan province. I studied software engineering at Tabriz University and moved to Denmark 17 years ago to obtain a master’s degree.

Moving to Denmark wasn’t a pure coincidence–as a child I heard lots of stories about the “land of Vikings” from my parents. That’s because in the 1970s, my parents and my older sister lived in Denmark, where my dad was a student at the University of Copenhagen.

I started an international master’s program in software engineering at Aalborg University in Denmark, where the method of studying was problem-based project work. We worked in groups of five to seven students on written assignments to be delivered at the end of each semester. Every day was a big challenge in terms of communicating, work style, agreements on tasks and solving problems.

We often had lots of constructive conflicts and debates in the team around the project work. I had to make lots of adjustment in terms of ways to work, learn and understand my new surroundings.

Those years taught me some key foundations to build and grow on, both professionally and personally.

I have learned that being in diverse teams brings more conflicts that challenge you and make you think harder. It pushes you to go above and beyond and to think from different perspectives to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. At the same time, you get to learn a lot from your peers, about their culture, countries, and personal experiences. At the end, since you are all expats, you tend to relate to each other’s challenges in the “host country” and help each other.

Those years shaped me to become more open-minded. I feel comfortable in any international environment today. I now consider myself a citizen of the world.

Today, working at Accenture gives me possibilities to learn and grow every single day. Apart from challenging assignments and working with many different types of projects/clients, I also have the possibility to work with many different teams located all over the world.

Our teams can be disparate in many ways: gender, age, background, nationality, way of work and location. It's a matter of looking at individual strengths in the team and making sure all our different perspectives, points of views and backgrounds are being considered. As our differences are being highlighted and challenged, we are working toward the same goal.

I often think how well-connected our world is as I drive my daughter to school in the morning in the Copenhagen city center at the same time I do status calls with my colleagues in India.


Team spirit

I am a single mother and, living in Denmark, I don’t have any family around to help me. People often ask how I manage my work/life balance and still have some time for myself.

I am so grateful for the flexible work set-up we have at Accenture. I can work from home whenever needed; I can pick up and drop off my daughter without feeling guilty that I leave work earlier than my peers.

The most important thing that I have learned is knowing my own limits and when enough is enough. People will always respect and support these limits.

Even though they are not close by, my parents have been my top supporters and motivators all these years I’ve lived in Denmark. I never forget where I come from and how it has shaped me to be the person I am today.

“If you can, you must.”–I always think of my father when I see these words. It is inspiring to see him working despite his advanced age. He puts so much passion and energy into his work.

When she grows up, I would like my daughter to do the job she is most passionate about. Also, I would advise her to look for a company that can offer more than a job, meaning a trusted workplace where every employee is valued, heard and supported.

I hope she will be as lucky as I am.

My workplace has always been more than just a job for me; it is the place where I build and meet my network. The members of my network have become my close friends. I spend time with them outside of working hours.

One of the things I value a lot in my job is having fun in my team. We often arrange team events, both small and large groups, where we spend some fun time together outside of work.

At our company, we put a lot of focus on people development. Everyone has an interest in helping and sharing their knowledge or helping a team member when it’s needed. I see a strong culture and commitment of team spirit within our projects.

People do care; people do support, and people help whenever needed.

"Look for a company that can offer more than a job, a trusted workplace where every employee is valued, heard and supported."

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