Casting Call

The challenges of finding IT leaders to handle localization in far-flung regions.

It's 1:30 a.m. in New Delhi, and a regional CIO of a major multinational corporation is flipping through resumes. He needs to fill several positions on his staff with the help of human resources personnel and outside headhunters. They have all dialed into a conference call initiated from the company's New York headquarters, where it is midafternoon.

The resumes before him boast impressive qualifications, yet this senior IT executive is leery. Perhaps he is an Indian expatriate recently returned to lead his company's New Delhi operations and thus realizes that experience listed on international resumes is often inflated. Or maybe he is U.S.-born but has rotated through enough global assignments to know that he must carefully scrutinize the applicants.

This scenario is typical across global corporations, which often struggle to build effective IT outposts abroad. Chief among the challenges is finding top-notch leaders competent enough to assemble qualified remote teams, bridge cultural differences between foreign IT workers and their U.S. counterparts, and coax these groups toward a set of work objectives that are almost always U.S.-centric.

The quest for qualified leaders to work overseas often starts with a pool of expatriates who have settled in the U.S. but are longing to return to the countries of their birth. Now, however, more companies are growing international talent internally by dispatching promising junior executives from the U.S. to far-flung outposts.

Regardless of where the search begins, the goal is to find people who have a rare and desirable set of international management skills. "There are many complexities to working in the global environment," observes Alan Boehme, CIO at Juniper Networks Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif. Boehme's career has included more than 20 years of international stints at global corporations such as DHL Worldwide Express and General Electric Co.

"You always hear the phrase, 'Think globally, act locally.' Well, in this situation, a person must think locally to act globally, and things are done very differently in different parts of the world," Boehme says. "In addition to the huge differences in the language and educational systems, there are also so many differences in what a person in another country has learned and what is instinctive to that individual."

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