Pondělí, 15. 7. 2019, 10:07
Travel abroad for work? Don’t be afraid and prepare yourself for it, says Wunderman business director
Prague, Cairo, Seattle. Viliam Korenko, business director for the Wunderman agency, has moved literally around the world for work. What does this kind of relocation (a long-term work stay in another country, even on another continent) bring into your life, and not just into your work life?
What were you responsible for at the Prague offices of Wunderman before you left to work abroad?
Back then, in 2008, I came to Wunderman as the seventh reinforcement for the MSC division, whose only client was Microsoft. At first I worked as an MSC junior executioner. It was a position where a person communicated with a client, found out what marketing service was wanted, then wrote a query into the database and sent an e-mail or set up an event. It was a kind of end to end, white glove service, which can be provided in the pilot phases of such a project. Gradually, I learned new knowledge here, perfected my abilities and developed in the contexts of Wunderman and my career. The MSC has grown to 100 people at rocket speed over the past 3 years. I oversaw our most demanding clients in the UK and Germany and managing production teams.
And then came the offer to go to Cairo…
That’s correct. In January 2014, I arrived in Cairo. The whole business matter was delayed by a few months, because the regime in Cairo was just changing and the 2013 riots were still winding down. I accepted the position of MSC operations manager there. I led a team of 30 people in Cairo and coordinated 20 people between Beirut and Dubai – again for the client Microsoft, but this time for the entire Middle East, Africa and France.
In what respect did this experience benefit you the most?
It was a great education for me, especially in people management and management approach. People there have a different mentality. They are used to having their own opinions on everything and discussing things, and it takes a while to get them on your side. You really must carry on a lively discussion regarding your decisions, be convincing, and have clear arguments. It took half a year to begin working very well together as a team, and get in good sync. I spent a year and a half there and during that time we got into the green numbers.
Where did your travels take you next?
Coincidentally, I received an offer to replace my boss from Prague in the position of global marketing operations manager. And it was off to Seattle.
So, at the time you did not come back home, to Prague.
I did come back. For about two weeks to Prague and to visit my parents in Poprad. Actually, after arriving from Cairo, I just dropped my suitcases off at home and the next day I went to the embassy to arrange all the necessary documents. And in August 2015 I was in America.
And what was it like out there, on the west coast?
In the beginning, I managed a small global team of 5 people. It was a great advantage that these Wunderman colleagues had been working for Microsoft for at least 5 years. Each member of this team meets daily with the client, whether in person or on conference calls, and so they have to be the best experts we have. They’re the ones who represent Wunderman and our entire service desk for Microsoft.
Gradually, this team grew. In addition to colleagues from Delhi they were colleagues from Wunderman Praha and Americans. Americans are tremendously motivated in everything they do, so it was super having them on the team.
Did you have any time to travel at all?
That was the best thing about it. The biggest benefit to working in the US is that being there long-term, you can take time to travel around. If you only go there on vacation for 2 weeks, you don’t get see that much of the land. It takes a lot more time to visit places of interest that are there. Seeing a lot of interesting places, and traveling a lot is another great benefit to working abroad.
Where did you go?
Our biggest interest was in nature and we toured national parks. First, we visited classics like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Sequoia, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Montana’s Glacier National Park and maybe 10 others. Then Hawaii – Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Seeing a live volcano and lava flowing into the sea by the light of the stars is amazing. Also, Haleakala on Maui. It was unique to drive up to 10,000 feet on a volcano. Or shivering in a snowstorm in the morning at 3,000 meters and sunbathing on the beach in the afternoon, where it is 30 degrees hotter.
As for cities, we visited, for example, L.A. and the legendary Rainbow rock club, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and others. In short, I traveled the west coast quite thoroughly. The US is simply made for road trips, so it’s no problem to drive a thousand kilometers in one day, and a full tank for $25 is also not a bad thing.
But where did you get the courage to head out into the world like that? Whether to Cairo or Seattle…
I am of the opinion that when a person is presented with an opportunity, they should grab it. Even if it means taking a step into the unknown. To see the world through your work, to travel, those are not opportunities one gets every day. People often turn down these chances, saying “now is not the right time”, they are afraid that it will be complicated, challenging, etc. Just the visa process can easily take 3 months, so you have enough time to prepare for everything.
After all, it’s great to have adventures, gain skills, collect experiences. And it’s great that Wunderman enables these relocations between branches. The main thing is not to be afraid, to open yourself to new perspectives and prepare for it. It’s the best thing you can experience in your career.
What were 3 main things relocation gave you?
I would probably divide it into my professional and personal life. First, it professionally „opened my eyes and mind“. The mix of Czechs, Slovaks, Americans and Indians was great. Secondly, it was gaining client access and the ability to see things from a different angle. When the situation required it, I got in the car and 20 minutes later I was talking with the client. Thirdly, it was great to get to know the wider team, get contacts and especially in the business context.
Then it also gave me a lot of things in my personal life. It gave me a chance to learn more about Egyptian and American cultures that are quite different from each other. One is less than 400 years old and the other is 5,000 years old – it was very rewarding and inspiring. We acquired a family dog who we named Maui, after our wanderings and memories of Hawaii. It is a Welsh Corgi, an animal with the purest soul in the world and the greatest appetite.
And I must not forget the most important thing – it was the support and trust from my better half, her courage to live in Egypt and then, half a year later, on another continent. This brought us so close together that we sealed our relationship with a marriage. So, I think that this work and personal experience indelibly helped me change my life and myself for the better.
Surely, it wasn’t a rose garden the entire time – were there some things missing?
I missed my family and friends, certainly. But with my wife there, I managed. Ivona came out to be with me about a month after I’d gone out, as soon as I found an apartment. After that, it was a breeze, that is, besides the fact that it took me about six months before I understood all of the aspects of the work and helped out where I could. And of course, you miss certain foods and meals that are not available in the US, but that’s just a detail. And sometimes I also miss that certain Czech and Slovak brand of honestly – to tell it like it is. 😊
But now you’ve returned to the Prague office of Wunderman as business director, and you’re responsible not only for Microsoft, but also for the operations of another big Wunderman client – Ford.
Well, I’ve been taking care of our client Microsoft for over 10 years, and I’ve had the opportunity to observe all the innovations in its environment, the evolution of the tools it provides, etc. So now I’m trying to apply my experience in the context of our work with Ford.
What does the Prague office Wunderman provide for Microsoft?
Essentially, it’s end to end marketing operations service delivery – we have a data team, event team, digital team a marketing budget and then, of course, also client teams, such as service operations planner or the service desk. And also process and readiness specialists, who move everything in the right direction.
A while ago you implemented a big accessibility project at Wunderman Prague? Could you elaborate on that a little?
Worldwide, 1 out of 5 people have some form of handicap (various levels of sight impairment, color-blindness, etc.). More than a billion people would be unable to fully make use of the potential of today’s online era due to their handicap.
Microsoft Accessibility Standards, MAS, is one of Microsoft’s most important initiatives. It is a set of all possible improvements and simplification for people with disabilities in the online world, whether they’re using the Internet, reading, reading e-mails, or using IT tools without limitations. In practice, this means, for example, captions on every video, changing fonts, color scheme, clear labels on all images, to make the mechanically readable, etc. It’s not just about the work itself, but about the entire process of implementation. The spirit of the entire idea was captured by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella when he said: “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
In my view, Microsoft is a true leader in this field. It’s not only one of the largest companies in the world, but it’s a company that is trying to make the world a better place through its products…