Tatiana Pascale – from trainer to leader of a $5M international business
Tatiana Pascale is one of the few local business services leaders managing a global chain of support centers as Global Dispatch Director at Oracle. Between flights targeting destinations like Costa Rica or India where her teams are located, she accepted to respond to Outsourcing Advisors interview.
1.Tatiana, in the last 10 years you went to different roles in the corporation world from German speaker dealing with German customers over the phone, to trainer specialized in sales support, from Team Manager managing a group of German speaking countries – to a Director handling a $5M business – managing 4 teams located in Romania, India, China and Costa Rica. Which were your main challenges you faced in your transformation from middle management to senior management?
I will start by saying that the last 10 years have been very exciting and all these changes helped me grow and develop as an individual and a leader. I’ve had many challenges in assuming higher roles in the organization, but the main one is adapting to the political environment. The higher you get in an organization the more visibility you have about how strategies are designed and priorities set. In my case I spent 2 years without a SVP being assigned for our line of business and limited direction in terms of where Systems Support is heading. As such I’ve had to create the strategy for the team I am leading and set priorities while dealing with uncertainty and quickly changing direction from above.
Another significant challenge is adapting to different cultures and working styles while taking over a global team. Every centre I lead is different and brings both positives and negatives to the table. The challenge lies in accepting the differences and working with them instead of trying to shape everything by the local centre you know best. Once you get to know the people and understand how they work you get to accept these differences and build on the positives to create a successful team.
2. There are only a few local managers in charge with a $5M business, how difficult it is to maintain the success of your group in terms of performance?
The secret lies in building a strong management team with drive to succeed and work with them to achieve results. It was more difficult when I first took over the team as I had no local leader for China, in Costa Rica there were only 2 managers for a team of 70 employees and the results overall were average. After a very challenging first year, during which I recruited 3 new managers for China and Costa Rica and united the team globally results showed significant improvements. While Costa Rica had the lowest operational results two years ago now it is the best performing centre globally.
3. A Romanian managing a team in Costa Rica – share with us some interesting stories from this experience!
The culture in Costa Rica is all about passion and living life to the fullest – the country motto is “Pura Vida” (pure life). When I first traveled over to Costa Rica I was impressed by the rich natural landscape they have to offer and how friendly and open the people are. In time I came to realize that Costa Rica is the most challenging centre to lead from a people perspective. One example is that of one of the local managers who had 50 complaints from the employees with HR because of lack of flexibility and understanding as well as their perception of favoritism towards certain employees. The interesting part is that the same manager has excellent operational skills and a strong business sense. Her people skills and engagement of the team were flawed and she went through disciplinary actions, as well as a performance improvement plan, and came out demonstrating she has the will to stay with the team and change. Currently she is the best performing manager in the team in Costa Rica and has developed a good relationship with most of the people in her team.
Another interesting example comes from the employees – they were faced with frequent management changes before I took over the team and they didn’t have a stable structure in place for 2 years. For a period of 3 months after taking over I had a part of the team report directly into me while recruiting their new manager to learn and understand their challenges directly. I found their approach to communicating and engaging their manager quite interesting – I had one situation in which I had spoken to them about the need of improving results and what I expect of them and while they said little during the meeting one employee came back one day later and shared with me their WhatsApp chat conversation in which they expressed their opinions in a very unprofessional way. When I presented the same chat conversation in the next team meeting, addressed their concerns and clearly stated that I am there to talk to them openly and encourage them to speak up they were surprised and embarrassed by the situation, as well as upset with their colleague for sharing the conversation.
I was also challenged by the way employees escalate in Costa Rica and how they see fit to manage disagreements with their managers. I’ve had situations when I was asked for a 1:1 from one of the employees reporting into a manager and when speaking to her understood that she was unhappy with certain decisions her direct manager took, but had never addressed those concerns to her manager directly. When asked why she chose to come to me before talking to her manager she stated she believed this approach would have a better impact and would ensure the manager takes her opinion into consideration. When asked to go and have the same conversation with the manager directly and then catch up with me in 1 week she did it and found out that her manager listened to her and I didn’t actually have to intervene again…
4. We all know the importance of communication especially when dealing with remote teams – what you have learnt from the process of managing remotely your teams?
In order for remote managing a team to work you have to do the following: have regular weekly conversations with your directs, offer them support and be available to them when they manage challenging situations, be willing to travel every 6 months out to the centres and hear from the employees as often as possible. I have managed this through All Hands calls, 1:1s when needed, participation in the bi-annual appraisal talks. Very important also – you have to trust and be able to rely on strong local managers to be successful!
5. What efforts do you make to develop your talents within your team?
I am very focused on developing and retaining Top Talent in the organization – they are the leaders of the future! Therefore I have invested both time and budget in growing these employees, offering them visibility and the opportunity to succeed. We have a Top Talent program started 2 years ago in Global Dispatch meant to identify and work with these employees to develop their skills. Once per year we go through a Talent Review Board, where we talk about these employees, what has been done so far, what they have demonstrated and agree on the next steps. All the employees in the program have benefited from trainings, have been engaged in cross-LOB coaching sessions with experienced managers, have been involved in projects and given the opportunity to apply for key roles within the organization. I am proud to say that we have had 3 internal manager promotions from this pool of candidates in the last year – 2 in Costa Rica and 1 in Bucharest.
6. Which was your big achievement as Director managing an in-sourced Shared Service Centre with 4 locations?
Consolidating the management structure and uniting it to obtain a well functional and high performing organization.
7. What about failure… What did you learn from a potential failure?
Not all managers I hired were successful – the first manager I hired in Costa Rica was external and he was unable to improve results or lead the team according to my expectations. I learned from this experience that in Costa Rica internal Top Talent is a much better option, than hiring someone from outside as they are very good at talking and selling themselves, but less good at actually demonstrating something concrete.
8. What advice do you have for a new promoted manager in a Shared Service Center?
Be patient and take the time to get to know your team, they are the ones who will help you achieve results. Find the right balance between people and operational concerns and deliver on both sides.
9. Leading teams in different geographical locations means travel and time away from your loved ones, how do you manage your personal/professional life balance?
I work on keeping a good balance and invest time in both sides of my life – if I have to travel I never go away for more than 1 week and when I return I usually take 1 day off to spend with my daughter or try to get home earlier from work to be able to play with her. It’s not easy and I need to be flexible, but it’s definitely worth while!
10.How quick are you able to pack your bag now? Share with us a story from your business travel.
I have traveled a lot in the past 2 years and my favorite memories come from the Systems Support Summits organized by the senior leadership team each May. It was a big event hosted in San Francisco reunited all high level management in hardware support. One of the stories I remember is when I didn’t get my luggage when landing, had a cocktail party that evening and had exactly 1 hour in a huge Mall in San Francisco to shop for a decent outfit. I pulled it off with an elegant black dress and shoes and was lucky that my luggage arrived the next morning…:)
11.Which is your perspective about the future of Shared Service Centres in Romania?
I believe Romania is a country that has a lot to offer from a people perspective. We have highly educated professionals willing to work hard and come up with innovative ideas for becoming more efficient and growing the business, as well as good technical talent. We are also going to continue to be a low cost business destination for Europe as the economical and political environment are developing slowly. As such I think that we will continue to be an attractive market for investors for at least the next 10-15 years.