CHAPTER 5 – LEARNING THE ROPES
Asha sat in the plane watching as Tad made notes and worked on his computer after their trip to Singapore. It had been a long and exhausting trip over the Pacific. New York to LA had been a learning experience as they transited through Chicago and had to change gates. Sue had done what she could to make it a direct flight but being done at the last minute gave her only this option for them. It had been Asha’s first experience in business class, and she was elated at the extra room and service. It was a big difference from the uncomfortable travel economy class from Mumbai to New York.
Singapore had been an uphill learning experience. She’d done her best to act the part and rush to care for instructions given on the go. In a way she’d acted in the place of Sue and wondered how Tad managed to get everything done by himself on solo trips. He’d told her during solo trips the local office provided administrative secretarial support but this time he wanted to watch her hit a new culture cold turkey and figure out how to get things done. Every evening when they returned to the hotel bone tired she had to stay alert listening while Tad gave an evaluation of her performance for the day and suggest improvement. He was a kind mentor but required the highest performance. When he saw her show discouragement on occasions he pointed out she was training for the big league and had to prove her ability to handle pressure if she was to be considered for future advancement. The hint of advancement fed that ambition driving her to stay focused in her difficult cultural adjustment and learning experiences. She realized how much she had to learn to qualify and determined to survive the tests.
The visa situation was not settled quickly, they’d been able to sort out things in Singapore for her to return to the US and received a stamp permitting her to re-enter the country, but there were problems on arrival back in the US at port of entry which alarmed Tad and had him on the phone to Jay quickly. Jay rushed to seek the help of his friends in immigration and after a delay of three hours she was permitted to enter. She was trembling at the experience as they sought replacement flights for their interrupted schedule. On arrival in New York they were met by one of the corporate drivers and Asha was dropped off at Sue’s apartment where she showered and hit the bed to sleep it off after crying herself to sleep. It was tough, but she resolved to succeed. Later in the evening when Sue arrived home she was surprised to find Asha sleeping soundly. It took another month with immigration and much of Jay’s time before the matter was fully resolved.
Progressively over time Asha became more adept at handling assignments requiring close liaison with people of other cultures. She immersed herself in reading about those cultures where the corporation had regional offices and acquiring books on things important to respect and do. Every spare minute of her time was given to these pursuits. She made good use of her online translator when she didn’t understand information in another language and brought it into English to help with her education. Work and study filled every waking moment. She knew at the end of her first year there’d be an evaluation. It was part of corporate culture, everyone was evaluated. This time it would not be by Tad alone, but by a meeting within the inner sanctum of administration where she’d be discussed and eventually questioned by the assembled corporate giants. In one of their interactions she asked Tad when that might be, but he was noncommittal. January of the next year she was given a date for her evaluation.
Asha thought it was time for her to make a further transition. She’d always dressed well but it was time for her to seek a new image she thought. So, she consulted with Sue and it was agreed they’d go shopping one evening and Asha would buy her first business suits Western style. She had no intention of abandoning her cultural roots. She was proud of those. But she thought this might send the message I want in and I’ll do what it takes to get there. Both scoured the business fashion retail outlets and between them after many trials found business suits that made her look super professional like Sue. Asha beamed as she looked at Sue for approval and was rewarded with a thumbs up.
On the day of her appointment with corporate top management. Asha entered the board room looking brilliant in her new business attire. The group looked up in surprise expecting to see their Indian whiz kid appear in some of the gorgeous outfits she wore to work which they’d occasionally seen from a distance. Tad gave a winning smile of approval and she felt her confidence boosted. She strode in confidently and some of them made notes. All the previous year’s history was there in front of them and they asked questions about mistakes she’d made and what she’d felt as she gained experience there. There were questions about how she saw her future with the corporation. They had the evaluations by those she’d done business with and those she interacted with on staff and probed her weaker points. Asha dealt with it all professionally and glancing at Tad she saw his obvious pleasure at how she’d performed. His own recommendation was at stake here for her success or failure would be considered partly his responsibility to own. Then after an hour she was dismissed and departed wondering what the result would be.
Next day she found out. Her employment was confirmed. She was no longer considered an intern and Sue proudly led her to her new office in the executive level. It was small but it had that view over the city she’d always dreamed of working in. In her hand was a detailed job description and a letter from HR outlining her new salary and allowance package. She was on the bottom rung of the executive level now and determined to go as far as she could. She’d show them her true value over time. She looked at her work assignments for the year and noted she had quite a few solo appointments overseas where she’d be required to work as a temporary replacement for local executives on vacation and be mentored by the chief executive of that regional office. It would be another growing experience and a chance to further her education on cultural niceties. Tad would continue as the one she was to report to after each assignment was complete.
As she was considering where to start on her list of assignments a familiar voice sounded in her ear, she turned in surprise to see Jay standing at the door.
“I’m just coming back from Tad’s office and heard you’ve been cleared from internship to regular here at corporate headquarters. Congratulations, yours is the most complicated case I’ve had to deal with here and there are many complicated cases for legal to deal with. Our whole team worked on this case. Must tell you about it someday.” He laughed and turned to leave.
“I’d love to hear that story” Asha smiled her appreciation for all the efforts legal had put into her case.
Jay paused and looked in to the office again. He looked startled. “You really would? No one around here has ever wanted to know how we rescued them before. They just take us for granted.” He looked happy that Asha was interested and appreciative of their effort.
“I could take you out to dinner this evening and tell you what happened and how we managed to get around all those stringent rules and regulations if you really are interested. Immigration wanted to help me as they owe me, but they refused most of the arguments we put and admittedly we knew there was only a fifty-fifty chance of success in your case. Would you like to make time this evening?”
To be continued.
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