Moving to Brazil was a humbling experience. Navigating a new city. Learning a different language. Finding an apartment. These challenges are taken to an entirely new level when moving to a foreign country.
The day after I landed I entered the Edelman Significa office and met my team. A weight was immediately lifted from my shoulders. Going into work seemed familiar and I quickly felt useful. Of course, onboarding with new clients had its learning curves but the strategies, processes and rationale were closely aligned with what I was used to. My teams brought me up to speed and described the nuances of Brazilian marketing tactics while I reviewed scopes and plans, and explained what U.S.-based and international clients would expect in the coming months for the Olympic Games.
Over my twelve months in São Paulo, I picked up many new skills and management styles from my work and the culture, both of which I will take with me when I return to Los Angeles. Here are three of my impressions I think will be most useful:
Crossing boarders: When working on multinational programs, it’s best to brief other offices early in the process. Don’t assume the various regions can all perform the same work for the same budget. There are countless variables that come into play. Media differ from market to market. Assets may need to be localized. Exchange rates greatly affect billing rates – for example, $10K USD may only allow half the resources in one market as they do for another. Lastly, it’s good to understand the market conditions in each region. In Brazil, we had endless political corruption that took the spotlight in 2016 and negatively affected many of our programs.
Shared teams: One of the biggest challenges I faced in my twelve months was sharing teams. In Los Angeles, it’s common to have large, dedicated account teams, that can be flexible for client meetings and quick turnarounds. While those exist in Brazil, it’s more common to share employees across several smaller, project-based accounts. To adjust for this, leaders need to check in with teams continually and manage client expectations to allow extra time for deliverables and schedule meetings far in advance.
Dine-in lunch: This was tough for me. Every single day at 12:30, nearly every employee at Edelman Significa leaves their desk and inbox to take a full hour lunch. While I had to fight the anxiety of what emails may be pilling up and my own guilt for the work I wasn’t knocking out in this quiet hour, I quickly realized the benefits of spending quality time with my colleagues. This activity builds a strong bond between teams that allows for more collaboration back in the office. While I doubt I’ll be able to change the culture in the U.S., I’m going to try my best to drag my team out as often as I can.
I strongly encourage anyone interested to apply for the Daniel J. Edelman Global Fellows program. Certainly, I highly recommend Brazil. The people in the office here are very warm and welcoming so foreigners make friends the minute they step into Edelman Significa, as I did. Equally amazing is traveling across South America. The beautiful beaches. The delicious food. The music. The people. You won’t find this combination anywhere else!
Thank you to everyone who made this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible!
Drew Cary is a 2016 Daniel J. Edelman Global Fellow for Edelman’s Digital team in São Paulo, originally from Los Angeles.