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March 21, 2019

Coaching For Tech Workers: Building Communication Confidence and Cultural Competence

Has training not worked? Let's try something different, more personalized with more long-lasting results: Coaching.

Let's talk about coaching for tech workers! 

Coaching is not training or content delivery. No more boring PowerPoints or sitting quietly in the back of a packed training room. Virtual, online coaching is a dynamic interaction - candidates actively participate in customized one-on-one coaching conversations that build a host of soft-skills that lead to workplace success (brainstorming, critical thinking, problem solving, prioritizing, time management, team building and team dynamics, taking initiative).

Coaching for global tech workers

We specialize in working international career professionals and business people with 3-30 plus years in their fields, holding a variety of job titles. While a majority of our clients are English as Second Language (ESL) speakers, ideal candidates are moderately to completely fluent in English, and are looking to polish Business English, Global English, English with US Americans or build conversational fluency in day to day work related situations and networking events. A majority of our clients also look to build cultural competence, especially in working with US Americans from offshore or while staying or living in the US.

Our coaching process builds communication confidence and cultural competence for offshore and onsite tech workers on global, remote teams and skilled immigrants and international students in the USA. 

Let's look at the steps involved in our process. This process has been written from the viewpoint of a start-up or company sponsoring a candidate for coaching. However, for those reading this wanting to self-sponsor themselves through coaching, we are happy to work with you as well! 

Step 1: Requirements Gathering & Planning
In this strategy session, we analyze the scope of our work together to design a personalized coaching roadmap.

Collecting User Stories
Stakeholders, along with the candidate, identify professional development goals for the candidate, creating 'user stories' as ideal outcomes of coaching.

Fill in the blanks:
As a [job role], I want [to achieve some goal] so that [ideal outcome].

Prioritizing and Managing User Stories
We look at all these 'user stories,' prioritize them and break them down into manageable chunks (iterations) to start working on immediately. From the intake meeting itself, we work on project management!

Coach will maintain a log of goals, meeting notes and time keeping.

To make the most of this strategy meeting, prepare in advance.

Step 2: Coaching Iterations
The chosen candidate meets with us 30-60 minutes every 2-3 weeks for several months, via Zoom, Skype, etc.

Structure of sessions:

  1. Mini Stand-Up: Candidate Check in and accountability
  2. Coaching conversations, brainstorming, role plays. We can say we work on the "project backlog" during this part of the meeting.
  3. Recap, Identify awareness and skill building exercises.
Recordings of actual client calls and/or email threads can be shared to assess client facing skills.

Step 3: Testing Out and Deploying
In between sessions, candidates will deploy their identified solutions as the situations arise.

Based on their test runs, candidates will tweak their skills and approaches to work more effectively with their clients, stakeholders and team mates.

Steps 2 and 3 will continue between 2-3 months in an ideal situation. However, as we know project work gets busy, and client demands can cause schedule changes, in many cases, steps 2 and 3 can continue for 4-5 months.

Step 4: Monthly Stand-Ups
Once a month by email or call, the coach shares with the stakeholders what we:

  • Have completed 
  • Are currently working on
  • Are planning to work on
  • Roadblocks or additional information needed
The Project Manager will share feedback of progress seen with client facing communication skills.

Step 5: 3-Month/ One Cycle Evaluation
Typically, one cycle of coaching completes within 3 months (4-6 sessions). At this time, we meet with the candidate, project manager and any stakeholders to assess progress, assess anything remaining to work on (backlog) and next steps.

Depending on the outcomes of this conversation, we may return to steps 2, 3 and 4 for several more sessions, or we may opt to stop coaching sessions.

Step 6: 4- Month Check in
A month after we decide to stop regular coaching sessions, the coach will check in with candidate, Project Manager and any stakeholders to assess the skill application and scope for further coaching.

*We respect your privacy and confidentiality. A confidentiality form like this one will be discussed and signed. 

It is this time, a mutual decision is made to continue coaching with the same candidate or select another candidate.

Your coach, Jennifer Kumar, born and raised in the US, has lived in India twice (Kochi and Chennai) for almost 10 years. She has earned her Master's in India, started her business in India, and worked with over 3,600 professionals, totaling over 1,800 coaching and training hours since 2011. Her expertise and approach builds teams like yours with outstanding results. Rather than read lofty words, let's jump on a call and talk more about how we can help you or your team today! 

Skype: Crossculturalcoach
LinkedIn (see a list of our client projects):
Contact form 

Related Posts: 
Soft-Skill Training Needs in India 
Characteristics of Successful or Ideal Clients 
Why Skilled Immigrants, International Students, and Expats in the US hire me 
Business English and Career Guidance Coaching for Keralites and Indians

Tips to Prepare for H1B Interviews

External Resources and Experts That Agree Coaching Works!
If your CEO has a coach, maybe you deserve one too - from
How tech professionals can use virtual career coaching to boost their skills - from
Photo credit: Masa Israel Journey

March 12, 2019

Help! My Developers Won’t Speak Up on Client Calls

Project Managers have their hands full. While it’s important that the PMs get involved in escalations or higher level project discussions, many PMs in start ups and mid-sized companies get overwhelmed with having to handle the everyday client calls, stand up calls, and status update meetings.

Your coach, Jennifer Kumar
Jennifer Kumar
Read her bio here.
Are you looking for relief? I will share how I have been helping build teams like yours over the last 10 years - with outstanding results.

It’s not always an easy process to get someone to speak up. Telling someone to just ‘speak up’ is not enough, as we all well know. It’s complex. Let’s look at some of the reasons some developers on offshore projects may not speak up:
  • Maybe the developer is not used to speaking to foreign clients in English.
  • Maybe the developer feels the client is too senior to talk to.
  • The developer may not really grasp how to talk about technical concepts in plain English to a non-technical client.
  • There can be a lack of confidence in listening ability (accents, slang, idioms).
  • The developer desperately wants to create a connection, but out of fear of disrespecting the client, and lacking the cultural context, may stay silent or stick only to very basic technical updates, avoiding questions and conversation.
  • Depending on the fluency level of the developer, the developer may get tired or overwhelmed after speaking for more than 15 or 20 minutes in a foreign language and with a foreign client.
  • A lack of training on or understanding on how to interact with clients (foreign or domestic)
Coaching built our team's skills in communicating across cultures on virtual teams

There’s also the fact that while the Project Manager wants desperately to relinquish control to the developer, this is easier said than done. And, if the PM is on the call, the developer may feel that as the PM has seniority, it’s not proper to speak up, and so the developer will stay mute.

There are many permutations and combinations of reasons – including personal, organizational, and cultural that prevent a developer from speaking up.

And, I have over 600 coaching hours under my belt to attest to that.

What is coaching? How is it different than training?
Coaching is not training.
Coaching is not content delivery.
Coaching is not pushing large groups of individuals or teams through for sheer numbers.

Coaching is a series of thought provoking one-on-one, LIVE and individualized conversations that build around specific goals identified by the manager and the candidate. Skill building happens through the 1:1 relationship that is built through the candidate and the coach. The coach is also chosen based on their content area to provide direction and consultation as required. 

What Coaching IS NOT
Coaching IS NOT a series of e-online boring slide shows with or without voices droning on and on. 
Coaching IS NOT void of a personal touch. 

Coaching IS NOT the same for each individual. Each person will work on their learning goals as per their learning level and need as per their role and career pathway.
Coaching IS NOT to push candidates through just to check off a box saying the training was done or to get a certificate.

My Coaching Specialty
My specialty area is business communication in a cross-cultural business environment, specifically on development teams based in India interacting with clients or stakeholders in the United States of America. In addition to my 650 hours of coaching, I have also provided almost 3,000 training hours to groups of 5 to 100 on various business communication and US business culture topics. See more of our client list and outcomes here

Coaching improves employee productivity

Let’s see how the process goes. Below the graphic, I will describe the process starting from the Intake & Goal Setting step, circling down, to the right.

Intake and SMART Goal Setting (Two or Three Short Meetings)

Intake Meeting with Project Manager (about 15-30 minutes)
I meet with the Project Manager alone or with the candidate to discuss his or her impression of the candidate and two or three areas that have been identified for improvement.

Project Manager meets with Candidate
The Project Manager should meet 1:1 with the candidate outside of the meeting with the coach so the candidate understands the purpose of these sessions and goals to be worked on AND how they contribute to the candidate’s success on the team, building his or her career in the company, and their personal development.

Intake Meeting with the Candidate (30-60 minutes)
I meet with the candidate between 30 and 60 minutes to talk about their role in general, the areas they want to work on (sometimes they may differ slightly from the Project Manager, which is acceptable), and their career and personal goals. The meeting duration depends on how talkative the candidate is, their schedule and their fluency in English. While I tend to work with candidates who can hold a conversation in English, some candidates are not used to talking in English for such a long time with a foreigner, so they may get tired from translating in their mind, thinking in English or trying to comprehend a new accent. I try to speak in a medium speed using plain English, which does end up boosting many candidate’s confidence levels in just gaining comfort in conversing with a foreigner in English.

In this call, I also review with the candidate the over all flow of a coaching session and how they are conducted (which I outline below).

As this intake session wraps up, we speak about all the identified goals. In many cases, we may need to work on making the goals more specific by breaking them down into specific skills or process steps. I ask the candidate to consider all the goals discussed until the next session as we will discuss prioritizing them.

Coaching Process

First Coaching Session (30-60 minutes)

The first coaching session is often an extension of an intake session. In this session, we look at all the goals, complete a gap analysis of the goals (as detailed in the video below) and prioritize them and break them down into actionable steps. 

How to use Gap Analysis to Improve Client-Facing Skills of
Developers and Offshore Team Members

Keep in mind, that while this video was made a few years ago, the process is basically the same in identifying professional development goal setting and cross-cultural business coaching.

Improving communication on cross-cultural, virtual teams

 This process is important. It helps build critical thinking skills in the candidate. And, they start taking ownership of their own professional and personal development in this process, as well.

3-5 Subsequent Coaching Sessions (30-60 minutes)
Typically, we meet every other week or every three weeks for 30 to 60 minutes. Ideally, it’d be better to meet once a week, but often the developer’s schedule is so packed, that we end up meeting once or twice a month.

How Each Session is Structured:
First 10 minutes
We make a little small talk and review what we discussed last time and also talk about any tips, skills or awareness exercises they have implemented.

Middle of the session (if an hour, 10-50 minutes, if 30 minutes, 10-25 minutes)
We talk about one or two of the goals and assess them against actual real life work scenarios. As candidates tend to get comfortable with me, and do not show the same anxiety or lack of confidence they show with clients, we try to do role plays, but, in some cases, I will ask the candidate to share emails (with client’s names removed) or phone call recordings so I can get a context of their current skill levels. I analyze those calls, giving feedback, asking the candidate to assess their own skill levels, then consult with them letting them know areas of improvement.

And, since I am a cross-cultural coach, I also provide insight into some of the differences between the Indian and U.S. culture and tips and strategies the developer can try to build rapport, handle challenging situations, and more.

Last 5-10 minutes
We identify 2 or 3 things the candidate can work on until our next meeting. While some call this homework, I tend to call it ‘awareness building’ or ‘skill building’ exercises. We try to identify at least one confidence builder (such as taking a deep breath before a call to reduce anxiety) and one skill (writing an agenda and keeping notes before the meeting to get in the context of the meeting before it starts). 

Coaching improves the quality of service delivery
Application of Coaching
The whole goal of these sessions is to give the candidates actionable steps they can take, practical tips they can apply in their work. Generally, these actionable steps are identified by the candidate with consultation from the coach. The candidate owns their own learning and development plan which leads to more successful outcomes.

1 Month Follow Ups: Status Update
Each month the coach will send a progress report to the Project Manager as a sort of status update report. In most cases Project Managers prefer this communicated by email, but in some cases, we jump on a call and talk about it.

Communicating with developers from India

Evaluation: After 2 to 3 months
After about 4-6 sessions we (the candidate, project manager and I) meet to evaluate the process, achievements, and continued areas of improvement.

During this meeting it is decided whether a candidate will continue coaching or not. The following scenarios are the most common outcomes of the evaluation meeting:
  • Candidate has achieved the essential goals, and ‘graduates.’ No more coaching sessions required.
    Candidate has achieved some of the goals, but has more goals to work on. Depending on their schedules, we will decide to continue coaching with or without a break.
  • If the candidate ‘graduates,’ the Project Manager often nominates another team member for coaching.

We provide coaching for tech workers: FAQs

What are some of the common goals candidates work on with you?
Here is a list of some of the common goals I have worked on with client facing developers:
Building communication and critical thinking skills
Which candidates are most successful?
Candidates which are open to the process and also get support from their Project Manager (and, at times, team members) are the most successful in this process.

Which career- level candidates are ideal for coaching?
I have worked with candidates who are freshers up to candidates who are mid level career executives, including CEOs and founders of start ups, and, in some cases, upper level management and CXOs.

What are some of the results? 
  • A developer who was unable to talk to a client, with four months of coaching was able to give a demo to a prospective client, securing new business for the company. 
  • Comfort in conversation including small talk, technical talk and talking about technical topics in a non-technical way.
  • Preparing for meetings which lead to better time management in and out of meetings.
  • A deeper understanding of how team dynamics influence work with the team and impressions to the [US] client
  • Learning how to build relationships and handle conflict to avoid having the PM intervene in escalations as frequently (80% reduction). 
  • Preparing a mid-level Project Manager for presenting on a global stage to clients in the US and elsewhere (onsite and virtually).

Aiding Developers in Communicating Confidently with Clients

Who pays for the coaching?
In about 80% of the cases, the company pays. The company which employs the candidate sponsors and pays for the coaching engagement. Candidates who are sponsored by their companies come under the header of ‘corporate clients.’
In the remaining 20% of cases, candidates pay out of their own pocket. These clients are called ‘private clients.’

When do candidates meet with you?
Corporate clients are required to meet with me during their office hours.
Private clients meet with me outside of their office hours. 

We meet over a virtual medium, with or without video as our internet connections allows.

Will our company details remain confidential?
Yes, a confidentiality form and a client contract is signed by the Project Manager and the Candidate (for corporate clients) and by the client directly (for private clients). Names of individuals coached, company details (including name, logo, and other confidential information) will not be shared without permission.

How much does coaching cost?
We price the coaching packages competitively based on the particulars of the engagement, level of employee being coached, and the size and location of your corporation.

Rates will be set in competitive, local Indian Rupee amounts for clients and corporates based in India (payments can be remitted to a bank account in India). For Indian startups with a US branch office and accounts, there is scope to remit payments in USD to a US bank account (which could save on GST).

For clients in the US, pricing is based on the US local market conditions and payments will be remitted via US bank accounts.

Want to talk with me to assess your team’s needs? Let’s get started.

Contact us via:
This contact form
Skype: crossculturalcoach
Whatsapp India number (SIM not accepting calls): +91 95 393 47529
US Phone: +1(385) 218-0947
Facebook Messenger
LinkedIn Mail 

Cross-cultural coaching helped me prepare for a successful US business trip

Related Posts:
4 Ways to Encourage Shy or Introverted Developers to Speak up on Calls 
Why an Indian Manager's Requests Were Being Met with a Cold Shoulder  
Expat Success Coaching for Career, Life and Language Success in Salt Lake City

March 2, 2019

H1B Visa Interviews: 26 Questions and Answer Suggestions

For those planning to attend an interview for an H1B visa, this post can help you prepare for your H1B visa interview. 

For those new to the US visa system,
The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101 that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Wikipedia.

Before sharing a list of questions, keep these points in mind:
  • Know what is on all your documents. Assure you can talk about the information in a conversational way. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Know everything about your role, your location, your emergency contact and other important people in your organization (including the CEO), your package (salary, benefits, more), how your living expenses will be paid until you get a paycheck, basics about rent, cost of living, etc.
  • If possible, get coaching from someone [in your company] to prepare for the interview. Assure you can answer all questions confidently.
  • You may be asked only 5-8 questions of all the questions in this post. As we never know which ones they may ask, prepare to be asked any of these questions. This list is not comprehensive, and there could be other questions you may be asked that are not on this list.
  • Listen carefully. Relax and assure you are answering the question asked. For example listen carefully for the question words what, when, and where. If ‘When will you be going to the US?” is asked, answer with a date and not a place. Though this seems strange to do, when a person is in the situation, nervous and not listening 100%, these kind of common mistakes can break your application.
  • Depending on your specific situation, the questions in this document may or may not apply to you, or may be worded differently. If you need specific legal help with your visa or immigration matters, contact a bona fide immigration lawyer.

List of Possible H1B Visa Interview Questions with Possible Answers

About Your Company:
1. What company are you working for?
Answer with the name of your company.

2. What is your job title?
Mention ONLY your job title.

3. What is the job role?
Talk about what you will be doing in your role.

4. Where is the company located?
Know at the bare minimum the city and the state your company is located in the US. If you are not working at the headquarters, know the city and state of the office you are working at in addition to the headquarters.

5. Who is the CEO of your company?
Give the full name of the CEO of your company.

6. Who is your emergency contact?
Give their name, and if they are in your company, their role. In fact, it may be wise to remember all of the important people on your team and their contact information. This may be easier to do when it’s a job you been in for a while, but if it is a new job, take some additional effort to memorize these facts. They can ask you anything in relation to your role.

Particulars About Role:
7. Why do you have to go to the US for your role?
Answer with a business case for your having to go to the US.

8. Will you be working at your company’s office or at client sites?
If you answer both, be ready to answer possible client locations you will be traveling to. (Why is it important to know if the candidate will be traveling in the US?)

9. Which clients or customers will you be working for in the U.S.? Where are they located?
Answer honestly. If you are unsure because this is a new job, mention the client will be assigned to you once you are onsite. If you do know where your clients are located in the US, mention the client’s company name, city and state. For your own knowledge, it may be good to know where these client sites are in relation to your employer’s office.

10. How long will you be in the US for this role?
Note the estimated duration of stay.

11. Why do you have to go to the US for this role?
Have a convincing argument about why your physical presence is needed in the US. If the officer gets a feeling you can do the role virtually, this will go against your case.

12. When will you travel to the U.S.?
Mention the anticipated travel dates to the U.S.

13. If you were to visit India using your paid vacation days and you had to extend your vacation for some reason, could you work remotely from India?
Get coaching from your company on how to handle this question. The bottom line is the officer wants to assure your presence is needed IN THE US on US SOIL. If you can do the job remotely from offshore, they will question why you should be granted the visa.

14. What is your salary and package?
Be ready to talk about your salary and offer letter details, such as health insurance, perks, paid vacation days, paid sick leave, and other related details.

Note: Be aware of all the details on your i797. It should mention the employer and duration/expiration date of this document.

Your Qualifications:
15. What qualifies you for this role?
Focus on the skill set that is needed for this role and how your unique expertise fits this skill set.

If this is a new job, it may be handy to remember the job ad and what you needed to be a successful applicant for that job. If you went to college decades ago, that may not be relevant, but if the job you applied for required any recent certifications in any programming language, program management certifications or any other recent training or certifications, mention that in addition to the rigorous application and interview process (if you had more than one round of interviews, and what qualified you to go to the next rounds of interviews, etc.).

If you have been in this job for quite some time, focus on skill set and your track record with your employer, the expertise you have in the domain area and with the specific set of clients you will be working with onsite.

16. Which college did you graduate from? What was your major?
Mention the name or names of the college(s) you studied at, the degrees granted and graduation year.

[If you previously studied, lived or worked in the U.S., they may ask you about your previous stays in the U.S.]

Special Circumstances:
17. I noticed you recently started this job. Before this job, you worked with (employer) for many, many years. Why have you decided to change jobs?
Steer answer toward your career growth and do not focus on the fact your new job will send you to the USA.

Previous Work Related Travel
18. Have you traveled outside of [home country] before? If yes, what countries and for what purposes?
Note which countries visas and travel stamps appear in your passport, and the reasons for going to each country.

19. We see you have been to the US before. Why did you come to the U.S. in the past? Where did you stay?
Answer honestly based on your background. Also, be ready to mention the cities, states and dates of your stays.

Life in the US
20. How will you support yourself the first few weeks or month of your stay before you get your first US paycheck?
Share details about your company’s travel and relocation perks such as per diems, credit cards, cash advances or traveler’s checks, ATM cards/debit cards, and any plans for accommodation or transport the company offers in your expat package. They may ask where exactly you will stay your first few weeks.

21. Do you have family or friends in the US?
Answer honestly.

22. Will your family be coming with you? Who will be coming with you?
Answer honestly.

23. What is the estimated cost of living where you will be staying in the US? Will your salary cover this?
There are many websites that can help calculate your cost of living in various US cities. It may be important to also note some general costs such as rent, gas and electric, transport (car, car insurance, gas), food, cell phone, other utilities and miscellaneous. Understand the percentage of your salary that will go toward these costs after taxes. [Learn more about paycheck deductions you may have in the U.S.]

They could also ask questions such as, “How much of your salary will go toward rent?”

The intent behind these questions is to assure that you as an applicant understand that you will be making enough money to cover your cost of living, which protects you when moving abroad.

24. What will be your annual salary and benefits?
Answer as per your offer letter.

Plans to Go Home
The H1B is a ‘dual intent’ visa, which means it’s for non-immigrants and immigrants alike. This means, depending on the current law, a person on an H1B visa could technically apply for a Green Card if they meet certain qualifications. In cases of H1B, it’s an employer sponsored visa, so refer your answers back to your employer.

25. Are you planning to come back to (your country) India?
Base your answer on your project and employer need.

26. What compels you to come back (property, investments, family, etc)?
Base your answer mostly on your job or employer, but you can also discuss your family, investments, property, etc.

These are some of the most common questions that could be asked during an H1B visa interview if you are working full time in the US for the first time. In case you have been in the US in the past on an F1 or L1 visa and did CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT (Optional Practical Training), you may be asked additional questions not listed in this post. 

The questions and possible answers in this post have been compiled by Neha Mahajan of Skilled Immigrants in America and Jennifer Kumar, who has prepared over 2,500 expat professionals for business trips and work assignments to the US. The information given in this article should not be substituted for your legal counsel and is given for informational purposes only. Consult with your company’s HR or legal team for how to answer questions based on your unique circumstances.

Related Posts: 
Coaching for Tech Workers working from India with US Clients and Stakeholders 
H-1B: Experience Verification Letters to Show "Progressive" Experience in Specialty
Employers See More RFEs and Denials, USCIS Data Confirm
Learn about U.S. social security cards (like PAN or Aardhar cards in India) 
Avoid Immigration Scams in the USA

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.