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    Welcome to Authentic Journeys - ഓതെന്റിക് ജെർനീയ്സ് - US-India Cross-Cultural Training

March 28, 2019

What or Who is a New American?

While there are many government and private, non-profit 501(c)3 organizations supporting newcomers to the US, I was hard-pressed to find a proper definition for the term 'New American' or 'New Americans.' More interestingly, these two terms can bring up wildly different search results on Google. Additionally, articles or videos about 'New Americans' like I am about to define talked about New Americans but did not offer a definition of this term. Because of this, I thought I'd create a definition for this word not only based on my knowledge of this topic, but also having experience working with some categories of New Americans (expats, refugees, immigrants).

What does the term "New American" mean?

Naturalization Ceremony at the Grand Canyon
Individuals becoming New Americans at a Naturalization Ceremony at
the Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo from GCNP @Flickr)

By no means is my attempt at defining this term definitive. There may be other definitions out there that differ from mine. If you are aware of these other definitions, feel free to share them with me

An attempt to define New Americans by Jennifer Kumar:
An individual in the U.S. who is aspiring to take the Path to U.S. Citizenship, or who has, in the recent past, become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. 
The phrase "recent past" has purposefully not been defined. This is because each person's situation is different. Some individuals may feel like a "New American" while waiting for official status change, while some feel it immediately or soon after officially changing citizenship. But, for others, it may still take time to adapt to their new country or culture. 

How can I find agencies to help me if I am a New American? 
While, of course, we at Authentic Journeys specialize in supporting and coaching New Americans to succeed in the U.S., there are many other public services (that are probably free of cost) that can help with a variety of services.

To find agencies to help you with a host of services, search for any of the following:
  • "New Americans" and your state name
  • "New Americans" and the county you reside in 
  • "New Americans" followed by your city or metro area 
  • "Services for New Americans in" (state/county/city) 
  • Alternatively, try searching for the term "Immigrant services" with the city, county or state
Note that some services could also be provided through religious-based organizations. Check out an agency's about page to learn what their mission, values and approach is. One example of this is an agency called Immigrant Hope, serving Idaho and Wyoming.

What will an Office of New Americans help me with? 
Services provided from agency to agency may differ, but some common services may include:
  • English language classes*
  • employment assistance, job readiness, and programs for entrepreneurs* 
  • legal assistance 
  • parent education
  • case management 
  • classes to prepare for the citizenship test
  • referrals for local childcare and/or education services 
  • US culture orientation and social adjustment assistance*
  • health and medical referrals
  • translation and interpretation services
  • links to cultural and spiritual organizations 
  • others as identified by area or need*
There are many New Americans who are highly skilled and educated either in the US or from their native country. Many of these programs focus on building self-sufficiency and reducing brain waste among the many immigrants that want to utilize their skills here in the U.S.

Note: The list items above defined with an asterisk are also services provided by Authentic Journeys. In some cases, especially with language services, if a candidate tests at too high an English proficiency level, they may be referred out to an English school or tutor. Call or contact us instead! 

Some Examples of New Americans Service Agencies 
(Focus on the Inter-mountain West): 
Agency for New Americans, Boise, Idaho  
Friendly House, Phoenix, Arizona  
Emily Griffith Technical College (Colorado) 
Global Talent Idaho
Immigrant Services, Jackson, Wyoming (Teton County)  
Mayor's Office for New Americans, Salt Lake City, Utah
Soft Landing Missoula, Montana 

Other areas in the US:
Imprint: Immigrant Professional Integration
Office for Refugees and Immigrants, Massachusetts 
Office of New Americans, Office of the Mayor, Chicago, Illinois
Preparing Foreign-Born Talent for Careers in the USA (Des Moines, Iowa) 
Skilled Immigrants in America (New Jersey)
Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning (Aids Internationally-trained health care providers in Colorado)  
Upwardly Global 

What time of the year do individuals become New Americans (US Citizens)? 
It seems Naturalization Ceremonies can take place on any day of the year, sometimes as soon as you complete your interview, which is the fifth of six steps in the process as detailed below. 

Process to become a United States Citizen: 
  1. Step One: Find Out Whether You Are Eligible. The first question is whether you have a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence).
  2. Step Two: Overcome Barriers to Your Ineligibility. 
  3. Step Three: File USCIS Form N-400.
  4. Step Four: Get Fingerprinted. 
  5. Step Five: Attend a Citizenship Interview. 
  6. Step Six: Attend the Oath Ceremony.
Most recently, I have seen many announcements and news stories for new citizenship ceremonies being held on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17, yearly) and on Flag Day (June 14).

The location of the ceremony may vary based on when you are eligible to become a citizen. Some may happen right on the spot in the immigration office, without much fanfare, while others may happen in public locations like Capitol Buildings, community centers, schools, and other prominent places. I also read some naturalization ceremonies take place in National Parks! 

This video is a news story from California, where new Americans recite the Oath of Allegiance at Yosemite National Park.

In the next video, we can see how the local TV news KXLF in Butte, Montana covered a naturalization ceremony.

What is it like to become a New American?

Have you went through the process of becoming a New American? Feel free to share your story with us. We also provide coaching and assistance to help skilled immigrants, international students, expats and others thrive in global, diverse business environments. Get in touch with us to discuss further. 

As a side note from the author; as an interculturalist, I am not 100% comfortable to use the word 'American' to describe the citizenship status of those who naturalize in the United States. It may be more accurate to say a "New U.S. American." Why? Well America includes both North and South America. So, technically, a Canadian could be an American, just as much as a Chinese is an Asian. In fact, other interculturists and cross-cultural experts tend to agree on this. To add to this, once I met a Chilean in the US who got very upset with me when I said I was American. He said to me, "I hope you know I am an American, too. I, of course am from South America, so South American, but also American. Why have US Americans monopolized this term?" It was an eye opener for me! 

Related Posts: 
Test your knowledge of immigration myths (eye opening) 
I am an Immigrant, celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month in various US cities in June 
Learn about the US States, Birthdays, and More Trivia   
See a full length citizenship ceremony that took place at Grand Canyon National Park 

Note: The agencies listed in this post do not have any affiliation with Authentic Journeys, nor has Authentic Journeys worked with these agencies. They are being shared as a resource to the readers of this website. 

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! 

Our Coaching Process - Based on Iterative and Incremental Development
Our Coaching Process - Based on Iterative and Incremental Development
such as what is common in Agile Software Development Cycles

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. 

Note: When the team doesn't have much or any knowledge of the type of business, service or motivations of the end users, rich user stories could help fill in the blanks.

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.

Getting Developers Ready to Handle International Clients

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): https://www.linkedin.com/in/authenticjourneys/
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 qz.com
How tech professionals can use virtual career coaching to boost their skills - from techrepublic.com
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
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)
Getting developers ready to interact with international clients

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

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.

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.

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 communication 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:

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).
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 

Related Program:
Managing Client Expectations (Working with US Americans in Virtual Environments)

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

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.