What was your personal and professional journey like?
My name is Jianwei Lai, also known as 赖建伟 (Lai Jianwei) in Chinese. I was born and raised in Guiyang, a city in mainland China with around 3 million residents and known for its spicy cuisine. After finishing high school, I moved to Germany to study at Jacobs University Bremen. At the time, the German language seemed as foreign to me as Chinese does to most Germans, with its complex rules and exceptions. Although my curriculum was in English, I was surrounded by international students and faculties on campus. I had to put in extra effort to learn German (besides taking a 2-hour-per-week grammar course). It was not until I started working for a German company as a student that I really picked up the language. Today, I am a manager in Business Analysis at SMS digital, responsible for multiple digitalization projects and processes.
What does diversity mean to you?
To me, diversity encompasses not just our backgrounds, appearances, or genders, but also the various cultures and mindsets we possess, whether knowingly or subconsciously. Effective diversity management should bring out the best in each individual while promoting a positive and constructive approach to resolving conflicts or friction that may arise. SMS digital is a great example of this in the conservative metal industry, adhering to contemporary values with an open mindset as a code of conduct. Although I am not a German citizen, I am proud to work alongside my colleagues on important topics and under comparable conditions. While there may be times when I do not always fully understand certain German jokes from my versatile colleagues, I am never made to feel like an outsider because of my background.
What role does diversity play in teamwork?
At first glance, cultural diversity may seem like a challenge for teamwork, especially when team members are not familiar with each other's differences. However, in the long run, the constant integration of diverse perspectives leads to a synergy that far outweighs the efforts required to achieve it. Ultimately, this results in ambidextrous professionalism, capable of handling even the most complex challenges.
Are there differences between German and Chinese workplace culture?
When comparing Chinese and German work cultures, there are valuable lessons to be learned from each other. One of the most notable traits in modern Chinese work style is swiftness. Whether it is completing tasks as planned or adapting to unexpected changes, people tend to prioritize efficiency to maximize deliverables within the same timeframe. In contrast, the German work style places a strong emphasis on preparation and the quality of execution. This measured and complex approach not only yields high-quality results but also builds a reputation that contributes to long-term success.
What advice would you give to future colleagues?
To my future colleagues, I want to share a helpful reminder: Whenever you encounter frustrating challenges, remember that it has taken you many years to become the person you are today, and to get to the position you currently hold. This means that you must be doing something right, so have faith in yourself and your abilities.