Daniel: Hi, I’m Daniel Torres Dwyer and welcome to LS International Career Success Podcast. We’ve heard many times about the concept of the digital native. But the truth is that the majority of the current workforce doesn’t fit into this demographic. Today we’ve invited Anna Campagna, the current sales director for Heineken Asia Pacific, an Italian national that’s lived and worked in Europe, Mexico, and Singapore where she’s currently based. The aim of this podcast is to understand the opposite of digital native: the digital immigrant. And how these two generations can work together instead of competing to find joined success and thrive in today’s business world.
Hi Anna, thanks for joining us today.
Anna: Hi Daniel, thanks for having me.
Daniel: Excellent. So, yeah, first of all, as I’ve said in the introduction we’re going to talk about the concept of the digital immigrant. In your mind or in your words, what is “digital immigrant”?
Anna: Ok, you know, there is an official definition of digital immigrant. And this is people born before 1985, so people that are not millennials in the, you know, generation classification. As a matter of fact, from the millennial’s own words, they are defined as digital natives.
What is the difference? Digital immigrants have grown up before the world got defied by the internet and the smart devices. Well, digital natives are born in a world that is connected online. And that is the big gap between these two generations.
Daniel: And why is it necessary for people that are no millennials to transition into digital? Speaking here about executives, like yourself.
Anna: First I’ll speak in general terms, and then I’ll tell you about myself. So, they usually say that the digital immigrants and digital natives have their biggest generational gap in the fact that the immigrants would be quite fearful about using technology, while the natives are very comfortable with it because they have been using it since their very birth. That’s what separates these two generations.
I don’t really resonate with it to be very honest. It’s true, I had to, you know, get used to it and I had to change substantially my way of working. When I started working, we barely had e-mails and they were very slow, you know, and everything was really paper-based. And also, based on a presential relationship so to say. Because I’m curious as a person and I really like new things or new territories to explore, I never felt this was a barrier. It was actually a very interesting field to explore as a new thing. What I must admit, however, is that as a I said, you substantially changed the way you worked, and the pace of every conversation dramatically increases. I mean, the quantity of information available in every conversation or piece of work changes drastically. So, you really need to adapt, it doesn’t come for free.
Daniel: Ok. And what would you say are the key challenges for a digital immigrant when working with a digital native?
Anna: Digital natives have excess, in a natural way, too much more information, because they know where to look. Because basically living online they are connected all the time. So, they have a different way of, you know, unlocking their social life but also the way they really unlock information at work, and the way they organize their projects. They also like to interact in a different way. So, less face-to-face meetings and maybe more conversations or routines with Skype or WhatsApp or you name it. Even e-mails are a bit obsolete for them to be very honest. But I realized that they really like to work in a much more agile way. So, a conversation that has a faster pace but shorter duration. They don’t want to be stuck in a meeting room for many hours in a row, they really don’t like it. While this was a bit where we were raised as different working generations: spent a lot of time together, talking a lot to each other, and then getting out of the meeting room everybody knows what to do and you meet again one month later.
Now things really work in a much more agile and I’d say light-hearted way for natives. And they rely much more on what they can learn and collect as information than what they can, probably, create jointly together with other people in the same room.
Daniel: And, for a native that works with an immigrant? Any key challenges there?
Anna: I mean, the extreme of it would be that we are considered a bit dinosaurs because we are not, you know, naturally connected online because we found different ways to achieve the same goals or to collect the same information. But at the end of the day, I’ve also got, you know, really beautiful experiences because if you have smart people on one or the other side you can really create magic at work. Precisely because you combine different sets of competences and different skills. If immigrants and natives really want to work together, they can really reach a very high level of performance and mutually inspire each other. It depends really on how the relationship starts and if both parts are open to putting into discussion the way they work and think and use their time in a mutual way as opposed to one imposing rules to the other part.
Daniel: And what’s been your personal experience, Anna, when having these two profiles within your organization, your teams? How have you managed it?
Anna: So, I have to say that I found myself really plunging in this world of digital natives when I joined my current job in Asia Pacific. Because I arrived as a sales transformation manager and I find myself also in charge of a team of nine people, for the digital team. And these people are all digital natives and all coming from pure players, so tech companies. So, very different backgrounds, very different even, you know, classic background, but more importantly a new way of looking at the business. And it’s been a fantastic rollercoaster for me and for them. Because, even though I was really not well acquainted with the typical world words and their world in general, I could provide them with something that they would not be able to unlock on their own which was the business knowledge. The fact that I have been working for Heineken now for over 15 years, I was able to explain to them the business like no one else probably. And that way, by knowing the business, they could understand how to transform the business itself. If you don’t have this starting point, this foundational element in the conversation, it’s very difficult they can really disrupt or transform or optimize in the digital world. I’ve been lucky and blessed because I worked with very smart – I still work actually – with very smart people that really understand the complementarity between my role and theirs, and they try to sweat and leverage this every single day.
Daniel: And, finally, what would be your key takeaways or advices to our listeners to make this work?
Anna: So, it’s very simple. I think that both natives and immigrants have to approach the conversation in a very open, non-judgmental and curious way. If you have these three elements – openness, no judgement or no bias, and curiosity – together, you could really do magic. And everybody will be very entertained in the conversation along the journey, everybody will learn a lot along the journey itself. That would be my best advice.
Daniel: Ok. Fantastic. That’s really interesting Anna. Thank so much for joining us today, again.
Anna: It’s been my pleasure, Daniel. Thanks for having me.
Daniel: And thanks to our listeners and we’ll see you in the next edition of the podcast. Bye.