Common purpose leads to business success
2007-10-18 11:54:16 -
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 In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Dr Alvina Grosu of the Cork-based training consultancy, Culturewise Ireland 

Although highly qualified, with a PhD in Psychology and a background in university lecturing in cognitive styles in interpersonal perceptions in her native Moldova, Dr Alvina Grosu spent her early months in Ireland as a waitress.

“I was in the asylum process for a while,” says Grosu, “and because of my status in Ireland I could not take work. I then went on a renewable visa, which allowed me to take up employment, but as I have a PhD, yet no experience in Ireland, it actually made me unemployable.

“I started to look for professional employment with some State agencies but without experience in Ireland it was very difficult. So I started applying for shop assistant jobs and eventually got some work as a waitress for a while.” 
Grosu worked evenings and weekends but felt that she needed another dimension to her life in Ireland: “I became actively involved in community and voluntary work. I was active in local partnerships and the work involved speaking with community and immigrant groups.”

She was soon invited by Cork City Partnership to attend a Common Purpose course, to deliver skills to community leaders. It proved to be more than helpful. “Looking back it was like winning the lotto,” explains Grosu. “The ideas that I absorbed on that course and the people I met were invaluable.

“Others on the course were leaders in the public, private and voluntary sector in Ireland. Over a period of seven months I sat with business people and managers and heads of State agencies. I learned about issues that affected city managers and I identified that intercultural issues and differences were high up on people’s agenda.

“Things like eye contact, why some nationalities seem rude compared to the Irish politeness, body language – Irish people were not sure about these things ,and also the immigrants were unsure because they did not know what expectations were in Ireland. The ethnic profile of our communities and workplaces is undergoing unprecedented transformation through immigration.”

A contact at the course invited Grosu to speak to his regional managers and the training modules took shape. “I was speaking to these bank managers from the perspective of a service user and as an immigrant. Cultural difference can impact on business and business leaders have recognised this, that there is a need for this kind of knowledge and insight. Business leaders see opportunities and they see them quickly.”

Grosu felt that her training and experience placed her well to avail of the opportunities being offered. The course gave her a good feel for the way the system works in Ireland and the people involved. She also took a course run by Emerge that taught the business side of things.

It was then that she moved from volunteering to setting the service on a professional footing. Workshops were designed to help organisations overcome cultural barriers to effective communication, so that they are better able to profit from opportunities presented by cultural diversity.

“Agencies and companies were willing to pay fees for the service, which in turn allowed me to establish a better quality service in terms of handouts and follow up,” she explains. “I learned at Emerge that in Ireland it is important to use your network to establish business connections. It has worked so far – I have never had to advertise. My business comes from referrals.”

Culturewise Ireland is now a successful training and educational consultancy in Cork, with many high-profile clients including Bank of Ireland, The Revenue Commissioners, credit unions, Enterprise Board Limerick, Cork County Council and the Cork Institute of Technology.

“There is a niche in Ireland for this type of training for groups, and after I did my market research I went for it,” says Grosu. “The luck that I came across when I became involved in community work was brilliant. My advice to anyone who may be in the early stages of immigration is to get involved in the local community.”
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