Sarnoff Symposium: Telecom’s Future

Corporate Angels

Calling Astronomers

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This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the March 5, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Am I Bowing Low Enough?

Why do Americans park on the driveway and drive on the

parkway? For the same reason that Japanese subtly scratch the tablecloth

to order more tea. Each culture is merely expressing the idioms of

its own communication. For the temporary tourist, learning such linguistic

and cultural anomalies can be fun, even part of the trip’s excitement.

But for the businessperson laboring hard to get the job done, a wacky

language like English, laden with slang, sports metaphors, and a mongrel-bred

vocabulary of half a million words, communication at warp speed can

prove to be, well, a real twilight zone.

To bring folks in from left field and help them learn a little international

sensitivity, the Human Resource Management Association (HRMA) of New

Jersey is sponsoring "Communication Across Cultures" on Monday,

March 10, at 11:45 a.m. at the Yardley Inn in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

Cost: $40. Call 609-883-6327. This HRMA meeting features Catherine

Mercer Bing of ITAP International, a firm with offices at 268 Wall

Street in Research Park. In a fun but poignant way, she puts forth

the specific problems and solutions faced by both employees and entrepreneurs

dealing in a foreign land.

"So the British executive turns to his new American co-worker

and asks her to give him a rubber," laughs Bing. "The lady’s

stunned silence could have shattered glass." Unsnarling such little

unintentional gaffs (she finally gave him the eraser he sought) and

has been the goal of ITAP International since Bing’s husband, John

Bing, founded it back in the early 1980s.

Raised in a globe-trotting family, John Bing grew up in a series of

exotic locales, including Africa and Japan, before serving as a Peace

Corps volunteer in Afghanistan for three years. Thus his international

education and government degrees — from the University of Massachusetts

— seem appropriate.

Catherine Mercer Bing, also a veteran traveler, brought business expertise

to their firm. Trained as a New Jersey teacher, she also worked for

Chase Manhattan Bank and Lockheed prior to founding her own Princeton

business, Mercer Communications. The couple’s mutually run business,

which began as International Training Associates of Princeton, has

expanded globally to help bridge the cross-cultural gap and thus has

more aptly shifted to ITAP International.

Whether you are bringing aboard an employee from a new culture, or

taking your business onto strange new soil, learning and sensitivity

are essential to success. "There are many hurdles to cross cultures,"

insists Bing, "only one of which is our spoken language."

Yada, yada, yada. Yada, yada, yada translates roughly

into "all that jazz," but neither expression means much to

that Greek shipping firm representative whose contract you would kiss

the Blarney Stone to win. "Language truly is the mirror of the

culture," says Bing, "but the global businessperson must adjust."

This entails retraining your working vocabulary to eschew our rich

sports, music, and even computer metaphors.

Remember that your new employee with the foreign accent probably learned

English as a second language in an academic setting. Thus certain

words and phrases should be used (not utilized) to facilitate communication.

For example, saying that a task is "difficult" is better than

saying it is "hard" — a word with many meanings.

It is easy to forget that the United States and other

English-speaking countries are separated by a common language. Just

because you deal with an English-speaking New Zealander does not mean

you’ll have the faintest idea what to do at a "compulsory halt."

(Hint: it entails an octagonal red sign with four white letters.)

On the other hand, boredom is never a communications goal and your

language need not be dust dry. The occasional idiom delivered with

a broad smile, then quickly paraphrased in a more prosaic way can

add stimulation. It gives the speaker an out-of-the-box, truly original

feel, yet maintains sensitivity.

Jargon. In addition to making us feel smugly elite, jargon

often provides communication shortcuts. Interestingly, much professional

jargon is now more global than the most familiar slang English. Your

German human resource consultant may well chat knowledgeably about

an employee’s "high-pot quotient," but beware. His definition

of high potential may differ from yours.

Sensitivity. Nema, from Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, speaks

such amazingly correct English, with scarcely a trace of an accent.

It is a shame that she is such a sluggish worker. "How well an

individual speaks," explains Bing, "in no way indicates their

English reading speed." Almost invariably the foreign worker will

need more time to struggle through the same work in this second, non-native

language. He will also have to suppress the very natural tendency

toward jealousy and resentment of his English-speaking cohorts, who

can breeze through written tasks more quickly.

Supervisors can help by avoiding comparisons and by diverting time-crunch

situations. Co-workers can add precious clarity by backing up conversations

with brief, tersely worded (but not condescending) memos as a handy

summaries, which can be reviewed at leisure. Morale can be greatly

improved if supervisors learn a few words of employees’ native languages.

If, for example, you ask over lunch for the word for "tasteless"

in Turkish, your visitor will find a relief from being the constant

student and for a moment take on the role of teacher.

Negotiations. Americans are individualists who tend to

think that time and personal pride are prime. While these are admirable

traits, they are not universal. Lone American entrepreneurs frequently

fumble when faced with a vast panel of Chinese all trying to negotiate

the same simple deal. "To the Japanese," says Bing, "a

long conversational pause is a sign of respect. It signifies that

"`I appreciate your point and want to consider it.’" The American,

however, is more likely to view such a pause a merely an annoying

sign of short term memory loss.

"Negotiating involves language, of course," says Bing, "but

other factors, such as non-verbal cues and national values, must be

equally considered." Non-verbal negotiating signals may include

gestures, seating, and the proper cultural distance. It takes a full

day to purchase a rug — let alone landing space — in Turkey,

whereas in the United States we would do business swiftly with the

devil if he could supply our needs at five cents a widget cheaper.

In China, it may take three months of interchange to determine that

you personally exhibit sufficient character to make you a trustworthy


New language skills. When an insurance firm was taken

over by a German business, nearly everyone grumbled and then quietly

winced, expecting a pink slip. Many got them. Yet one executive, for

some reason, seemed to get along well with the new bosses. In fact,

he flourished and was promoted, then offered a plum job in the Munich

home office. Of course, he was the only one in the office who raced

to Berlitz and blitzkrieged a mastery of German.

In addition to showing some obvious initiative, the Germans greatly

appreciated the executive’s welcoming accommodation. "It can be

little things like translating measurements into metric or arranging

more complex logistics," Bing explains. She cites an instance

where an American, an Englishman, and a Japanese manager held periodic

conference calls. Somehow the scheduling fell so that the call came

at the start of the American’s day and late afternoon for the Englishman.

The Japanese had to roust himself out of bed in the middle of the

night. "How do you think that would make him feel about the entire

business relationship?" asks Bing.

No one can deny that business is going global, for companies of all

sizes. Even if your product is locally produced and never leaves the

state, the odds that you will hire foreign employees are great. Those

energetic enough to seek out global markets and transcultural human

resources are finding tangible rewards. Yet to make the most of this

diversity, domestic firms will have to twist into a new mold and blend

a little accommodation and a little cross-cultural sensitivity into

the work day. It is, after all, in the interest of the American dream,


— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Sarnoff Symposium: Telecom’s Future

Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) holds the

2003 Sarnoff Symposium on Advances in Wired and Wireless Communications

on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 11 and 12, at the College of New Jersey.

Tuesday’s sessions begin at 2:30 p.m. A reception and dinner follows

at 6:30 p.m. at the Princeton Hyatt. Satyam Cherukuri, president

and CEO of Sarnoff gives the dinner address. Wednesday’s sessions

begin at 8 a.m. and continue through 6 p.m. Cost: $230 for symposium

and tutorial and $55 for the dinner. Students pay $20 for the symposium.

Call 732-280-2020 or visit

The Sarnoff Symposium has for many years been the premier telecommunications

event in New Jersey, attracting technical and industry experts from

the United States and from overseas demonstrating the globalization

of the telecommunications industry and the importance of New Jersey

for this high tech industry.

"We strive to present a comprehensive survey of the innovative

work in the field," says Peter Zalud, general symposium

chair and a senior researcher at the Sarnoff Corporation.

The keynote presentation on March 12 by Bruce Friedman, managing

director of Sprint’s Mobile Computing Services Group, explores the

economics of interoperability of mobile phone companies’ networks.

A panel of telecom executives give the audience a glimpse at the future

of the industry. Speakers include Janet Boudris, CEO of Broadbeam

Corporation at 2540 Route 130 in Cranbury, a leading company delivering

mobility solutions to enterprises; Markus Kommenda, managing

director of the Telecommunications Research Center, Vienna, Austria;

and Karl Kjellberg, president of Fortune Consulting, a New Jersey

provider of communication networks. Gerhard Franz, president

of A. G. Franz Associates, a Plainsboro-based management consulting

firm, and the symposium’s technical program chair, moderates.

The technical program reflects the growing importance of wireless

communications and network security. It includes 34 papers exploring

technical advances in software radio and microwave devices, 3G mobile

systems, voice-over-IP, optical networking, military communications,

signal processing, modeling and simulation.

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

<d>Janssen Pharmaceutica Products and Ortho Biotech

Products are major sponsors of a Leap Into Spring, an event to

raise money for CancerCare. Leap Into Spring takes place on Tuesday,

April 15, at 5:30 p.m. at McCarter Theater. The Mark Morris Dance

Group performs at 8 p.m.

Leap Into Spring honors Mary Ellen Rybak, vice president of oncology

at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Rybak

is being recognized for her long-standing commitment to CancerCare

of New Jersey as well as for her work in the field of oncology research.

As the largest national non-profit organization of its kind, CancerCare

provides free professional support services, including counseling,

education, financial assistance, and practical help to people across

the country. The organization operates counseling offices in Princeton

and Trenton.

Tickets for Leap Into Spring are available for $125, and sponsorships

are being sought. Call 609-924-8752.

RE/MAX of New Jersey has raised $283,133 for the Children’s

Miracle Network (CMN). CMN is a national charity which improves healthcare

for children by generating funds and awareness for programs for 170

affiliated hospitals. Funds raised benefit the Children’s Hospital

of Philadelphia, Children’s Specialized Hospital, an affiliate of

Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s

Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University in New Brunswick.

The hospitals affiliated with CMN treat children with all types of

afflictions, including cancer, heart and muscular diseases, birth

defects, AIDS, and injuries incurred as a result of accidents.

Top Of Page
Calling Astronomers

The 3M Foundation has given a $30,000 grant to

the planetarium at Raritan Valley Community College in North Branch.

The funds will go toward providing tools for New Jersey astronomers,

and will enable the planetarium to expand its educational services

by helping astronomers to become better teachers.

The idea for the new program comes from two current programs at the

RVCC planetarium. For years, the planetarium has conducted Starlab

workshops for teachers and Project ASTRO for teachers and astronomers.

Starlab is a portable planetarium that is easily transported and set

up in schools. More than 350 teachers have attended workshops at RVCC

to learn how to use Starlab in their classrooms. Project ASTRO matches

volunteer astronomers with teachers in grades 2-12. The astronomers

act as a resource to the teacher and his class, making at least four

visits a year to help teach astronomy with hands-on activities. More

than 100 astronomers are involved with Project ASTRO.

The purpose of the new initiative is to develop and conduct workshops

specifically for astronomers. Starting with Project ASTRO’s network

of astronomers, workshops will train astronomers in the use of Starlab.

The program is being designed to accommodate the time commitment and

restrictions of the astronomers’ work schedules.

Anyone interested in taking the workshops can call 908-231-8805 or

can E-mail to

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