By Billy Ho on June 21, 2019
Talent Mobility Manager, Global Tax & Americas Mobility at Electronic Arts (EA)
A few months ago, I switched roles from a mobility tax service provider to an in-house mobility generalist. The switch was out of curiosity and the desire to learn more about the mobility universe – where the different worlds represent the many different roles within mobility. The switch came with many uncertainties (and spawned some internal fear), especially having been comfortable in my previous role for almost a decade, but the desire to learn pushed me past the boundary of fear.
Now that I have been in my new role for a few months, I wanted to share some reflections and tips for those who might be curious about the difference between the two worlds. Hopefully, this blog will help anyone sharing a similar desire and nervousness about change. I know it would have made my decision process much smoother (and minimized the debates between my angel & devil) to have had this perspective shared beforehand. I am also referring to a sphere – the comfort zone* – that I’ve used as my guiding principle.
Get past your comfort zone.
We all strive for the feeling of “comfort” – which is very different from person to person – but an occasional peek outside the zone (to nurture your curiosity), followed by a well-informed and intentional venture outside of that boundary often leads to a greater reward – in the form of improvement or career development. I found the following steps contributed greatly in preparing myself for the decision I made:
- o Overcome your fear: The most common setback is the feeling of uncertainty. It often comes from the lack of control and self-confidence, but taking steps to research and understand the purpose and meaning behind the opportunity, in my case, the different mobility roles can help alleviate that feeling of unease. Part of my research was to gather others’ opinion on their day-to-day challenges. The purpose was to understand the different roles and whether any one of these new ‘worlds’ would fulfill my curiosity and desire to learn. I reminded myself that this information was only for reference rather than being persuasive. Since everybody’s experience is different, this internal reminder helped to minimize the bias in my research.
- o Identify your goals: As the next step, I organized the information and evaluated whether the new role would help to achieve my primary goal: – to broaden my knowledge of mobility. In this change management process, it helps to make a list of goals that are achievable and measurable. For instance, I wanted challenging problems that could help me acquire new skills/perspectives; an opportunity to partner with the business and make an impact; and to expand my professional network. I was able to see these opportunities in the new role.
- o Ready, get set, go: It came down to making the decision, but at this point, I was well prepared to choose a path. The one tip here is knowing the outcome will never be as perfect as you may have planned. It is what you do intentionally that drives alignment between the outcome and your goals – and even so – goals may change (or be redefined) from time-to-time.
Managing the change in environments.
The two worlds may seem very different, but the beauty of mobility is the roles are interconnected and they have similarity in many ways once you start to explore the new role. Even with that said, change management is a very important part of the journey. It applied to both the new team as well as me personally, the new member of the team. Here are my observations about this transition:
- o A problem solver vs. an advisor: The mobility universe is constantly changing to adapt to the latest workforce trends - as humans we tend to be very creative. Human creativity, flexibility and innovation lead to unique scenarios and restrictions that challenge the business to implement a win-win solution on a one-to-one basis. This is where Talent Mobility comes in as a problem solver (as opposed to an advisor in my previous role). The main difference is identifying a solution that is within the restriction of the business while serving the need of the individual. This requires a good understanding of the impacted business group(s) within the company – information that wasn’t always available in my previous role. As an advisor, I had always provided a variety of solutions to choose from in hope that the business picked the best one that fits its needs. As a problem solver, I’m part of that process, engaging with the people who are looking for solutions.
- o Investment focus vs. revenue driven: A very specific difference between the two worlds is the decision driver. Talent Mobility has been seen more and more as supporting the Talent Acquisition function, just as I am doing in my new role. The conscious driver here is intentional investment to win/develop talent. This focus gives me the opportunity to structure programs that support specific talent initiatives and make them impactful. In my previous role, the decision driver was to generate revenue and to meet targets. This often led to an adrenaline-fueled answer to act as quickly as possible to my clients’ questions in order to earn revenue and minimize time and cost in the process. In my new situation, the focus is to provide research that explores far beyond the immediate question in order to cover all the possible scenarios. This represents a difference in the culture of these two worlds.
- o Availability of Resources: The resource and team in my previous role at the tax firm were much more readily available as compared to my new role. Namely, I had access to the research data, the internal expertise, and the various tools/technologies of the firm. This difference in resource availability between past and present roles left me feeling a little helpless at times. Luckily, the solution to the ‘resource gap’ can be found through the professional community, such as BAMM or Worldwide ERC, where people are very willing to share insights; or by partnering with the experts providing mobility services. Overall, the mobility universe is full of people who are willing to help and contribute to the greater success of the industry.
Recognize the beauty of the Mobility Universe
Mobility is truly a unique industry – from the various business groups that have a vested interest in mobility success to the many different roles that provide services. While we partner with common service providers and leverage insights from similar mobility topics, there is always the uniqueness in each of the programs to tie back to the individual company’s culture. I want to wrap up my reflection with a few tips:
- o Not starting over: The mobility universe is very interconnected, so my skill and knowledge were easily carried over to the new role. At the same time, the new role gives me the opportunity to grow by learning about the relocation and immigration aspects of mobility. All this knowledge contributes to a well-rounded mobility professional or a mobility generalist.
- o Not alone: I feel the mobility universe takes pride in its community, where sharing and collaboration are encouraged. The professional network you build, whether in the previous role or the new role, will become part of your ongoing support structure to achieve your goals. People are always willing to help or share experiences and insights.
- o Not always a win-lose situation: There is such possibility for win-win situations in the mobility universe. In today’s world, data collaboration is the key to success. This concept was very welcomed and adopted by many in the industry. It typically involves all who are connected by a mobility program to come together to share data and processes in creating an ecosystem. I strongly encourage this way of working to be considered.
Overall, there are many changes to be considered when switching between mobility worlds, but in my experience, it has been a purposeful and rewarding adventure. I look forward to learning much more within the mobility universe in which we all live. I hope by sharing my story, it enables others to think about the value of the different mobility worlds – whether within the same world or across the galaxy.