Denise from ExxonMobil: “Team diversity brings new ideas and points of view.”

Denise from ExxonMobil: "Team diversity brings new ideas"

Diversity and inclusive work environment bring many advantages, and ExxonMobil certainly doesn’t fall behind in this regard. There is a 12-member Inclusion Committee created to raise awareness and inform employees on these topics. How does the initiative operate, and what are its main goals? Meet Denise Sananes, an Argentinian leading this company initiative. She started her career in ExxonMobil in 2015 in Buenos Aires. However, fate brought her to Prague, where she has been working as Contracts Lead.

How would you compare living in Prague and Buenos Aires? Have you experienced any culture shock?

Prague is a beautiful city. There are so many things you can do here. It is located very conveniently in the middle of Europe. Buenos Aires is huge and busy. Compared to that, I think life in Prague is much quieter. However, I was a little worried about what I was going to eat here at first. To explain – I’m a vegetarian and finding any kind of fruits or vegetables all year long is no trouble in Argentina. I was unfortunate to arrive in Prague in winter, and the difference in available vegetables was considerable. At first, I was a little shocked, but I started to discover new places, and my problem was quickly resolved.

You have various diverse teams within one workplace. What do you think is the greatest advantage?

Generally, employees from different parts of the world have a different mentality, which goes hand in hand with a different worldview. I believe that sharing various experiences helps team members continuously grow. If we were a team of people who are alike, we would reach the same conclusions, and nobody would gain anything. On the other hand, diverse teams encourage discussion, which may lead to brilliant ideas or alternative solutions.

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ExxonMobil celebrates workplace diversity and promotes an inclusive work environment where all employees feel valued and respected. Can you tell us how this approach is put into practice?

Inclusion Network strives to make employees recognize the needs of their colleagues who may be of different origin or religion, come from different cultures, or who simply think differently. I believe that it’s important to be aware of the bias with respect to yourself and others and challenge it. We organize plenty of lectures and workshops in order to educate our employees on such issues. Last year, we prepared a training on inclusion intended for team leaders. This year, we would like to dedicate more time to the topic of unconscious bias. Along with the educational events, we publish study materials and distribute them among the employees, and we send out global ExxonMobil newsletters.

You talk about events, lectures, and workshops you organize, which are the most popular among the employees?

Undoubtedly the National Days, when the employees themselves present their culture and country they come from. The presentations are usually quite elaborate, funny, and full of interesting information on the customs or traditional food. This type of event usually attracts a presentation room jam-packed with visitors. But to those who would rather be active than sit in a conference room, I recommend attending the Fun & Run event.

ExxonMobil employs more than 80 different nationalities in the Czech Republic. Did you experience any funny story that would stem from the ignorance of cultural practices or poor choice of words?

It sometimes happened to me back in the Buenos Aires office, because we often worked with our colleagues from Canada or the US. It usually occurred because we used professional jargon or specific phrases that any non-native speaker had no chance to decipher. But for most of us in the Czech Republic, English is our second language, and we use it on a daily basis. Therefore, we seldom misunderstand each other.

How did you come to be a part of the Inclusion Committee?

Actually, it was thanks to Lydia, who was in the same team as me, and, at the same time, she worked in the Inclusion Committee. We simply started talking about the initiative – what do they do, what kind of activities do they organize, and what is their driving force. The more I found, the more I wanted to become a part of it. That’s how it happened. I would like to use this opportunity to mention that we are currently looking for like-minded people and that we will gladly hear any ideas and comments regarding the activities and work of our initiative.

Karolina Sefcikova

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