Managing Across Borders

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Scott Lalor, a senior manager at Amazon’s EU Headquarters in Luxembourg, shares his path to working in a global environment and how to do so successfully. As a BYU-graduate, Lalor began seeking experience with domestic companies as a treasury analyst, managing hedge fund operations, and performing risk analysis for receivables factoring. After returning to school to complete an MBA at the University of Notre Dame, Lalor returned his focus to companies who had a strong international presence.

Scott Lalor began working as a senior manager for Amazon in Seattle, where he was able to network with global groups within the company and ultimately move his young family to Luxembourg to work with Amazon’s automotive vendor management team. Luxembourg is a cultural melting pot where roughly half of its 600,000 population originate from other parts of the world. The experience has given the Lalor family the opportunity to travel, expose their children to different cultures and languages, and come to care deeply for the people they meet.

Amazon’s Business Model Abroad

Amazon’s operations focus on selection, convenience, and price. They strive to have the best selection of products in the world, to have them available and delivered quickly, and to have prices that benefit and attract customers. Just as their domestic retail business reflects these qualities, the automotive team abroad strives to adhere to that business model as they interact with vendors from across the EU, USA, and Asia. In his role as senior manager, Lalor interacts with vendors by introducing them to Amazon, negotiating contracts, and managing their accounts. The vendor management team develops strategies to improve company profitability, which they are responsible to execute.

Succeeding in a Global Environment

Working in Europe presents unique challenges, as each country has different currencies, languages, and regulations. This requires professionals to prioritize their efforts and seek the insight that a diverse team can offer. “If you can build a diverse team, then you can tap into different strengths and have greater outcomes.” According to Lalor, the greatest lesson of working in a multicultural environment has been realizing that there are many ways to accomplish your goals, and these cultures understand something that we don’t. The automotive team has intentionally sought to diversify through their recruitment of women to a male-dominated industry and their encouragement of team members to contribute their different opinions.

Culture presents unique opportunities for professional growth—particularly in Eurasian countries that emphasize relationships in their business interactions. Making allies (both internally and externally) leads to long-term success; consider business as a lasting relationship to develop, rather than an individual transaction to complete. In these countries, personal trust must be established before parties can engage in a business relationship. Strong interpersonal and negotiation skills are key in coming to solutions that benefit both parties.

Preparing for an International Career

It can be difficult to break into the international market directly. Similar to Lalor’s career path, most professionals begin locally in a company that has global operations in order to develop the experience and relationships that will allow them to transfer into a foreign location with that company. Those who are preparing for a career in international business can begin by being curious and well-informed about current events. Be brave and experience the world—whether through vacation, volunteerism, or internships. “The world is a big, beautiful place and has so much to offer the mind and the soul.” Listen to the Cultural Conversations Podcast to hear more about Scott Lalor’s experiences working and living abroad.

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