Meet Silicon Valley’s Russian Diplomat: Marianna Holman of the Darmina Group|
The pace of globalization is no new trend, but finding innovative ways to capture the needs that it brings is ever-challenging. Marianna Holman recently founded a training and consulting company, the Darmina Group, to enable Russian tech workers in the Silicon Valley to integrate more seamlessly into the culture of tech in California. Levo had the pleasure of sitting down with Marianna to discuss her decision to go into business for herself and to attack this wily niche market.
Your new company, Darmina, trains employees to be aware and responsive to cultural differences in their coworkers. What trends are Darmina responding to in the market? What problems is it fixing?
We’re responding to the rapid globalization of workforce in the IT sector. Modern workplace is becoming more global and culturally diverse, that is why contemporary businesses and leaders must display a keen ability to interact effectively with individuals of different cultures. Darmina Group designs and delivers consulting and training solutions designed to address intercultural issues and demonstrate how cultural diversity can be used as a tool to build successful organizations.
Cultural diversity is a business bottom line issue and managing it effectively should be a strategic goal for contemporary businesses. Darmina Group’s services help international managers and leaders– and even entire companies– to learn about cultural differences. This means fewer behavioral mistakes and misattributions that can both lead to dysfunctional relationships and cause poor organizational performance.
How did you come to the realization that this was a significant opportunity for you?
My experience in the fields of Leadership Development and Global Mobility demonstrated to me that culture influences most human activities. In the business world, culture is the reason behind the knee-jerk reaction that could affect the outcome of a project. This is when I saw that there is a significant opportunity and need for cultural education in the workplace.
To me, this movement in cultural diversity resembles the 1960′s movement of women entering the workforce and making the work place more gender diverse. Gender awareness and sexual harassment training became necessary to equip both genders for better collaboration. Today, sexual harassment training is mandatory in the state of California.
This is when I saw the opportunity for Darmina Group to design and deliver consulting and training solutions to improve collaboration with colleagues that hold different cultural values, assumptions & beliefs. My personal and professional experience as a bicultural Russian-American enabled me to quickly identify this opportunity and I draw on my successes and failures as we design tailored solutions for our clients.
What’s the environment of Russian tech sector look like? Does Russia have its own Silicon Valley (maybe in the Urals?)– or do you believe that the future of Russian tech-skilled workers is in California?
The Russian tech sector is certainly forming and developing rapidly. Recently Russia has decided that to stay competitive in the 21st century it must diversify and innovate. For decades, Russia has been relying on oil & gas industry and the Russian GDP has grown 72% in the last 9 years. That said, this growth could be mainly attributed to the price of oil per barrel, which has gone from $35 in 2000 to $87 in 2011 [numbers adjusted for inflation].
Russian government and businesses understand that relying on one sector of the economy is not sustainable and in order to maintain the desired economic growth the new tech sector and regional innovation hubs are being created. One of the more known ones is Skolkovo Innovation Center outside of Moscow. It was formed to “stimulate the development of break-through projects and technologies.” US firms such as IBM, Siemens, Intel and others have committed funds and other resources to enhance the R&D and innovation capabilities of the Skolkovo tech-hub.
Has what you’ve set up with your firm benefited women, particularly Russian women, in any way? How are you proactive about increasing the prevalence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in Russia?
Darmina benefits any international women that are looking to become successful in the North American IT sector. Our services are designed to break down cross-cultural communication barriers and manage the success path more effectively. In China, 40% of engineers are women, and in Russia that number is around 20%. Darmina Group is just being proactive in bringing our solutions to their employers and increasing the cross-cultural competencies company-and industry-wide.