TCK SUMMIT: Future of Work with Kolbe Grey

Kolbe is a TCK who is part American, part Irish, and part Indonesian. He has been very privileged to have lived in these three countries and to learn from their different strengths.

Professionally, Kolbe is trained as an anthropologist and has spent the last few years working as a teacher. Having just moved to London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, he has been reveling in the rich diversity that is found there. The streets are saturated with culture and he is soaking it all up. With only six weeks left on his short-term contract in London and Kolbe finds himself currently figuring out what the next step is!

Kicking off the fifth month of our year long summit, we asked Kolbe to share more about his work and the future of learning…

You can view the full (15 minute) video here

While I’ve been working in London, I’ve met a lot of people who have asked me where I’m from… well my mother is from America, my father was born in Ireland but grew up in Africa. I’ve spent time living in all three. My parents are missionaries and in the TCK sub category, I am a missionary kid or MK.

The reason why this topic interested me so much is that as a TCK, I’ve spent a lot of time travelling and quite often my values would not fit with the communities that I was in. People didn’t understand why I thought the way I thought and often it would cause problems because I was so different. A lot of TCKs have this problem. One of the things that’s really interesting is that organisations are starting to recognise the TCK mindset – work is becoming more multicultural and employers are starting to value the TCK perspective. They (TCKs) are now the unique ones that people want to understand better.

The term TCK to me means someone that has grown up in a mixture of cultures. I identify with being a TCK as my thinking is a mix up of American, Irish and Indonesian cultures and values. One of the things that I’ve experienced and is sometimes sad is people growing up overseas but who aren’t TCKs because they are just Americans that lived in Indonesia. They never learn the language, they aren’t interested in the food, they don’t connect with the people, they don’t understand the culture and they isolate themselves only with other Americans. Those types of people I wouldn’t consider TCKs.

I like the term TCK, I think it’s helpful. I don’t hold on to it too tightly but whenever I first learned about it, it was very helpful for me. I could connect with both the strengths and weaknesses. It was helpful to learn that others had similar experiences to me.

For the last two years I’ve been working in the wonderful Indonesia. I was thinking about what I want to do next. Whilst getting advice, I’ve explained that I’m most passionate about multiculturalism – if I could find an organization with a multicultural focus that would be great. I realized that this is most companies now. Companies are not monocultural, they can’t be. To be successful, companies are spreading out with multicultural teams. The world of work is changing and becoming more multicultural.

My new favorite Disney movie is Big Hero 6. Here, the message to children is the concept of multiculturalism. Subconsciously Disney is teaching children that if people are different, there is nothing unusual about this. They are teaching children that what’s different isn’t bad. Unfortunately, communities used to be and are often still inward-looking. The more that companies can recognize the values of differences, the better.

What I would say to TCKs trying to communicate their talents to others is that the first thing you have to do is understand yourself. TCK is such a broad term. If you can better understand your strengths, you can better communicate that to others. It is important to know both your strengths and weaknesses, this is important when surrounding yourself with people who are good at your weaknesses.

One of the problems with TCKs is that we are good at so many things and people get overwhelmed. My advice is to do that, take time out and explore your different interests and passions. Find out what you are most successful at. Don’t rush to pick the first option, try a few. Take risks, don’t play safe. Make mistakes, don’t be afraid of failure. A lot of times I learned the most from failures.

One of the great things about TCKs is that we are adventurous and bold. There are lots of options out there for people willing to take a risk. You could go to teach English, say in Korea. There are guys that go to Siberia in the summer and cut down trees, go do that. People think about being a lifeguard in Australia, but what about in Turkey? I would suggest go for it, try different things and you will learn what you want to do and what you are most passionate about... Do what you are passionate about and the job will come and find you.