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WORK OBSERVATION

REPORT
Talent & Development Management | 1IBM 1 | Diallo Mariama

Mariama Diallo

1IBM 1

Module 5: Professionalization .............................................................................................. 1


Work Observation Report ................................................................................................. 3
Short Presentation of the Company .............................................................................. 3
Short Presentation of the Managers Function .............................................................. 8
Log with Activities of the Day ...................................................................................... 10
Report of the Interview................................................................................................ 13
Reflection on the Work Observation ........................................................................... 18
Appendix..................................................................................................................... 20

Mariama Diallo

1IBM 1

Work Observation Report


Short Presentation of the Company

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Short Presentation of the Managers Function

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Log with Activities of the Day


TIME

Log of Activities

08:45:00 I arrived at Johnsons Controls: Katleenlaan


09:00:00

David Bogaert arrived and we made acquaintance. Went to his office to greet
his colleagues and on our way to the meeting room he made a cup of coffee.
I explained what my assignment was about and what was required. He gave
some explanation about his job and his function. Then showed me the day
agenda. Also showed on is laptop some of the tools that he uses for his work.
One of these was the performance goal system: is basically goals that are set

09:30:00

at the beginning of the Fiscal year (October 1 - September 30); it is updated


every 2 weeks with the head (senior) manager in Germany. And another was
the reporting system; the software programme they use. He also explained
how the accounting principles are been applied. So they first the US GAAP,
then reverse to local GAAP e.g. Belgium GAAP (you have to clarify every
adjustment you make) and then finally do the tax adjustments.

10:00:00

We decided to first do the interview. I interviewed him. Made a recording of


the interview and it lasted for about 26 minutes.
He made a call with his team in Luxembourg. They discussed project plans,
finalising tasks, their future meetings and the agenda points for those
meetings. They had a Q&A session; the team would ask questions

10:30:00

concerning things that weren't clear and he would give answers and if there
was something that he wasn't certain about he told them to wait so that he
could ask someone who knows the answer and then get back to them. The
call lasted for about half an hour and during the conversation he took notes.
we changed meeting room at around 10:33
Here we were joined by one of his colleagues who had documents that
needed to be posted but first, David reviewed the documents by checking and
controlling if everything was included and correct, then he approved and

11:00:00

signed. He added all that was needed and asked his colleague to check and
ask for the missing information that was required. After that, he asked
whether there were other urgent matters that needs to be taken care of. They
also discussed about how far the preparations are for the RTP FY14 for
Belgium is because the deadline is due end of April. He verified if the FY14 -

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tax returns had been checked and submitted. Finally, he sent Emails
approving his teams goal plans.

At around 11:40 am He made a call with another team member Hamidou in


France. David enquired if Hamidou had received his email about the goal
plans. Hamidou had a question about what code to use; David checked it out
and sent it to him straightaway. They then went through the goals together.
Hamidou asked for some guidelines. David told him to combine the shortterm goals with long-term. He then sent his short and long-term goals
together with Linda's so they could all be in line. They afterwards conversed
the fact that last year they didn't have any equity bridge from the US for the
fourth quarter Q4. Hamidou gave David an update: a colleague will be absent
for 2 months due to medical reasons however, she has a PwC audits that
needs to be done and who should do it in her place? David realised that he
had to approve all the teams goals today so that they could do it as soon as
possible. Hamidou sent attachments and they went through them together.
11:30:00

They uses a software they allows them to share PC screens with each other.
This meant that David could see Hamidou's laptop screen while he was
explaining whats in the attachments and vice-versa. They had a look at the
Johnson Controls summary report and Hamidou had to explain the figures
and how he calculated them. That part was finalised and the next topic was
about the tax audits. Hamidou informed David that the tax audits wanted to
meet on Friday and if possible from 10:30... This was ok for David and he
confirmed with Hamidou and asked him to send him an email invite. David
later on told Hamidou that he'd be on holiday next week. Hamidou was
having a problem with adding his goals in the Johnson Controls system so he
shared his screen with David and they looked at it together to see what the
problem was. After a while, David decided that Hamidou should send him his
goals so that he could fill them in the system because he had access and that
Hamidou should contact the one responsible for the system maintenance to
find out why he can't access the system. ( LUNCH BREAK)

13:00:00 PROJECT MEETING with Peter


13:30:00

Call with an accounting firm about fees and cost centres. They discuss
different fees and propositions and came to a conclusion.

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Call managed by Peter: call with all parties involved in the project. So with the
14:30:00 HDQ, IT, Treasury, HR, Tax department. Tax department has to transfer all
the entities.
16:00:00

Call with transfer partners in the UK and then he made a follow up call about
the audits in Belgium.
He made a call with the US about Luxembourg general update. Annual

16:30:00 accounts in Lux. Discussed the accounts frustration and how it should change
for FY15.
17:30:00
As we can see hereabove, Davids day consist of 50% calls with his team from the other
branches. He spends approximately 30% of his time answering Emails that for his work.
The rest of his time is spread between meetings and traveling. He also works with
interchange employees from the US and elsewhere in Europe. He also spends more or
less half a day reporting his expenses.
According to him, quarter four of the fiscal year is the most stressful one because of the
reporting deadlines. As a regional manager, he needs to report everything for his region
and to do this he needs to get the necessary information from the accounting people; so
basically as long as the accounting peoples job is not done he cant report 100% accurate.
When reporting, he has to follow certain procedures that are imposed by the tax audits and
everything has to be transparent and consistent. Because it is crucial that the US have
accurate figures, he is continuously doing updates.
Problem that the manager was faced with:

Hamidou, one of Davids team

members from France had to pay tax returns to the tax authorities before the end of March
and he paid it on time. But the payment wasnt accepted and this could cost them 6000
penalty fee.

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Report of the Interview


1. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
I think its a combinations of technical skills, so tax related technical skills, people skills, Im
working with a team of 5 people; I am in daily contact with them; to give them guidance, to
support them, and its important to feel if there are some problems; that you can feel it, that
you can guide them, and show them that everything will be ok. For me its very important
that they know that I am reachable, that Im not like a manager thats not taking care of
them, I want to be more like a people manager, caring about their wellbeing, andits not
only about the result, but also how you get to the result. We have some targets that we set
at the beginning of each fiscal year, and then we look through a performance review, we
look if the targets are met but also the way that they were met. So if you do it in a not
respectful way, e.g. bossing around people, if you dont respect your colleagues, etc
thats not acceptable for Johnson Controls. So its both a combination of soft skills and
technical skills.

2. How many hours do you work in a typical week?


It depends because I travel a lot; like yesterday I was in Germany for work: but lets say
like 40 hours, its not like I do overtime though I do check in the weekends my emails or
in the evening, but I dont start early, this early for me now; most of the time Im here at
9:30 10 oclock, so its not that Im exceptionally here at 7 till 7, most of the time its 10 till
6. And then if theres some emergency I log in at home, sometimes there are late calls, but
I can also take the calls on the way home, if I have a call while in my car then I take the
call,
-

So basically it varies, its not like fixed hours a 9 to 5 job that you do; its flexible

No, no, it both ways, sometimes its very busy, and sometimes its less.

3. How would you describe the corporate culture?


Laughhhhthats a difficult questions, but for me I think because I worked before for the
Big Four companies EY (Ernst and Young), and the difference here at Johnson Controls is
that they invest in people. So if you have a weakness, they try to help. So its more like
respecting and helping each other instead of competing against each other. However, its
always competitive but not against each other but to the target. You dont sense a
competitive atmosphere but more of collaboration to common targets. You dont feel any
aggressiveness in the company. When you walked in this morning
-

Yeah everyone was very welcoming, friendly and calm

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We still have to perform but you see that theres a time for a joke and then you get back to
work and perform.

4. How did you land on Johnson controls?


-

I checked your LinkedIn and saw that you have worked for Johnsons before but then as a
Benelux tax manager.

Yes thats right. So I first worked for EY and then I changed to Johnson Controls. At EY I
was looking for a new opportunity. How did I get to Johnson Controls... via Robert Half.
Johnson Controls is not a famous company and no one knows what Johnson Controls is
doing.
-

So you got in through someone, it is not like you said I want to work for Johnson Control it
just happened!

Yeah I guess it just happened the right time at the right moment really. So because they
dont have so many positions in house for tax managers, you have to be lucky. Im not a
career planner so I could have also been somewhere else too but Im here. If youre not
happy at your job, you have to change your job if its possible because sometimes its
difficult. Because now you have specific career skills, technical skills; and soft skills are
general but technical skills are so specific for international tax and there isnt so much
positions like this in Belgium.

5. What is the advancement potential in the field? What is a typical path?


With this I mean where would you start from and what is the highest
position that you can possibly reach?
What happens at Johnson Controls is that they listen to what you want. And if you say that
I want more responsibilities, they are looking for opportunities like more countries. Now its
Belgium, Netherlands, France and Luxembourg; but if you say you want more countries
then they will look for other countries because theres always a potential to expand the
region, to become senior manager. I dont know if its possible. Its not so important for me
to be senior manager but it is possible to be senior manager, then you have director and
VP.
-

Do you start from regional and then go higher or is there a lower post beneath?

You have tax specialist, senior specialist, lead, manager, regional manager, senior
manager, director and then vice president. Thats the ranking.

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6. How many languages do you speak? And is this a plus for your
occupation?
Fluently, its only Dutch and English. I can speak a little bit French, very high level
German. But thats it. We dont need any language skills. French you need because to
understand but not speak the common language at Johnson Controls is English so it is a
must for English. Everything we do is in English. Except for the tax authorities in France.
-

Let say someone apply for a job at Johnson Controls and says that he can speak five
languages, would that be plus for him or not?

Its always nice but its not necessary.

7. What are some of the competences required from you in this filed or for
regional tax manager like you?
To be a manager? I think to feel people, to have empathy with your employees and
colleagues. Youre not so concentrated on yourself but youre also trying to understand
how therere thinking, what is it that they need to do their job. You have to be very
communicative. The US wont allow you to progress if youre not perceived by the US as a
clear communicator. Responsiveness is always important. For the US multinationals it is
central. For example, if they send you an email today, you have to reply today or right
away. Its not that you wait or leave it for 1 month later. Its always urgentI dont mind, I
prefer the US mentality.

8. Knowing that youre a tax manager, its crucial to be accurate and good
with numbers! Do you think that it is something you can learn to develop
or is it a talent that youre born with?
I believe that you have to have some interest in figures. I think ts difficult to learn but being
accurate is easy the questions is always is it taxable or not taxable?

9. Is your job stressful? If yes, what are the things that you do/use to keep
your head cool?
In the beginning, the first year was stressful because you dont know what people are
expecting from you, now its less stressful its justdoing your job. You know what to do
and youve already built some relationship so it is easier toyou dont have to stress
about making a mistake, if you make a mistake, its (not) acceptable. It is easier that they
know you, and you also have meetings, we receive the US people once a year, and once
they know you and see that you are capable then theres always uncertainty
-

But you do have moments that it is hectic and times that theres less stress

Oh yes deadlines.
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So what do you do when a deadline is approaching to keep your head cool and focus on the
deadline without losing it?

Just go for it. Dont panic, just keep on going and if you dont its always close so I try to
talk to people to see how we can solve the issue as soon as possible. Keep going and see
how far you can get.

10. What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who
wants to advance in this field?
Master in taxation, technical skills first and soft skills youll learn from the job. But they also
give you training on the job. I think its last year, I followed a course leadership training
and they teach you how to give feedback, how to perform in conflict situations, knowing
that different kind of people exist and how to treat the
-

Do you have a multicultural workforce?

I think diversity is one of the top values at Johnson Controls, so if I look at my team, Its
much diversified. Theres one Muslim from Kenya, and theres a French lady and in
Luxembourg theres someone from Kombocha. So therere multiple nationalities. Im
always careful and if you know that theyre sensitive to certain items or religion, politics is
also something we dont bring up in conversation. I try to avoid it because in the US they
are sensitive to religion and politics.

11. Does your current profession include any lifestyle changes such as
frequent travel, international meetings etc. given that Johnson controls is
an international company?
The step from manager to regional manager, that requires some traveling, let say 40%.
Yesterday I was in Germany, most likely Friday I will be in Luxembourg, so theres some
pressure on your private life but I dont mind. Is it lifestyle change? Thats a big word! No.
But I guess you get used to it. I dont mind going somewhere else. Its not boring to sit at
the same place at all time, but to sit somewhere else thats some change. I dont mind
being in contact with people, but if I see them every day all year, thatsmaybe they get
bored of me. I prefer to see different environments.

12. What advice would you give students like me that are studying
international business management? Could Johnson controls be a
potential employer for some of us in the future?
Yes. There are lot of functions in within the company. I think its a positive attitude, then
language skills. It depends on what youre looking for.

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If youre looking for sales, theyre always looking for sales person. I think its important not
to be arrogant or show off. Just be yourself and dont pretend you know it all.
You have the school knowledge, it is good as a back-up structure and a base but its not
the practical part. You dont learn at school to be responsive, flexible; its more about
relationships in the business world, than about technical skills. Sometimes you do
inefficient things, just for perception or for relationship
-

So you have to experience it for you to get better

Yeah... be yourself. At the end if youre not yourself, no one would trust you if you dont act
normal, if youre sneaky etc.

13. Have you had the opportunity to travel a lot because of your job? If so,
then what personal attributes have you gained and which are according to
you essential for success?
Not panicking, because if you see someone it is always about uncertainty, every week
you have difficulties with the technical things, there are some new risks, just dont focus on
the negative side of it but focus on what and how you can solve the issue. Dont just talk
about the issue and say this is it try to see how we can manage the risk, reduce it thats
important. Be positive. I hate people complaining every day. If someone of my team is
complaining every day, for me it stops. Everyone can complain about things try to do
something about it; dont focus on the issue but look for the solution. You will be happy, I
will be happy. People should complain but not all the time.

14. If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any
way? Why?
No, no thats a difficult question for me. When I was 1! I didnt know what to do. What
should I study? Its not that I always wanted to be doing economics, always wanted to be
doing tax, its all about being busy with figures, a bit of luck and hard work. If you realise
that youre good with numbers, then you should use it. Should I change things? I dont
know what it would be like in the future. But the thing is if you have worked at the big four,
its a learning good process the first years so I would recommend everyone to start at
one of the big four companies. To have some company with good structure that you can
see a lot of things, I think if you start at a small some, you only see small piece of the
world. I would still start at a multinational and I like the US mentality. I would also like to
see how it would go in a Chinese company, I think its different, the Japanese and the
Chinese. Different mentality and work ethic. Here it is more open communication and
Chinese companies is different. Most likely closed communication.
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Ok last but not the least!

15. Your management philosophy is?


Im not good that philosophy I strongly believe that you should stay yourself and dont
create too much distance between you and your team. They should be able to trust you
can also contact you at all times. Otherwise you might think everything is going well but its
not the case. Treat them with respect. If I see something that irritates me I just say it. I tell
them I am not happy with this dont wait 3 months later. Just say it the day it self and most
importantly dont use it for the performance review at the end. Because then you create a
bad atmosphere and trust issues within you team.

Reflection on the Work Observation


From performing a work observation with a manager from a multinational company, I have
learnt that being a manager is not as obvious as it seems. You might have a masters
degree but just that is not enough to manage people, especially if you have a diverse team
with different backgrounds. At school you learn the basic that you would later use in your
profession. But nowadays, the education you have isnt enough to perform. The manager I
observed, has a master in taxation, and while he was working for Ernst and Young the big
four companies, he had to learn almost everything. He had knowledge from his education
but because the company has their own strategy and work pattern, he had to adapt and
learn all over again. When he started working for Johnson Controls he realised that there,
they do things differently. Here again he has to learn and adapt the ways of the company.
For this, he has to follow trainings; e.g. e-learning, leadership skills etc. what I want to
emphasise is that the education that you get at school wont get you through. Later when
we start to look for jobs and start working, we would have to learn again and again. It
doesnt stop. Lately, all companies are striving for value and differentiation so this makes it
very difficult to apply you general knowledge everywhere.
The competences that I most certainly important for a regional tax manager are, finance,
accuracy, leadership skills such as being able to give feedback, mentor people, a
motivator, be a good listener, provide assistance, delegating, stay calm etc. and technical
skills. If compared to the end competencies of IBM, I would say that there are quite a lot of
similarities. These are some of the competencies that are required for an IBM bachelor
that undoubtedly relates to a regional tax manager as well.

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Enthusiasm and decisiveness
People management & leadership
Communication, multimedia and IT
Problem-solving and strategic ability
Self-direction, systematic and reflective skills
International cooperation

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Multidisciplinary cooperation
Ethical and social responsibility
Financial accounting
Tax procedure, registration duties
and inheritance taxes, International
and European taxes

SWOT
The competencies that I recognise as strengths for me are enthusiasm and decisiveness,
people management and leadership, ethical and social responsibility.
And I can say all the rest needs work. For some of them I already have some basics e.g.
financial accounting, communication, multimedia and IT but I dont consider them as
strengths because I am not proficient enough. I am currently working on the competencies
that arent well developed yet through the IBM programme. I believe that the IBM
programme is a good preparation for a job like the one I observed because it provides you
with not just the technical skills (accounting, tax, ICT) that you need but also the soft
skills like leadership skills, talent development etc. however, I do think that for you to have
this function you would have to take a course so to specialise in the field of taxation. Im
saying this because IMB is a mixture of a bit of everything and more specifically business
related so to be a tax manager IMB alone wont be sufficient.

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Appendix
Motivation letter
Dear Sir,
My name is Mariama Diallo, a first year student of IBM (International Business
Management) at the Artevelde University College in Ghent. As a student of IBM, it
is compulsory for each student to organise and participate in an eight hour of work
observation, observing a professional manager in a company. This is an academic
requirement for the course of Talent and management development.
Observing a manager of one of Belgiums top ranked audit company that is in
addition, a member of an International leading network of independent
professional accounting firms, is an indispensable way for me to have a first-hand
experience of what the course that Im following could offer in the future, as well
as putting some of the theory that I have learned into practice.
Im writing this letter of motivation because Im very much interested in your
company and would like to express my utmost interest of performing my work
observation with you.
The eight hour observation can be carried out in one day or spread over two days.
The work observation involves me shadowing you during the course of
performance and a short interview with regard to the management tasks of a
manager. I would also have to make a log with all activities of the day(s) if
permitted.
Additionally, I think you should give me this opportunity because I am a person
who is eager to learn and discover new things. I have always wondered how
an audit and accountancy firm operates because accounting has always been
my favourite subject.
Please find enclosed my CV for your review and I greatly look forward to hearing
from you soon.
Yours Faithfully,
Mariama Diallo

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Work Observation Certificate

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Email confirmation

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