By Heather Blahnik (Madison ’96, US ’98, AI ’99)
Christopher Naidoo (right) with trainee Matheus Damasceno (left)
Christopher Naidoo knows the value of an AIESEC traineeship, as he took one himself. Originally from South Africa, Christopher came to the US in 1996 at Chrysler on an AIESEC traineeship. He stayed in Detroit and later formed his own company, Sigma International, which is now a tier one automotive supplier. Christopher says the following of why he felt his company could benefit from an AIESEC trainee:
“Our business has expanded into countries such as Brazil and India. It has become a challenge for us to manage global customers’ expectations due to cultural and language barriers. Being a former trainee I recalled the reasons why our previous employers hired us, i.e. for cultural exchange and to help them better understand the markets in which they were trying to expand. I knew most of the trainees that were part of AIESEC when I came over were incredibly talented and driven individuals who were truly world class. I thought that by bringing this experience to my company it could help us grow globally while at the same time develop individuals who could eventually work for us in their own countries.”
After deciding to look into taking an AIESEC trainee, Christopher contacted the local chapter of AIESEC. He was put in touch with Caryn Laska and Vivian Abraham, who visited Sigma International to explain the program. They helped Sigma complete the necessary forms and then find suitable candidates. Christopher and his colleagues noted the following about how they selected the right trainee for their company.
“We try to use the same criteria we would use for hiring local individuals, i.e. we place a high value on education and work experience. With trainees some of them lack formal work experience, so we try to focus on their involvement in AIESEC in their LC. Trainees who held officer positions within AIESEC tend to have some of the project management and leadership experience we seek. We weigh this heavily when recruiting trainees.”
Since first talking with Caryn and Vivian, Sigma International has brought on a trainee from Brazil, a mechanical engineer who is being trained to help Sigma International manage some projects with GM Brazil. They have selected 2 trainees from India, 1 from Tunisia and 1 from Venezuela, who will all arrive in July after their visas have been approved. All traineeships are for 18 months. Christopher said the following about AIESEC trainees. “Trainees are very motivated, possess a huge depth of local market knowledge, and they bring a different dynamic to our company. They come with loads of energy and are eager and passionate to achieve exceptional results. This helps motivate our entire staff.”
For fellow AIESEC alumni, Christopher had these final words of advice:
“I recommend that you seriously consider the AIESEC traineeship program for your company, especially if you are seeking to expand globally or are looking to bring a different dynamic to your company. The program benefits far outweigh the costs, and trainees can help you see things with a different perspective, which is sometimes difficult if you work in a homogenous environment.”
If you would like to talk with Christopher about his experience with AIESEC and AIESEC trainees, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Could you take a trainee at your company? Or could you refer a potential lead who might? If so, submit your referral.