Whether you’re looking at external teams in Asia, Europe, or Nearshore, each culture is driven by different motivations, but clients agree that Latin America’s motivations for technical excellence are hugely beneficial.
“Latin American companies and people are more technically oriented, and they are more satisfied to be that way,” said Zhiyin Pan, Vice President of Engineering at Chartio at Nexus 2017. “They strive more for technical excellence, rather than a management position, which, for a small company trying to scale, is a real benefit.”
This drive for more knowledge and skill directly translates into lower attrition rates, according to Karl Rottmann, Senior Director at Cylance. “In India, attrition was around 25-30%, whereas in Mexico its 10-12%,” he explained. “When I was trying to understand why that is the case, I found that people in India are chasing promotions every couple of years to move up the chain. This isn’t happening so much in Mexico.”
Challenges in the Nearshore Team Building Process
Pan was quick to make a comparison with Silicon Valley, explaining that engineers in San Francisco have a strong sense of confidence and identity. “They want to be involved in product definition, they want to have their opinions heard – that is something that might not be as prevalent in Latin America, especially from my experience in Peru,” she said.
“Engineers in Latin America are more willing to work on technical challenges, but less inclined to contribute to how we grow as a company,” she continued. “This is a real challenge that I have, and it comes down to different culture. You need to set up a structure to compliment the things people do well, and the things people may not be as comfortable with.”
The right team is essential for any offshore operation, but building teams that can work together is more important than finding smarter people in certain regions. Even so, the important question is how to build trust between those teams, something which Rottmann has experience first-hand.
“Once you have eliminated the natural barrier of accents, unknown people, and cultural differences, you will really see productivity start to kick in,” he said.
Innovation at a Base Level
From a client perspective with BPO, partnerships have gone beyond the contractual side and KPI appeasement; it’s less about black-and-white servicing, and is now more service-oriented. When questioned about this necessity, panelists agreed that Latin America has strong capabilities to bring things to the table.
“We’re challenging our BPO partners to bring value in terms of innovation and growth,” said Hui Wu-Curtis, Senior Director of Customer Care Strategy at Choice Hotels. “Culturally, we’re seeing a shift in Latin America compared to other geos that we’ve seen, as they becoming more willing to drive that bandwagon. We want to hear opinions, we want to be transparent, and we’re okay with different viewpoints. That isn’t the case in many cultures.”
Moderating the panel was Steve Mezak, Founder and CEO of Accelerance, who pointed out that, in Asia, there is a larger power distance between the managers and those who are working on lower levels, resulting in reduced confidence to make suggestions and be innovative.
Regional Considerations and Challenges
The final points covered in the panel centered on how different countries are faring against their neighbors in the region.
Roberto Martinez, CEO of Nearsoft, stated that Mexican people are highly entrepreneurial, creative, and like to build small businesses. “We also have research centers in Mexico City, Leon, and Ensenada, and in Monterrey and Chihuahua we have people working on non-traditional projects, such as electric cars,” he said. “Silicon Valley companies are actually sourcing most of their engineers from Mexico, which goes to show the talent available in the country. At Nearsoft, we have people from Peru, Cuba, Venezuela, all over – the region is rich in talent.”
Backing up this statement was Owen Tran, who is partnered with Martinez. “We looked at Eastern Europe, Asia, and Mexico; I’d never heard about anything happening in Mexico before this,” he said. “India’s attrition rate was clear very early on – I actually lost one of the guys before the start of the project. Eastern Europe didn’t want to take it on unless they were guaranteed some service after that, but my partners in Mexico were able to give me some people who started working on it right away.”
Rottmann chose Mexico over Argentina, Peru, and Costa Rica because the vendor had the right level of maturity that he was looking for, in terms of processes. “We weren’t looking for staff augmentation, but for a company that was going to help implement certain processes, like QA and DevOps, to increase productivity – we found that in Mexico.”
Pan settled on Nearshore after three different vendors showed her their bench capacities and their people, which was most important. “If you can show me qualified people who can take ownership and have leadership experience, then I’ll choose whoever gives me the best candidate,” she said.
This was mirrored by Wu-Curtis, who found that scalability in a region is most vital, as well as the financial incentives to operate there. “We’re constantly looking at the landscapes of those regions, including political turmoil or increased competition,” she said. “We look at the leadership in a region, their expertise, and their knowledge, as well as their ability to drive those qualities in their own staff. Latin America has a great ability to offer up technical talent. We just need to educate c-suite on this to drive them to understand the people and operations down there.”