By Dennis Barker
When Softtek invented the term “Near Shore,” way back in the 1990s, nearshoring meant “near the shores of Mexico,” the company’s home base. In 2002, the company replicated its nearshore model and delivery method in Brazil. Joe Gudiño, Softtek’s product marketing manager working out of São Paolo, has been with the company since 1991 and has played a key role in its Brazilian expansion.
He earned his computer systems engineering degree at Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores in Monterrey, Mexico. So, we had to ask him about differences between the two countries, as well as the shortage of IT workers ready to work for English-speaking clients, competition from India, and training a sales staff. Alex Camino, vice president of marketing & communications, joined the conversation.
Q: Are there cultural or personality-related differences between Mexico and Brazil that a prospective client should know about?
.Joe Gudiño: In that respect, the main difference between these two countries is the way in which they solve problems and present solutions. Generally the Brazilian culture is much more open, and people tend to express their concerns directly. Brazilians do not generally accept an idea immediately but will suggest some other way of doing it. Also, I would say that in Mexico, customers tend to be less open to using new technology and prefer to use locally developed services.
Alex Camino: I think Mexico is the most frequently overlooked country by American companies. Mexico has an enviable geographic location. It has the largest number of free-trade agreements of any country in the world. Contrary to Brazil, it has a liberal approach to international trade. Moving resources—human, monetary, or material—from Mexico to the US is as seamless as can be. Mexico also has several technology hubs in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Queretaro, and Mexico City.
The country graduates roughly 60,000 IT professionals per year, and the domestic market is not growing enough to accommodate them, which leaves room for export. Softtek has nearly 3,000 people working from Mexico serving US customers, whereas in Brazil we have most of our roughly 1,000 people working for the domestic market. Mexico’s currency is also very tied to the US dollar, and has remained very competitive during the last decade. The problem with Mexico is that it is not nearly as good as Brazil at marketing itself. Brazil is hot! Mexico, well, maybe not for the moment—that seems to be the perception.
Q: We hear a lot about a shortage of qualified IT workers in Brazil to meet the demands of outsourcing clients.
Joe Gudiño: This is a big challenge. Generally there is difficulty finding senior-level people with English-language skills. In recent years the universities have begun to include English requirements, which makes it easier to find the right human resources, but these graduates have little experience. In addition, the ERP market in Brazil continuously demands a high number of experienced SAP and Oracle professionals. A similar thing happens in the area of business intelligence, where there is much demand for BI architects and business analysts. This is a big challenge because the local market is huge and demand is high. We are collaborating with the universities and government but need to do more to create a sufficient number of skilled workers.
Alex Camino: Brazil is for limited numbers of workers with high specialization. Brazil is not for customers seeking large-scale/low-cost arrangements, but it is great for those needing smaller, higher-value-added services.
Q: How long do you think this shortage will continue?
Joe Gudiño: In regards to IT professionals with English-language skills, I think that in the next 3 to 4 years we will have a deficit, because the demand for such professionals is increasing and the new generation is still being trained. With regard to ERP, the deficit is caused by the large number of major projects. ERP professionals are working mainly for pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries, as well as agribusiness and oil and gas.
Q: What other IT skills are most wanted these days?
Joe Gudiño: Application development is in high demand in Brazil, mainly driven by the financial industry, retail, and government. Developers with Java experience are also needed, followed by .NET and mainframe.
Q: Part of your job involves working with the company’s sales team, and a few years back you developed the Solution Design Department, which supports the sales team. What are the key things you teach salespeople about dealing with clients or prospects?
Joe Gudiño: Our training has three dimensions: one to develop sales skills, one for understanding our capabilities and offerings, and one to improve negotiation skills. In regard to selling skills, we prepare the sales team to listen to and identify the client’s main needs and problems—pain points—in order to initiate a consultative sales approach or solution. We teach them to identify issues such as reduction of costs; optimization of processes, or productivity; and efficiency, among other goals.
Q: How does Softtek deal with competition from Indian IT providers that have set up shop in Brazil?
Joe Gudiño: From the local market standpoint, competition from Indian companies is similar to that of local companies. Labor and costs are practically the same. But experience and knowledge of the local market are important factors that customers want and Softtek provides. The regional presence of Softtek throughout Latin America and the ability to carry out regional projects and provide local capacity is a big differentiator between us and companies from India. I believe also that our strengths in SAP implementations and application maintenance, which we provide for some very large clients, including multinationals, remains a competitive advantage.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have to worry about at work every day?
Joe Gudiño: I believe that the main challenge is to show the added value that Softtek has as a company in a market that is growing rapidly amid high demand for IT services, labor legislation that has led to some inflation, emergence of new competitors, and the possibility of foreign companies merging with or acquiring local companies.