The US, the world’s foremost country for tech innovation, has seen a distinct reshaping of tech hubs over the last two years. Sky-high house prices in the Bay Area, and other established tech hubs like New York or Toronto in Canada, have driven mass exodus’ in the remote working age, as well-paid professionals able to work from anywhere. While some have chosen to hop on planes and become digital nomads, others have sought a greater work-life balance in less-established second cities, like Denver, Austin, Miami and Seattle.
This phenomenon has been well documented in the US. But in other regions of the world, the same pattern is taking place. This is being propelled more by companies searching for
Late last year, Ernesto Herrera Novelo, head of the Ministry of Economic Development and Labor for Mexico’s south-eastern state of Yucatan, that Accenture would be opening an “advanced technology center” that would create 1,000 jobs in the next two years and an additional several hundred indirect jobs. A US$4 million investment is financing the project, with Mérida – a reasonably well-known center of technology innovation in Mexico – and two complete unknowns in Tekax and Valladolid, being the locations of activity. A large part of these news jobs will be hybrid.
According to national Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Accenture CEO Jorge Castilla Ortuño said that the choice of Yucatan was simple, due to its dynamic talent stability.
“Political, social and labor stability; security, a privileged geographic location and the investments in infrastructure that have improved the region’s conditions significantly in recent years,” La Jornada reported Ortuño as saying.
“Prior to Covid-19 a lot of people came to work remotely from Mérida and the surrounding region, but the pandemic undoubtedly accelerated that process,” — Víctor Gutiérrez
Accenture’s choice of Tekax and Valladolid caused surprise among Mexico’s business-focused dailies. El Financiero noted that Tekax is a city of only 25,000 people, and has just one small supermarket.
Valladolid has twice the population, but is hardly a metropolis. There, says El Financiero, educational facilities will be transformed into offices where employees will meet while they’re not working from home. Accenture’s website currently shows vacancies in Yucatan for data analysts, DevOps engineers, and front end and Java engineers. Salaries for these jobs will start at around 15,000 MXN monthly – about US$730, El Financiero reported. In a country where only two in every 100 people earn more than 18,482 MXN a month, these rates are strong locally, though likely well below what would be paid in Ireland for the same position, where Accenture is headquartered.
Nearshore Americas reached out to Accenture for comment but received no answer.
Other Unknown Geographies
Yucatan isn’t the only state seeing jobs pop up as the demand for tech skills increases.
Searching for tech jobs in Mexico’s second cities returns a long list of opportunities. Tango, a remote software development company headquartered in L.A., is searching for multiple engineer roles in Colima, a city in the state of the same name on Mexico’s west coast, and about 120 miles from Guadalajara. So too is Zymewire, a Toronto-based ‘digital sales research assistant’ company.
“In five years, Mérida will become Mexico’s fourth major technology hub,” — Juan Pablo de la Rosa
Dextra Tech, a Deloitte-owned software consulting firm with presence in the US and Mexico is searching for professionals in Aguascalientes.
HCL Technologies is looking for a remote Java developer in Reynosa, in the state of Tamaulipas.
Yucatan, however, is reaping the rewards of its past forward-thinking.
Changes in Mérida
According to Yucatan State Government, four million Mexicans, among them 165,000 Yucatecos (inhabitants of Yucatan state) fell below the poverty line during 2020 the pandemic. The percentage of those in extreme poverty almost doubled between 2018 and 2020, from 11.5% to 21.3%, according to The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL). At the same time, more tech professionals arrived.
“Prior to Covid-19 a lot of people came to work remotely from Mérida and the surrounding region, but the pandemic undoubtedly accelerated that process,” said Víctor Gutiérrez, CEO at Plenumsoft, a software company based in Mérida.
Mérida’s affordability in comparison to other Mexican tech hubs like Mexico City and Guadalajara, the work-life balance it offers, and the strong infrastructure to support remote working, all make it an ideal place for tech workers in the new normal, Gutiérrez believes. Mérida is also well-connected, with direct flights to Houston, Miami and Toronto. There are also thrice-weekly flights to Milan, Italy.
Juan Pablo de la Rosa, founder and CEO at software development company Technogi, moved to Mérida for exactly these reasons.
Mérida also has an educational tradition based around math. That helps deliver talent for the tech industry, he said. His company, which is headquartered in the UK, intends to open a Development Hub in Mérida and is in the process of reaching out to universities in order to reach young talent.
“I’m envisioning that, perhaps in five years, Mérida will become Mexico’s fourth major technology hub,” said De la Rosa.
The other major strength the Yucatan, and Mérida in particular as the state’s capital has, is strong education, including math. Accenture clearly did its research.
“We don’t know exactly why math is so strong here, but the region has deep connection to the Mayan culture, who created a lot of knowledge within math and were very strong astronomers,” said Gutiérrez.
Mérida is also home to Mexico’s first higher education institution specializing in education in technology. Polytechnic University of Yucatán (UPY), provide bilingual teaching throughout the four degrees it teaches: Cybersecurity Engineer, Data Engineering, Computational Robotics Engineering and Computation Embedded Systems Engineering.
Gildardo Sanchez, UPY rector at Polytechnic University of Yucatán (UPY) from its founding until January 2022, underlined the university’s future-facing stance.
“One of the problems in higher education is that old programming languages are still taught. At UPY, all of our professors are very young, they’re keen to explore new ideas,” he said.
The university’s current population is around 500. From its first generation of 130 students, only 26 graduated. Low-levels of graduation are not unusual in Mexico, and graduate numbers have since improved.
Strong links between UPY and the private sector helped shape the university’s courses. Students are required to have high math levels, and receive at least 525 hours of English language teaching throughout the 3 year 8 month degree.
“It’s vital that students have strong language skills,” said Sanchez, “because more and more frequently Mexican companies – not to mention the internationals – are demanding it.”