Tech companies need to take up a more proactive role in working with Mexican universities to ensure that they are producing graduates with the right skills to meet their needs. That was the message from a number of industry experts in a panel on human talent on day two of the inaugural FutureSource Summit in Mexico City’s Four Seasons Hotel. Meanwhile, Mexico must focus on producing more business leaders to complement its many skilled technicians, the participants agreed.
Chaired by Nearshore Americas Managing Director Kirk Laughlin, the panel on “Talent Acquisition in Competitive IT and Digital Industries” was comprised of João Nunes, Executive Director of British-based recruitment firm Michael Page; Manuel Lopez, Global IT Director at Gowan Company; Enna Zarate, CIO & Vice President of Marketing and IT at DHL Express; and Eduardo Campos, CEO of ScreenIT, a talent acquisition firm based in Queretaro, Mexico.
Shortage of Business Leadership
“We need more business-orientated people and that’s an issue in Mexico, because I believe that we have enough talent in operational terms, but not enough people with good business views and capacity for innovation. That’s a problem that we face right now,” Nunes said.
“We have people with very good skills here in Mexico and with the right coaching and the right education, people can learn more things not only related to systems. They also need to have higher education in management and they need to be well prepared for the realities and the necessities of the country,” he explained. “We have very good CIOs in Mexico and very good operations people, however when we talk about middle management, people with business intelligence and so on, it is difficult to find them.”
Campos believes that the solution is to encourage technicians to specialize more in their areas of expertise; and that instead of bringing them in to management roles, companies should prepare others to take up these positions. “We definitely need more effort around making senior technicians more specialized in certain technologies. Sometimes they get to a certain level but it seems to me that there is a management deficiency,” he said. “They don’t understand the business processes, but if they’re senior technicians it seems that their next natural move is to be a project manager or even a director for the company. I’m not sure if that should be the case, but it’s happening.”th
“Most companies are more focused on the technical side but we need to go to other areas to learn about finances,” added Zarate, who argued that businesses need to be bold and provide workers with the opportunities to grow and learn in new areas. “Right now companies need to find the right people for the changing challenges the organization is going through in any moment,” she said. “I’m the CIO and VP of Marketing at DHL Express, without having experience in marketing. My company has the awareness to give employees the opportunities to learn or fail. What we need is more organizations where we can give our talent the opportunities to learn and understand the business part.”
Companies Must Take Responsibility for Preparing Talent
Although Mexico is producing over 100,000 graduates in IT-related fields every year, some companies are still facing difficulties in finding talent with the skills that they require. “I’ve had to adapt my organization to the person’s talent because I can never find the right person for the right job,” Lopez said. “Definitely it’s a challenge. One thing that’s a blessing today are networking technologies that are able to find the talent and that has opened doors to be able to find talent.”
With numerous international corporations looking to hire on a large scale in Mexico, Campos noted that there will inevitably be some delays in readying the necessary workforce. “I’m excited to say that I’ve seen more and more of the academies working closely with companies in terms of training graduates in business. That’s helping a lot to develop the market but the thing is we have a gap in terms of the pace. The companies need this talent now, but we need to wait probably three or four years more to develop the talent that the market is demanding,” he said.
Nunes agreed that if companies are relying to universities then they “need to wait because the changes will take a while, in some cases five to ten years with regard to some areas of technical expertise.” When asked whether Mexican universities are being flexible enough to change their curriculums to meet companies’ needs, Nunes stated that “universities are not ready and probably they will never be ready” because of the ever-changing nature of the market and the demands of businesses. “Sometimes the company must take responsibility for the education of its future employees. The companies search for people who are already ready, they are not willing to spend lots of money on teaching this kind of expertise,” he added. “Companies have to face the responsibility that they have to prepare the talent.”
There are some positive examples of cooperation between tech firms and universities sin this respect, Lopez noted: “I’ve seen the University of Tlaxcala work together with Oracle and they created this program certified by Oracle. I think that’s a good partnership, you have to have the universities and the technology companies working together.” In another positive development, Lopez observed that it has also become more common for Mexican universities to send students abroad on exchange programs that help them develop a broader perspective and gain a better understanding of the opportunities and their own potential.
Can Work-at-Home Work in Mexico?
The deployment of work-at-home agents has become increasingly common in the United States, but it remains a rare occurrence in Mexico’s IT sector. Nunes believes that “people can be more productive working at home rather than being at the office,” but Campos noted that many companies in Mexico are not yet ready for this. “Some companies don’t have the capacity to control the work, to program and schedule the time for people to work at home. It’s a matter of companies being prepared and ready,” he stated.
The biggest barrier is the lack of trust in Mexico, Lopez interjected. “It’s a big cultural difference between Mexico and the U.S in terms of trust. If you don’t trust your employees of course you want to see them sitting there at the workplace and have another person over their shoulder to see what they’re doing,” he said. “In other countries where they have trust they encourage productivity because the worker feels it’s their responsibility to provide a certain outcome regardless of where they’re working. That trust is something we need to build in Mexico.”
Toward the end of the session the panel took several questions from the 125 delegates in attendance. Mark Ferri, IT Senior Manager at U.S. multinational Cisco Systems, asked if it was common for companies operating in Mexico to offset any talent shortages by bringing in people from other countries.
“If you have an international company it’s easier to adapt a foreigner because they are used to teaching that person how to deal with the culture and the language,” Campos replied. “But when you talk about a Mexican company, I don’t suggest that you look to bring someone from outside Mexico if the company doesn’t have the experience of having foreign staff.”
He explained: “The person could have a good business orientation in Europe but that’s not the same business orientation that you would have in Mexico. So we need to be careful about bringing people into Mexico. It is possible but the company must be ready to do it, because sometimes the importation of talent from other countries can be a disaster for the company.”