Q&A: A Founder Moves from Top Manager to Energizer of IT Talent in the DR

Nearshore Americas decided to catch up with the former CEO and find out what he is working on and get his view on the Nearshore Industry.

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Intellisys is a software development company based in the Dominican Republic which was founded and led by Chris Corcino for five years. Recently, Dalisa Heredia-Corcino, Intellisys’ co-founder and CEO, took on a more prominent role leaving Chris Corcino to focus more on one of his key passion areas – IT training and development. Nearshore Americas caught up with the former CEO and find out what he is working on and get his current views on Nearshore.

Nearshore Americas: You launched Intellisys about 12 years ago. Compare how you operated your company during those early days and now?

Chris Corcino: I think I was more controlling in the early days, and I must say I am no longer the CEO as the CEO is my wife. My role has changed greatly this year as I moved to the education side. I think initially I was a developer and I was pretty bad at managing people. I think I still am but at least now I realize I don’t know what I am doing. I wasn’t able to create the right kind of environment initially and it’s not like we have the right kind of environment now but we have made some progress.

Nearshore Americas: What is your role now?

Chris Corcino: We have two separate entities: one is the software development company and another is the institute, the Cincinnatus Institute of Craftsmanship. This is where we train the people who are going to work in the company and we train people who want to work in software development. Usually they are high school graduates or even college graduates. One issue in the country is the education system, including universities, they don’t prepare people at the level that we work. We have to train them, the people that work with us.

We also have another program in a high school where we teach programming from the 1st grade all the way to the 12th grade. We prepared them so that once they graduate from high school they are ready to work with us and they come and make enough to pay for college or if they want we can even pay for their college. Most of them choose to pay on their own.

Every morning I go to the high school to teach and then in the afternoon I am in the institute. For the company, all I do is sales or pre-sales, the technical sales part.

Nearshore Americas: You seem to be very focused on professional development. Is this part of a larger goal, and what will become of these efforts ten and 20 years down the road?

Chris Corcino: I think our vision is very emergent. I do think long term but it’s not like I try to predict. Our mission has two sides to it, one side is bringing opportunities to people and the other side is preparing people to take advantage of those opportunities.

You have the company side, where we are working with clients and even startups to develop products. On the other side we are training people so they are ready to implement those opportunities. I think that is how we look at the mission on a day to day basis. Right now we have 1200 or 1300 students so we see that increasing dramatically.

At the company, initially I was involved in everything and we were able to create a structure so I wasn’t involved in everything. That’s why I left and now I am doing the same thing at the institute. I hope in two or three years time I won’t have to be involved on a day to day basis by creating that structure.

Nearshore Americas: Does it bother you that the Dominican Republic is largely seen as a BPO/ contact center destination, and that IT capabilities are often little known, or overlooked?

Chris Corcino: Honestly, stuff that I cannot control do not bother me at all, I didn’t even think about it. It is irrelevant to me.

Nearshore Americas: What is your leadership style, what makes you an effective leader?

Chris Corcino: I think leadership is like teaching birds how to fly. It is like getting a little bird, and you start feeding it and showing it how to fly. All of a sudden it starts flying and you think you did something but it could have flown on its own, it didn’t need you.

I think leadership is like teaching birds how to fly. It is like getting a little bird, and you start feeding it and showing it how to fly. All of a sudden it starts flying and you think you did something but it could have flown on its own, it didn’t need you.

Most people can do their own stuff without you. So it is just convincing those birds that they don’t need you and that they can fly on their own. In general I don’t see leadership as a role. I see it as a means to a purpose, the most important thing is the purpose. If it requires me to acquire certain skills or behaviour, I will do it.

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If it would be my preference, I actually dislike being the center of attention.

Nearshore Americas: How do you feel about the overall health of the Nearshore IT sector – what role do you think customers play in its further evolution?

Chris Corcino: I do think in general what I would say is that Latin American countries are wasting a lot of opportunities. Not only for Nearshore but also for their own economies by just doing simple stuff like call centers and all of that.

I don’t think they shouldn’t do that but it is a step leading to something more complex. I don’t think enough steps are being taken to evolve that into more complex types of services.

Whatever governments are doing on the education side, the last priority is educating people. I don’t know if educating people makes it to the priority list but if it is on the list it is probably at the bottom.

Nearshore Americas: Is arrogance a problem specific to software engineering and product development communities?

Chris Corcino: I think it is human nature. I think in Latin America I would say culturally people don’t tend to be open to feedback which creates a different type of situation. If you’re doing software development you have to be very smart and that lends itself as human nature to be arrogant which in combination to not being open to feedback creates an interesting dynamic.

It is a combination of the culture and personality.

Nearshore Americas: A few years ago, Nearshore Americas helped out in your pursuit of Haitian IT professionals who had hoped to train. How did that program work out?

Chris Corcino: We were able to train one. Right now I think there is a lot of talent there. I’ve tried to go over there but every time I try to go there is some violence so it has been hard. We were able to train one and get enough results so that in the future we would go. Right now the logistics is just terrible, it is just too complex to get there.

I must say there is just as much talent in Haiti as there is in the Dominican Republic. That was our experience.

Nearshore Americas: How important it is to invite more women to get involved in the tech sector?

Chris Corcino: The first graduation is going to be a year from now and there will be 20-30 students who can start working with us right away. If I pick the top 30 students, over half are women. The issue is that few of them want to be developers or want to work in technology. The big issue is how do you convince them?

Once we convince them to work with us we have found that they are more mature on the emotional and intelligent side, based on my intuition.

For me, long term, I am trying to build the company betting on a lot more women being in technology and being part of us.

In terms of talent we don’t have an issue as we have a lot of students. My three best students are all girls, two of them want to be doctors and the other wants to be in tech. If I pick the top ten women, maybe two of them want to be in technology. Even though they are as good or even better than the guys.

I want them because they make our company better.

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