Chilean companies & their employees – unproductive?

Sometimes the things that my classmates and teachers talk about surprise me and not at all in a negative way. Rather, I’m enlightened and many times struck by a ray of hope for the evolution of the average Chilean. Meaning my classmates and teachers seem to be, in my experience, not your everyday average Chileans and definitely not the Chileans that perhaps our parents once were (or still are.) Though there are many times when they talk about things I have no clue on (mainly knowledge one would have if he/she grew up here), there are other times when they talk about things I never expected, offering insight and opinions that shed some light on the changing profile of young executives in this country.

This was the case yesterday in class when we began deviating from the topic of the day. To offer a quick background, we were discussing how a company can be more than just a company but a brand in and of itself. The main requirement for this, in short, is to make sure that your internal client, i.e. employees, are happy. Happy employees will feel an affinity to the company’s brand. I was enjoying the discussion when all of a sudden the professor, a man between 45-50, professional and educated both here and in Spain, says to the class “Officially and on record, it’s been shown that Chile is the least productive country in regards to time management of employees and efficiency in the workplace.”

Scratch record, silence music, stop the presses.

Did my Chilean professor just say that in front of my Chilean peers and classmates?

Granted it’s something I’ve experienced, seen, heard about and witnessed in the past six years I’ve worked with Latin Americans but never in a million years did I expect to hear that from a Chilean in a room with other Chileans. Even more so, I never expected the majority of the Chilean classmates I have to actually AGREE with the statement.

What ensued was a series of examples and reasons as to WHY, from their perspective, Chileans weren’t productive. Words and phrases thrown out were (note that this was discussed in a general sense, in the “we” context, in the context of the work/labor force and delivered by Chileans. I.e. the foreigners, including myself, did not offer opinions):

  1. Chileans, as a general group, are lazy.
  2. Chileans lack motivation.
  3. Chileans lack good leadership.
  4. Chileans lack education.
  5. Even college graduates are unprofessional.
  6. Chileans are unreliable.
  7. There are fewer opportunities in Chile.

Other examples where offered but what I found to be more interesting were the anecdotes that followed each example of why Chileans were unproductive and inefficient in the workplace. For instance, one classmate shared with us that when it was time for her yearly review, her supervisor told her that she was “too anxious” because she consistently followed up with people on to-do’s and next steps. She stated that she had to be that way because following up once, twice and up to four times didn’t automatically make things happen. And for being proactive, she was labeled as “anxious” by her superior.

Another example (given by a classmate) is how Chileans will work until 7 or 8 p.m. when in comparison, Brazilians (in her example) will work until 6 pm. If she’s talking to a distributor for her company in Brazil and the line is disconnected, she stated that the Brazilians immediately call back. Whereas it was her experience that the same incident will happen with a Chilean and the Chilean will not only NOT return the call, but when she tries to call, the line rings and rings or it goes straight to voicemail. Upon locating the same Chilean distributor another day, the Chilean distributor will proclaim “Oh, I thought you were going to call ME back.” I did. “Oh yeah but it was 6:30 pm, I left of course.” In the middle of our pending phone conversation? Yes.

My contribution to the discussion did not involve bashing how Chileans work nor did it involve criticizing Chileans in any way. In fact, I offered this morsel of insight, valuable or not: I stated that in the U.S. most people learn proper business conduct and etiquette from the companies that hire them. We can study the most “random” things in college (English Literature, History, Anthropology, etc) and still find ourselves working in a financial firm, venture capital, branding or consumer products company. The point being that in the U.S., GENERALLY, we are taught the proper business culture when already in that culture. And I stated that from what I observed, Chileans were more preoccupied with making sure that one is the proper Ingeniero Comercial with the adequate amount of excel and economics and marketing courses necessary but with no aspect of how to properly function inside an organization.

I thought about it too. When I started my current job, I had zero experience in licensing. I had worked at a software company during the dot.com craze of the late 90s and when I was laid off due to lack of funding, I worked at a private wealth management firm. I was hired at my current company because I had the college education, I had the basic, fundamental skills needed and I had the drive and knowledge to learn a new business. Further, I had NO experience working with Japanese businesses nor did I have any idea how to conduct myself in a meeting or in negotiations with the Japanese. In fact, given that I was hired to work on the international side of the business, I didn’t have any idea how to do business with ANYONE who wasn’t American! Obviously it took a few months, but I learned all of that and I feel that I have even come to excel in some aspects of it. In the same situation, a Chilean company will try to find a candidate with the exact same business experience (or at least 80% of what’s required for the position) because to them, that’s what’s fundamental – past experience doing the exact same thing. But does that mean they’re hiring the most efficient person out there? Someone who may help increase productivity? If what our professor told us yesterday is true, then I think Chilean companies need to rethink how they do their hiring. That is, if they care about having productive employees.

The best example given yesterday (in my opinion) was by the women who work at Lider, one of the major supermarket/hipermarket chains here in Chile. Lider is now owned by Walmart and as such, we were given a top-line example of how the business culture at Lider changed when Walmart came with their team to implement the new procedures and spark the Walmart culture of “Save Money. Live Better.” Though we weren’t offered major specifics, the examples offered clearly demonstrated how Walmart, with its American business culture, spent time observing how corporate and retail Lider worked and implemented changes that would increase productivity and efficiency across the board. It’s a work-in-progress we were told, but already changes were apparent.

Then I got to thinking of the comment thrown out about professionalism and how many Chilean executives and professionals lack this fundamental quality in the workplace. I recalled stories I’ve heard about (mainly) women who go into their bosses offices here, only to sit down and literally start bawling. I’ve heard this more than once, with different women in different companies for different reasons. Regardless of the reason, I’m always taken aback by this. What kind of executive allows her superiors, even her peers, to see her break down in the office? Whether right or wrong, to do so only promotes the quick labeling of her (us) as weak or fragile and not someone who can carry a burden of responsibility. The UBER female in me wants to ask these women “Helllooooooo did you not see the episode of Sex and the City when Samantha and Charlotte talked about the effects of crying the workplace? Do I need to do a PSA about this for all those out there who feel the overwhelming need to bawl and ruin the reputation of the rest of us?” Because I would if I could. This is just one example of the unprofessional nature of some executives here in Chile, but I can add to the mix those who take their half hour cigarette breaks, those who go out for 2+ hour lunches, those women who abuse their maternity leave and tack on days that become weeks that turn into months outside the office because their baby spits up milk or whatever lame excuse is used…

I can’t say that the United States is the most productive or most efficient business capital of the world, nor can I attest that our workers don’t slack off. I’ve seen many who do, hiding behind the guise of a Senior This-or-That title and taking credit for work done by those working under them. I’ve seen those who stroll into work at 10 am and leave at 4 pm everyday. And I’ve seen those who sit at their computers watching YouTube all day long instead of working.

But in light of the fact that I live in Chile now, I wonder, if what our professor told us is true, what’s the real reason behind it? Further, how can it be changed?

Did you like this? Share it:

Epic fail

I’m not gonna sugar coat it for you. I suck at taking tests. I mean, who knows, maybe I’m just really, really dumb but I’d like to give myself a little more credit than that, considering I’ve made it this far in life and I’m still intact. Also, I’ve witnessed some mad problem-solving skills in real life come out of this brain of mine and trust me, there’s a thing or two going on up there. Thus, all I can conclude is that I’m just a terrible test taker. Or I’m having a stupid week.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

I had a record-breaking two bombs explode in less than five minutes this past Tuesday: 1) a quiz on four chapters we had to read and my subsequent reaction to it, and 2) our Module II final exam grades were announced.

Which of the two proved I had a momentarily lapse in intelligence?

In reference to #1, I knew the quiz was coming and my group decided to divide the reading assignments – four of us, four chapters. I had the chapter on competition among business/industries and competitive strategies and I think I did a pretty good job of summing up 30+ pages on how businesses compete. Talk about sugar coating! There was certainly little I could to to make that chapter any more fun to swallow. I received the summaries from my group and of course they were all good … I studied as much as I could considering life, work, my (sometimes dumb) dog and other school projects tend to get in the way. In fact, the Friday before this dumb quiz, we had a 9+ hour brand management simulation where our main objective was to achieve the highest net sales and highest stock price compared to the other groups. And of course, all this decision making, strategy and planning resulted in a final grade that accounts for XX% of our final grade in the course. Hello – other things to think about besides the stupid 4 chapters we had to read for Tuesday’s quiz!!

When Tuesday morning arrived and as I walked into class, I knew I wasn’t going to prove anything that morning when taking the quiz. I certainly wasn’t going to prove I was the new “matea” (star student) of the class. However, I wasn’t prepared to not be able to answer either of the two questions in the most minimal of senses. When the paper landed in front of me, I stared at it for the 30-minute time limit the professor gave us. Just stared and stared and stared. I couldn’t believe that even though one of the questions was based on competition between business/industries, the topic I had to cover for my team, I still couldn’t – for the life of me – remember one single possible answer. Not even to B.S. my way through it!! I resigned myself to the fact that I had reached an all-time new low in my test-taking experience.

When I was in grade school I remember going through the same thing. Preparing (or so I thought) for a test and realizing, upon receiving the actual document, that I may as well have studied the steps required to perform a lobotomy because none of the questions looked familiar to me. And I would squeeze the pencil in my hand and proceed to cry. Not because I was sad, but because I was frustrated and wanted to scream. Crying was the only proper solution to that considering I was in a class full of kids who all seemed to know the required steps in performing a lobotomy (so to speak.) And as dumb luck would have it, I seemed to always be seated next to the proper “mateo” in class and that only pissed me off even more! What the hell was he writing so much about??!!

Anyway, this past Tuesday, I went through a similar thing. Except I didn’t cry. I decided I couldn’t very well hand in a blank piece of a paper. It was one thing to not know the answer, it was quite another to not even try. I decided to land somewhere in between both and wrote the following, in English, on the very first page:

“There is no way I could memorize all of this and I’d much rather focus my time on my marketing project. :o) I did read though.”

It’s not funny, nor is it clever … and it wasn’t even written in SPANISH! I’m not sure what possessed me to write something so lame and pretty much inexcusable … I’m in grad school, not 8th grade! All I can conjure up is that I was feeling lame and stupid, coupled with defiant and rebellious because I didn’t want another Chilean institution making me feel like a complete incompetent. And this was my attempt at delivering the “I’ll show you” message, which of course, isn’t the right message at all. Geez, if anything, I may have gotten half a point for writing a marketing message that was a little more convincing – of anything!!

Ugh.

To make matters worse (because sometimes that’s the only way matters seem to work), I received my final exam grade for the 2nd Module of the course and my grade on the Finance section was so low, I need to take that part again! The silver lining is that pretty much the entire class has to retake it because everyone’s grades were ultra low. Those who managed to pass did so just barely … At least in that case I’m not the dumb a** who stands alone, like the cheese in Farmer in the Dell.

The moral of this blog entry is this: I’m having a stupid week. At least I hope it’s just a week. It’s one thing to study, take the test and ultimately not do well; it’s quite another to write 8th grade messages on my grad school quizzes like a whiny teenager. In any case, it seems my stupidity roll is coming to an end because I did learn my lesson about doing such lame things in an academic setting.

Geez, why can’t I do smarter rebellious things on campus? Next time, I’ll engage in proper defiance suitable for the likes of a prestigious academic setting and invite everyone to go streaking across campus like Frank the Tank.

Did you like this? Share it:

Gradutate School in Chile, Part I

Higher education in Chile is blowing my mind.

I can’t decide if it’s because my undergrad college choice was as poor or if my undergrad major was poor. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. What’s clear to me now is this: I’m in my first year of a Masters in Marketing here in Chile and I’ve learned more in the past three months than I learned in my entire four years of college back home.

The marketing program I’m doing is divided into two years: the first year results in what is called a “Diplomado” which is a mini-degree of sorts. Not quite a Masters but definitely considered post-graduate studies. Upon completing the second year, you’re granted a Masters. The good thing is that I can finish my first year and decide to return for my second year FIVE YEARS from now and I’ll still be able to follow the initial rhythm. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t wait that long (I might forget everything!) though I’m still debating if I’ll do my 2nd year right away.

Anyway, in short I’m very happy I decided to do this because I’m learning things I never knew! And now that I think about it, I wonder how many of my friends knew things I now know, but back before I didn’t know them? For instance, and the most basic of all concepts, when I imagine the word “marketing” I imagined the advertisement of a certain product or service, the commercial, the little picture you saw in the grocery store, the slogan or the Buy-One-Get-One-Free gimmicks associated with a product. But that’s not it at all. Marketing is as simple as this: creating a need in the mind of the consumer and satisfying that need, all the while reaching sales goals established by your company. And that pretty much sums it up.

Education here (as I’ve experienced it thus far, mind you) is much more structured than I remember undergrad in California to be. There’s a process and an evolution and the idea that one thing is connected to the other. First we learned about Marketing as a concept in general; creating added value for the consumer, the internal client and the external client, what’s involved in a sales strategy vs what’s involved in a marketing plan. We talked about how different products in the same company can mean different things to that company and that in and of itself, require completely different strategies (think toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash, all under the umbrella of the Colgate-Palmolive company. All three mean different things to them.)

This was then followed by more detailed business concepts in general. Examples: overview in Statistics (for the purposes of market studies), Finance, the mind of the consumer and what propels him/her to purchase something, and finally, an overview on the different kinds of Market Research tools available to companies. We’re in Module III now (the year has 4 in total) and from what I can tell, we’re looking at things from an eagle’s eye view with the purpose of applying everything we learned in Modules I and II and honing them.

While I had heard and read about SWOT analyzes, I had never done one until Module I when we had to read a case study on the car company, Renault (unheard of in the States, I know.) I was on my mini-moon in NYC and I had to work remotely with my assigned group for the year to deliver on what was expected of us the following week. I bugged G a lot during that time because NOTHING made any sense to me. The 4 Ps? What’sthat? (Now I know). SWOT analysis – um how do I begin do that with this car company I’ve never even heard of? I was convinced I was the dumbest person in class.

We’ve read and done analysis on topics such as Harley Davidson (you tell me: what do they sell?), an XYZ Argentine textile company, Hummer and their H1 model, Mattel and their marketing of toys to boys vs. girls. We’ve seen examples of how different products aim to strike at the different motivators within people (i.e. are you motivated to be a good mother? Are you motivated to belong? Are you motivated with the idea of a certain status?) and learned how the Coca Cola company has been able to target all IN ONE COMMERCIAL, one message. And coming up soon, we’ll all be behind computers, with our groups, doing a Product Management Simulation game which will supposedly drive home the 4 P’s of marketing, all the while teaching us about brand equity and marketing planning for a product/product lines. The objective of this simulation “game” is to have the highest net worth and highest company stock price compared to the other groups in our class.

And the cherry on top is this: we have a year-long project where we have to present a marketing proposal for a business or product of our choice. And I cannot tell you the amount of research and work this involves. Let me just say that I know way more about our chosen topic than I ever cared to know ….

Wait, what?? I sound all professional and sh*t.

But that’s the point, right? That’s why I’m paying over US$800 each month and that’s why I deal with having to write PAPERS and work with my team to produce presentations that demonstrate things we’ve been learning since early April. So that tomorrow (whenever that may be) I’ll be an added value myself to whatever company I’m working for at the time.

It does make me wonder if undergrad in Chile is just as structured as Graduate school seems to be. If it is, then it would result in candidates who are a million times more prepared and better educated than those of the United States. I wonder this recognizing that I have absolutely no basis for comparison on either, really. I never attended undergrad here and didn’t attend Graduate school there. But should my theory be correct, and Chile does produce people better equipped to enter the work force, it would explain why the labor market (at an executive level) is so competitive here.

I’m even more inclined to think that the public undergrad education I received back home was less than stellar (and I repeat, this could be due to my poor choices on institution and matter) when I hear my fellow Grad School classmates complain about the low quality education we’re currently receiving at one of the most expensive, most prestigious universities in Chile (and in Latin America for that matter.) To be fair, I do agree that too much information is being crammed into a period of time that is much too short. After all, I do believe that an “overview” of Finance should entail more than 7 hours of class and that said overview should include more than the Balance Sheet and General Ledger. But if many of my classmates feel and truly believe that in some ways we’re being “cheated” of a good education right now, what does that imply about their experiences in undergrad? Here I am just amazed at how structured and plentiful the education is and they’re saying that what we’re learning – and mainly how we’re learning it – is a crock! Certainly an example of looking at two different sides of the same coin.

In the end, there IS one thing that remains consistent with what I believe about higher education in the States. The name – the BRAND, if you will – truly matters. Can we deny that there are many who choose Stanford, Duke, Harvard, Brown, Berkeley and on, primarily for what that name implies to others once they’ve graduated? I believe the majority of us followed the same road when choosing where we’d receive our graduate studies. We looked at our options here in Chile, figured out the top three and opted for the best in this particular field (Marketing/Business.)

So even if some would argue that the system is a crock (as you read, I don’t agree), aren’t we truly then just paying for the name of the university and all that it implies? Discuss.

(Playing devil’s advocate and answering yes to the question stated above, from a marketing standpoint, it would seem my university has done wonders.)
Did you like this? Share it:

Patience in the land of the impatient

I know I’m going to age myself here yet again, but there’s a commercial I remember from 1987 (when I was 10, mind you) for Heinz Ketchup (note that in searching for this video I just now realized that that the actor in it is Matt LeBlanc. Who knew?)

Don’t ask me why, but from the first time I ever saw this commercial, I took note of the message and have constantly reminded myself of this tried and true cliche over and over again. Seems rather heavy that a 10-year old would take to heart such a sophisticated message and further, that said 10-year old was able to see past its use in a commercial advertising the thickness of ketchup. I can’t say that many things (experiences or people) have truly shaped my life, but believe it or not, as weird as it sounds, this commercial really did shape my ideology, at least in some aspects, and sort of gave me this comforting philosophy I could grab on to whenever I was feeling anxious or desperate for something to happen NOW.

So you can just imagine what it feels like for me to live in a country where it would seem that the general population lives their life going against the grain of this message.

For instance, the manner in which most Chileans drive. I’ve seen it all, really. Running red lights, swerving around pedestrians crossing the street – so close that the car actually rubs against them, needing to make a right hand turn at the next light but too impatient to wait their turn so they get into the left hand lane to zoom past the line of waiting cars, only to block traffic as they try to turn right FROM THE LEFT HAND LANE. All this sh*t annoys me and I fight with people constantly (from the safety of my car with windows rolled up, naturally). But one of the things that bothers me the most (aside from the 92% of Chileans thinking that turning on their hazard lights all of a sudden gives them the right to stop ANYWHERE on the road), is to see a car that is driving behind me at a comfortable pace, suddenly speed up to go around me only to fit him/herself SNUGLY in front of me and continue driving. WTF? I seriously wish I could ask the person what the motivation is behind doing something so.lame. He didn’t gain any distance on me, nor did he find himself with tons of road in front of him giving him a chance to gun it down the road. All I can conclude is that, to him, it’s all about doing things quickly, getting sh*t done, no matter how he goes about it. Therefore, shaving the four seconds he gained by going around me, makes him feel like king of the world. If he’s in such a hurry, how ’bout leaving the house earlier, buddy? Novel thought. So as you can imagine, I end up driving behind this dumb a** a pretty long while… until he decides he needs to make a right hand turn so he gets into the left hand lane in order to get there sooner.

Also, there’s the quick fixes applied to any and all things. If something breaks around the house, a heater, a lamp, the tv – what have you, the first part of the solution doesn’t involve taking it in for repair, or even considering buying a new item. The first option, because it’s the quickest, is to try to fix it yourself. Duct tape here, a nail and hammer there, a little rewiring here and pretty soon the thing is “as good as new.” Of course this comes with a price, such as only being able to plug it in to the wall from the outlet in the bathroom (“the electrical current in there is lighter” – probably from a fix-it job on the light fixture back in the day), or the having to watch tv at an angle or something because the pressure to left helps align the collapsed tube inside. The same item will probably go through about two to three rounds of home fixes before its decided that it was too old anyway and that a new one is in order. In my world, the moral of this story is that sacrificing a little time at home without the broken item and allowing someone more qualified to actually take a looskie and fix it, would probably have resulted in quicker turn-around AND money saved. But, that’s just me.

Yesterday after class, when I arrived at my parked car in the school’s parking lot, I realized that the person who parked next to me had parked at an angle, completely blocking my entrance into the car. You know, so that I had to open the passenger door and climb in that way. No, he/she hadn’t scraped my car or even remotely touched it, but in a technique I’ll never truly grasp, he/she managed to park the dumb car about an inch away from mine. I’m not even going to try and assemble the math involved with accomplishing such a feat, but it REALLY.PISSED.ME.OFF. But let me tell you why … this person, like me, had class on Tuesday mornings, maybe even had class all day long. Like me, this person had to get up super early, fight traffic, fight the crazies who make right hand turns from the left hand lane, dodge pedestrians, go around the hazard-light-using lame-O’s who stop in the middle of a busy intersection, and all the countless things that make driving in Chile hazardous to one’s health. So what gives? Running late I guess and in running late, arriving to find that the parking lot closest to campus is full, except for this one, teeny, tiny, cramped spot next to my car. ANY NORMAL person who wouldn’t mind parking just a little further away would rationalize that in parking their car in this teeny, tiny spot, the person next to them (me, in this case) wouldn’t be able to get out. Of course we now know that this f*cktard didn’t rationalize and parked there anyway. I can forgive that he/she might have overslept and because of this was running late. I can understand that he/she might have been faced with a nana who also arrived late at home and couldn’t leave the baby alone until she arrived. I can relate to a car that didn’t start until about the 5th attempt. WHAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND and what I CAN’T FORGIVE is the imprudence and stupidity that erupts from being impatient! Because this person was late and couldn’t be bothered with taking an additional 30 seconds to park just a little farther where there were more spots available, he/she decided to remain close, park in the glove-compartment of a spot which left me crawling through my car to reach the driver’s seat. God forbid he/she actually walked through the scenario.

Naturally, I left them a note on the windshield. It read:

“Hey Partner,
Did you bother to see how you parked? You left me with no room to get into my car and I have to now crawl in through the passenger side. What’s the matter with you? Where did you learn to drive? Iraq?
You’re about as ridiculous as they come.”

Here’s what went through my mind right before writing this note. “It’s almost 2 pm. I’m really hungry. The drive to my house will take about 40 minutes and I have to go to the ATM first. I should hurry up because I need to get to work AND I need to take my dog out. Plus I have a test on Tuesday and I’m so behind on reading. I should really get going.”
However, I decided to take the two minutes it took me to open my notebook, find a blank sheet, whip out the writing instrument, write this note in ALL ITS GLORY, rip the sheet out and place it on his/her windshield; put everything away, close my school bag, walk around the car, crawl into my seat and drive off.

Smug? Yes. Unnecessary? Maybe. Satisfying? Hell yeah.

Did you like this? Share it:

The postgrado

Um … school in Chile is weird.

Ok, I should rephrase that since I’m not technically in “school” or “colegio” but at a university getting a post-graduate degree (postgrado). In short, I’m dabbling in Graduate studies. And for someone who was raised and who received her entire education (for better or for worse) in California, studying in a foreign country is weird, overwhelming and scary all at the same time.

Adolfo IbaƱez University is considered one of the top private business schools in the region (so you can imagine my surprise when I was accepted) and their professors stem from various educational and professional backgrounds, including MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Universidad de Chile, La Catolica, etc. These are (unfortunately only) men who serve on Boards of Directors, own their own companies, are Gerente Generales or of similar titles and who, for some reason or another, also teach courses in Integrated Marketing (what I’m studying).

Yesterday was my first day of class and there are about 45-50 students – people who also come from different walks of life and careers. Yesterday’s professor was the head of the department and the same man who interviewed me when I applied to the program. He’s charismatic, energetic and seems to really know his (version of) business. The program is going to be demanding and what I’m realizing is that it’s going to be hard to adapt my thinking to that of Chileans. Half of my motivation for doing this is to understand how Chileans think, how one can market to them and what kinds of consumers they are. So yesterday when the professor was speaking, I found myself thinking “No I don’t agree” or “No, it’s not like that” and then had to stop myself and REMIND myself that “oh yes, this is what the typical Chilean thinks, this is how he acts and reacts.”

For instance, he was talking about why JC Penny or Sears didn’t make it in Chile when they attempted to expand their business in Lat Am. Or why Wal-Mart hasn’t decided to change its name to just that and continues to hide behind the local name “Lider” (Wal-Mart bought out the local hypermarket chain, Lider last year). The tend to look down on the big corporations but at the same time embrace the status said corporations bring (think Starbucks, which incidentally has take this country by storm.) Chileans are rock stairs in the retailer arena (it’s the only country with less than 20 million people that has over three department stores who compete in a healthy environment.) And the likes of Sears and JC Penny didn’t thrive because Chileans are much too loyal to their brands. So as I’m sitting there thinking “But no – there’s bigger and better out there.” I have to remember that in Chile there’s no room for bigger and better if it’s not Falabella. Enough said. I can’t beat them, I need to join them. Integrate and then work in crazy, unconventional ideas! It’s my master plan (insert wicked laugh.)

Seriously though, I find myself arguing with the professor in my head though who am I to argue when the reality we’re talking about is Chilean and I’m here to learn about that? It’s not the time to fight the power, Andrea!

Then there’s just the idiosyncrasy of many Chileans, which will slowly become apparent in each class. For instance, in yesterday’s class the professor was making a point about perception and he projected a slide with one image of Tiger Woods in mid-golf swing and the other picture of Eminem and 50 Cent together. He asked the class “How many of you find it strange that the world’s number one golfer is black? Or that one of the best selling rappers of all time is white?” AND OF COURSE there were a handful of people who agreed that it was “weird” that the best golfer in the world is black. The most outspoken woman in this group stated that it just seemed “raro” (or strange) because it made more sense for a white, blonde man to be the best golfer.

WHAT WHAT WHAT??!!!

As one friend correctly pointed out last night after I told this story, back home even if someone was thinking the same thing, NO ONE would say it! And here it’s like “Oh yes, he’s black and rich and that’s weird.”

Of course I’m smart enough to know that MOST LIKELY these sentiments don’t stem from any malicious part of the Chilean psyche or character. In fact, it’s so homogeneous here, blonds are MORE idolized than normal AND it just so happens that many of the blonds are also from affluent families. The Chilean reality is just different … and I’m here to learn about it and to try to influence it.

First and foremost, I need to sit down and shut up and learn about how they tick. How do I market to them so that they can eventually expose themselves to “weird” things … realizing of course that “weird’ to them is having “too many” milk options. I kid you not there was a discussion yesterday on why there is any such thing as Lactose Free milk and even Soy milk – THE HORROR!!! :o)

Ok, theories and idiosyncrasies aside, I’m also going to HATE MY LIFE with all the reading material I have – IN SPANISH. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’m going to write an actual term paper IN SPANISH or contribute to a group effort when half the things they say go over my head! I fear being the dumb one in the group … seriously. Ack!

The upside is that I have my own Gerente to bounce ideas off of … when I arrived home from class yesterday, a beautiful ENORMOUS bouquet was waiting for me at home, accompanied by a note telling me how proud he was of me and how he intended to fully support me through this tough year ahead. :o) (Sigh… bliss!) It’s not going to be easy but then again it’s been a while since I’ve done something that was this hard. Life can get pretty boring if one doesn’t challenge the status quo. And life can get pretty tense if one is always fighting the foreign mentalities and actions. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

I’m seeking knowledge and understanding of the people who surround me. If anything, so I can learn to sell them on a different way of thinking! :oP

Did you like this? Share it:

My competitive landscape in Chile

My competitive pool is much smaller in Chile.

Granted, this is perhaps directly correlated to the fact that Chile has a population of about 16,758,114, of which, about 85% is urban dwelling… i.e. the majority of them are crowding my space here in Santiago.

But I spent days wondering, how many of these 16+ million are in the same competition pool with me? I’m not going to say that I’m schooled in what the AVERAGE Chilean person, man and woman, aspires to because I’m sure it varies from person to person and social bracket to social bracket. All I can really base my assumptions on are family members, either close to me or not, as I observe what they accomplish in life and what they set as priorities.

Back home in CA I’m from a very, VERY competitive landscape. We’re talking Silicon Valley, Sand Hill Road: the venture capitalist mecca of the world, Stanford University, Nasa Ames Research Center, UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Financial District all within a good 60 miles from one another. And I lived (and grew up) right smack-dab in the middle of that. On top of that, I was also living in the DIRECT outskirts of one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., where, according to this year’s Forbes report, San Francisco comes in as the 4th most expensive city in the U.S., following NYC, LA and White Plains, NY.

It comes as no surprise (to me at least) that my high school graduating class consisted of sons and daughters of bank owners, hedge fund owners, partners of VC firms, notable investors, reputable doctors and lawyers, etc, etc, what have you. And that was the crowd that surrounded me in a PUBLIC school of the area… I can’t begin to imagine the company kept at the local private schools!

The competition I felt throughout my years in California was fierce. Seriously, something I wonder if many Chileans can understand. Right now, couples I know are purchasing homes that cost upwards of $2 million DOLLARS. Yeah. Couples that are between 31-35 purchasing homes or even ASPIRING to purchase homes in that price range. And even if we never dreamed of doing such things, we still have/had a pretty skewed view of what it meant to be successful. Ok, so MAYBE not a house worth millions of dollars but a two bedroom apartment/townhouse/flat that costs ALMOST $1 million. Trust me, this is NORMAL where I’m from because unfortunately that’s our reality. We either strive to make it or … we keep striving to make it (fortunately I don’t have friends who are quitters.) And I believe that we ALL went through a kind of crisis between the ages of 27-30 when we felt like we’d accomplished only a fraction of what we set out to accomplish and we held our heads in hands because we felt like we were ‘lagging behind’ when compared to our peers.

When I lived in CA I had decided that I didn’t need to live in Hillsborough or Marin County or even in San Francisco itself. Perhaps it was because I felt overwhelmed by the ridiculous competition and I knew that if I wanted to be in that race I had to keep on studying and add another degree to the arsenal. Unfortunately (or not) where I’m from, every other person has a Masters degree of some sort and it was quickly becoming a state of Bachelors = high school diploma. The only exception to this rule that I personally saw was with innovative people who created either a new service or a new technology (and in Silicon Valley, trust me there were many!) I didn’t find myself to be particularly creative – not in a core-shaking kind of way – and I certainly didn’t attend a top-tier university and the combination of both of those ‘setbacks’ made me feel that the ONLY way I could remain in the competitive game was to keep studying… but then again, choosing to study resulted in another set of suffocating avenues I had to weave through. Primarily, which school, what to study and PRAY TELL how would I pay for it!!??

But now I’m here in Chile … something that I hadn’t planned on years ago when I was mapping out the would-be actions I wanted to take to arrive at the life I wanted to have. In fact, during high school, college and as I entered the work force, all my decisions were based on living my life in the U.S., just as I had been for as long as I could remember. My frame of reference was that which I noted above and yes, I would adapt myself accordingly (perhaps in a fashion I now see as “settling” when compared to what my peers were setting out to accomplish) but my life would reflect SOME aspect of what was the “norm” around me. Said norm being where even over achievers fade into the background in the highly competitive environment.

All of the above brings me to this: I’m starting classes at a business school here in Santiago in April and I decided to focus on Marketing. Whereas in the States I would have probably chosen an MBA program due to the competition around me, here I feel that I already have an edge given that my undergrad degree is from a U.S. university so I decided to do something I was actually interested in. And so I sit back and think that all my prepping in an UBER competitive landscape in CA is going to serve me well here in Chile. I speak fluent English and Spanish, I work in a multi-national company where I manage an entire region, I have an undergrad degree from the U.S. and now I’m going to work hard for a Masters in Chile. I’m already wired to be an agro competitor, no holds bar, the “I-will-not-allow-you-to-be-better-than-me-without-a-fight” kind of mentality that I HAD TO HAVE growing up where I did. I don’t think it will be easy to charge ahead and become a leader of some sort here in Chile and I know I have a LOT of things to learn before I become one.

But I can say I do believe, 100%, that my competition pool here is much, much smaller than it was in the SF Bay Area. My mentality and focus hasn’t changed, my environment has … and it will be interesting to see what I accomplish and learn because of that.

Did you like this? Share it: