Multilingualism has its Advantages: Working in the Cross Currents of Sourcing Cultures

Being a multilingual Global Account Manager at Softtek for a Fortune 500 IT firm based in the United States brings a refreshingly diferent prism from which to gauge the offshoring/nearshoring current. Fluent in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Basque and able to converse in Italian too, Naiara Azpiri gives just that. Here she talks frankly about her role, the advantages of speaking more than one language, her view of why the technology sector in the United States is not taking jobs away from Americans and her experience working for Softtek.

What exactly do you do?  

I am responsible for managing the account, obviously sales and delivery of all the different projects within the company globally. I currently have an Account Manager that reports to me for the corporate side of the account, so I support him and then I am responsible for expanding business within the company.

How does being multilingual help you?

Greatly. My company is a Mexico-based company, so of course dealing internally with the organization and getting support from the different areas is always easier in the local language. I also speak Portuguese fluently so now that my account is expanding to also provide services from our Softtek Brazil site, I´m not only working with my own internal organization in Brazil but with the customers too.

It´s always easier to come to terms when you are speaking the same language.

How important has speaking so many languages been for your career?

In terms of advancing in my own career it has been very helpful. I wouldn´t say it was the only thing. You obviously need to have the skills but it helped me expand faster, I would say. In my previous role as a business analyst at one of my old firms, I was the only person in the office that spoke other languages apart from English, so I was the one who was able to help with Europe and South America. It certainly gave me the opportunity to show how I could expand to new markets. That was seen very positively in Softtek.

What has your experience working for Sokttek been like?

I´ve completely “bought in” to the company, as they say in Spanish. They are a very flexible company. They work with you on all levels, especially on personal levels when you need to readjust for any reason. Myself for example, I have the need to move from one country (Naiara was born in the United States and grew up in the Basque country in Spain) to the other for personal reasons and they are very adjusting to that. Also, in terms of career, if you propose something and it makes sense, most likely you´re going to be heard and things will be implemented, so I´ve been very happy with that. It´s not something that you get everywhere, especially when you are new in a company so I really appreciated it.

Any tips or potential great places to nearshore to?

One of the places in Latin America is Colombia. I don´t think they are looked into as much as they could be. We´ve actually started to expand our center a little bit now. We´ve been there for about ten years. I do see that that Colombians are very highly educated, they have a very good design and interface type of skills.

I´m focusing here on the technology side. I think with a little investment it could be a great place to outsource to that I don´t think has been looked as much as it could be.

Another one outside of Latin America that I would mention is Israel. They are a smaller country but the work ethic and more than anything the way people think outside the box.

Back home in the United States, there is often a significant drive against offshoring from politicians saying it takes jobs away from Americans. How do you counter that argument?

Again, I´m talking specifically on the technology side. In general, we have an unemployment rate of ten percent but in the technology side it is near three percent. Even though I agree that certain types of jobs could be done here and are being outsourced because of costs, in the IT industry we don´t have the capacity to respond to the needs of our large hi-tech corporations. They are all struggling to fulfill high-skill type of work in technology areas. Until we invest in making people aware that those are the career paths where there are a lot of jobs for the future, I don’t think we can stop outsourcing because we wouldn´t respond to our needs.

What are some of the common problems you regularly encounter in nearshoring?

What we are seeing is that certain companies are keener to hire people with direct experience, in Mexico for example. They see nearshoring is a good approach but they aren´t necessarily willing to invest in generating new talent, so that´s certainly putting a little bit of stress on the market and increasing the costs for other companies.

We specifically in Softtek have been generating talent by doing academies, what we call Softtek universities and generating talent when those people come out of college.