Oct 052007
 

Whew! I just returned from a 2 city tour in Monterrey Mexico and Mexico City. It was a fantastic week teaching negotiation techniques for IT, to a diverse and energetic group of managers, executives, and CIOs in Mexico, provided by the Cutter Consortium Latin America. I’ve written about the experience at my blog at www.optimalfriction.com, but decided to post it here as well for our Cutter community.

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The event was part of a “Strategic IT Training Cycle” — 6 workshops conducted by the Cutter Consortium Latin America on issues that IT executives must be aware of in order to make IT a strategic resource for the organization. Cutter Consortium framed these workshops as critical skills for current and future CIOs. I found all of the attendees to be highly engaging and thoughtful managers, eager to apply new ideas to an old problem: getting the best deal possible and creating high value outcomes on difficult IT negotiations on outsourced and in-house alliances/partnerships. It was exiting being part of our Cutter Faculty for this series, which included folks like Tim Lister, Mike Rosen, Christopher Avery, and others. My session was entitled, “Negotiation Strategies for the Agile IT Leader.” Take a look at more pictures at this photo-sharing site.

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For me, the trick was to make it seamless through a real-time language translation using English/Spanish interpreters. The last time I had done this was quite a while ago in Japan, with a team of interpreters going back and forth between English and Japanese. What made this workshop different from the Tokyo event though was the interactivity of the “mock negotiation” sessions that I run for this course. Much of what I glean for the follow-on discussion sessions comes from listening in to the attendees as they apply the ideas I convey during role play scenarios. This time I’d be a bit deaf during those portions since my Spanish speaking skills are non-existent, vaporized long ago from a lack of use after several years of Spanish in my earlier years. (Sadly, my Mandarin Chinese is really rusty too…)

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My worries were overblown. Both sessions were great, and many of the audience participants were bilingual in English. The interpreters were world-class and probably could handle the toughest real-time translations — I bet they could do double duty at the United Nations. We had these wireless headsets and transmitters, and if a participant asked a question in Spanish, seconds later the English language feed would come through my headset, transmitted by the interpreters sitting behind a soundproof partition. I’d answer in English, and for the attendees, a Spanish answer would come through their headset. How cool is that?

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Some things I learned — Monterrey is the capital city of the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León, and is also known as the “City of the Mountains”. It is the third most populated metropolitan area in the country, has the highest GDP per capita of all metropolitan areas in Mexico and is also the second largest in area after Mexico City with about 4 million people. Surrounding the city are stunning mountain peaks which give the place an incredible feel. One amazing formation is Saddle Hill, named for its distinctive saddle-shaped profile when viewed from the west.

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Greater Mexico City has a population of about 20 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world. In 2005, it ranked as the eighth richest urban agglomeration GDP in the world. I was amazed at the energy of the city — as my friend Tim Lister said, “You’ll love being there; it makes New York seem slow (heh heh).” One thing that was remarkable was the number of trees all around. It made you feel like you were driving through a park most of the time. But don’t be lazy while driving – Mexico’s taxi drivers are insane. They make NYC cabbies seem tame.

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Another thing I discovered the hard way. That quarter-sheet immigration card that the airline gives you to fill out while on an incoming flight to Mexico? Don’t lose that! When you go to leave the country, you have to give that back to get your airline boarding pass. If you don’t have it, they send you to the Immigration Office at the airport. A very grumpy-looking bureaucrat looks at you scornfully, and makes you fill out several forms (all in Spanish), telling you to sign several of them while grunting at you in mild disgust. (I was wondering if I was signing a pre-written confession to some recent unsolved murder.) After about an hour and a half — they let you go, and if you’re lucky, you just might still make your flight home.

I was lucky. Whew!!

But seriously, I have to say that my experience in Mexico was amazing and wonderful. The people are warm, friendly, and hospitable. The IT executives that I met were sharp, savvy, and worldly folks who were an absolute pleasure to work with. My experience as a trainer and consultant was made even more satisfying because of the top-notch Cutter Mexico team (click here). I’d go back to Mexico in a heartbeat, and for sure, I won’t lose my immigration form again!

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Michael Mah

Michael Mah is a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Agile Product & Project Management practice. His specialty is software measurement, project estimation, and "in-flight" control for inhouse and outsourced/offshore development.

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