Nearshore Americas

Insider Perspective: Experience and Evolution in Jalisco’s Tech Ecosystem

With a professional career a quarter of a century long, Guadalupe Torres has been there and done that in Mexico’s tech world. 

As the Guadalajara Center Head for Persistent Systems Mexico, a subsidiary of Persistent Systems Ltd, Torres is charged with managing a team of over 200 engineers and directing them in the delivery of continuous engineering projects for Nearshore clients. 

Prior to her current role, Torres worked for two decades at IBM in multiple software-related roles, and was the first Latin American female to participate in the company’s global leadership program, IBM Manager Champion.

She combines her industry role with academic interests as a professor of Software Quality and Software Testing courses at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara and Guadalajara Jesuit University (ITESO), as well as active participation in the Jalisco IT cluster IJALTI 

Torres has won industry-wide recognition for her involvement in Mexico’s technology sector and in 2021 was selected by the Coordinating Council of Industrial Chambers of Jalisco (CCIJ) and the National Chamber of the Electronics and Technologies Industry (CANIETI) as the Distinguished Industrialist, awarded to those who contribute leadership, passion and innovation to the development of Jalisco. 

Nearshore Americas chatted with Torres to find out about how Jalisco is continuing to thrive as a hub of innovation in Mexico, how her personal life and professional life have influenced one another, and why it makes sense to combine academic and industry-specific interests.

Nearshore Americas: How has the demand for technical courses changed during your time as a professor at ITESO and the Autonomous University of Guadalajara?

Guadalupe Torres is recognized as Distinguished Industrialist

Guadalupe Torres: In my experience, the demand for the courses from the market has increased a lot, yet, until recently, fewer students were deciding to take software development and related courses. Some universities around Guadalajara even closed courses due to a lack of students. For example, Tec de Monterrey closed its Software Engineering course in the past.

But efforts from different actors like IJALTI and CANIETI have led to an improvement in student numbers in the last couple of years. They’ve pushed STEM courses and there have been good results. 

At ITESO, I’ve delivered the Software Quality class for 20 years. During that period, there were moments in which the class was closed but this year is the first semester  that there are two Software Quality classes running at the same time, meaning we’ve increased student numbers. Other courses in other universities have also been reopened. 

I think this is down to a natural delayed impact in the efforts of the different industry players, the state government and chambers. There are stronger links between the education system and the industry today. Students know how much they can earn as engineers and industry-wide efforts are now paying off. 

Nearshore Americas: With your experience in both academia and in the private industry, what do you believe to be Mexico’s strongest tech skill sets?

Guadalupe Torres: Obviously we’re close to the US and we understand the culture well. This gives Mexican engineers a natural advance in the Nearshore. 

But beyond this, engineers here are very hungry to improve. They’re proactive in developing their skill sets and are willing to learn extra skills to work on new projects that may have been outside of their original scope. 

Certain technical expertise are very strong here, particularly Java, Python, C Sharp, Visual Basic and more recent technologies around the cloud.

But what we sometimes lack are the domain skills. By this I mean the application of technical skills within a sector, like medical science, finance or retail. For example, we struggle to find experts who can bring both technical skills and banking. This industry-specific knowledge gap still exists and needs to be overcome.

Nearshore Americas: What has driven Persistent System Mexico’s growth, and what are the figures that demonstrate its growth during your tenure?

Guadalupe Torres: When we started in 2016, we only had 26 engineers. Now, there are over 200. 

Torres receives the Distinguished Industrialist award

We are growing steadily and have plans to grow more. The challenges are finding the right talent with bilingual skills. Our clients demand senior people, not recent graduates. That makes the recruitment process a little tougher. Added to this, is the concern that attrition rates are high in Guadalajara because major companies from the US, Europe and India are hiring directly.

One of the areas I’ve sought to improve at Persistent during my time is the ability of engineers to speak up. By this, I mean to say that communication and presence needed to be improved; communication is key to the success of Nearshore engineering projects. This is a fairly common area for improvement in the tech industry because we tend to be technically-minded and the emphasis lies on technical skills not verbal expression. But communication is always an opportunity for improvement. 

I also sought to improve remote working conditions to deliver success across different cultures within the company. Remote management poses certain challenges and team members want more communication with management to discuss topics like career improvement. To resolve this, I set a rule that for teams with more than five individuals needed to have a local manager. This helped communication flow and allowed for greater team alignment.

Nearshore Americas: How does your deep academic experience influence your position in the private sector, and vice versa?

Guadalupe Torres: They absolutely influence each other. Even when I’m extremely busy, it’s important for me to keep teaching university courses because they are such a source of learning, both from content and the new generation of students. And this helps me implement initiatives at Persistent Systems that supports my younger employees in their work. 

At the same time, I need to keep up with innovative technologies in order to teach about them. This means I’m always involved in new projects at my company; I always want to understand more and keep abreast of developments.

I’ve failed many times in my life and I believe those failures are the reason that I’m in the position I am in today. I’ve made mistakes but failure is always an opportunity to learn.

The view I have of both academia and the industry also gives me a foresight on technologies or trends from either side that are likely to influence the other, or coincide, at some point in the future. This is extremely helpful to me in my work.

Nearshore Americas: You entered the industry 25 years ago. How has the position of women in tech changed during that time?

Guadalupe Torres: The number of women in tech has obviously increased over the years but remain very low in comparison to other industries.

I’m not a huge believer in quotas because jobs should be given to the best person with the greatest knowledge, capacity and skills. But sometimes quotas are needed, and this is the case here. Women’s professional aims and goals can sometimes be sidetracked. 

I’ve been in the situation where I was invited to be part of a board. I was the only female on it. I wondered if I was invited simply because a female was needed or because of my ability. This isn’t an enjoyable situation to be in; I want to be there based on my skills and knowledge. In all of my involvement with chambers of commerce there is a clear gap between the number of men and women on the boards even though there are plenty of qualified women to represent all industries. 

Women today are facing a different industry to the one I entered. We need to believe more in ourselves and our skills, ask for the things we want, and network. 

Nearshore Americas: Have there been any major obstacles you’ve encountered during your career that you feel have fuelled your aspirations?

Guadalupe Torres: I’ve faced many challenges in my personal and professional life. One is my role as a mother – I have three children – being a spouse and a daughter, and my professional aspirations. Having these professional aspirations have at times made life complex. 

It’s important for me to keep teaching university courses because they are such a source of learning, both from content and the new generation of students.

There have been times when I’ve had to put opportunities and aims on the shelf. When my oldest child was around three years old, I was offered an international assignment. I had to decline it because my husband had a job here and couldn’t move. However, if the opportunity had been offered to my husband, we might have moved. These are the types of complexities I’ve faced as a mother.

I’ve also been in professional situations where I’ve not spoken my mind. Years ago I was looked over for a professional development course in New York because my manager assumed that as a mother I wouldn’t be able to leave. This made me realize that I had to speak my mind and push to get what I want.

I’ve failed many times in my life and I believe those failures are the reason that I’m in the position I am in today. I’ve made mistakes but failure is always an opportunity to learn.

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Nearshore Americas: What are elements of your personal life that you believe have helped your professional development?

Guadalupe Torres: I’m extremely persistent in my personal life, and that has helped me achieve my professional aims too.

I love to read and study, and am generally very optimistic in my outlook. I’m willing to be involved, and this has been important in my personal and professional development. 

Peter Appleby

Peter is former Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, he is now based in Mexico City. He has several years’ experience covering the business and energy markets in Mexico and the greater Latin American region. If you’d like to share any tips or story ideas, please reach out to him here.

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