First Person: Work Force and Quality of Life Bring McAfee to Chile
As director of operations for McAfee Labs in the Americas, Hiep Dang is an expert in computer security, phishing, computer forensics, and fraud. He recently sat down with Area Development to discuss McAfee's plans to open a new facility in Santiago, Chile.
Dang: Like most companies, we assess a number of factors when making a site selection decision. One of the most significant factors we look at is the education system and the talent pool of employees. Every company strives to find the best-quality talent, but we especially look for qualities that aren't taught in school. McAfee wants employees who are passionate about their work, committed to making a difference in the world, and - most of all - possess intellectual curiosity.
Explain what you mean by "making a difference in the world."
Dang: Individuals who work for McAfee must possess strong ethical values so they are guided by these values to do good things with the skills that they possess. Around the world we are relied upon as protectors of the Internet - and this is exactly what our employees use their talents and knowledge to do.
What are your company's biggest site-selection challenges?
Dang: We have sites all over Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Because we are a globally distributed company and work as a 24/7, follow-the-sun operation, it can sometimes be challenging to collaborate with peers who work on the other side of the world. However, this challenge can also be a benefit because if you want to ask questions, collaborate, or bounce ideas off of a teammate, you can always reach someone, regardless of the time of day.
McAfee just announced it will open its first Latin American facility in Santiago, Chile. Why Santiago?
Dang: In addition to the talent pool, Santiago has the right balance of all of key criteria for meeting the needs of McAfee Labs' operations. These include economic stability, political stability, a modern infrastructure, pro-business climate, safety and security, and employee education and loyalty. We want to focus on Latin America because it is a growing and emerging market and provides optimal time zone coverage between Europe and the United States, where many McAfee customers are located.
McAfee is the first major investment in Chile since that country's 8.8-magnitude earthquake in February. Is this an unnecessary risk to take?
Dang: Actually, what we saw in Chile after the earthquake further proved we made the right choice. We know Chile is susceptible to earthquakes, just like California, where our headquarters are located. Chile has very high standards and strict design codes for their buildings to sustain the energy of an earthquake. I visited Santiago only a few weeks after the earthquakes had subsided and saw firsthand how well Chile's modern buildings held up against the force of the earthquake and its aftershocks.
What does Santiago have to offer as a city?
Dang: Everything about Santiago is beautiful - the people, style, fashion, food, art, architecture, roads, subway, parks, landscape, mountains - everything! I love the fact that in less than two hours you can be on the mountain to hike, ski, or snowboard, be in the wine valley tasting some of the most exquisite wine in the world, or relaxing on the beach.
How are you working with the government and universities to train employees for your new facility?
Dang: CORFO - the Chilean economic development organization - was a tremendous help when we were doing our research and due diligence. They also helped us make contacts with companies and individuals who also built offices in Chile, and welcomed us with open arms. We have also started building relationships with the faculty of the most prestigious universities in Chile in order to recruit their best students, as well as offer our advice and services as they begin to focus their curriculum and programs more on security.
What are McAfee's plans for Latin America, both as a market and launch pad to global markets?
Dang: Latin America is a rapidly growing region, and we are very excited to be here to witness its growth in the world market. The Santiago site will be a "center of excellence" for McAfee Labs where we will do considerable research, development, and escalation response to protect our customers worldwide.
How underserved is Latin America as a market?
Dang: Latin America is a strong emerging market. The region's potential is limitless as more and more of its countries' populations continue to adopt the Internet and online commerce into their practices and culture. Chile is one of the most connected countries in Latin America.
What would surprise companies about doing business in Latin America?
Dang: One of the things I love about Latin American culture is the strong emphasis that is put on family and how it carries over into the business world. This is a perfect fit for the global McAfee culture because we try to foster a family culture in our office. Many of our employees consider their co-workers and teammates family. It is not uncommon to find those people who work together in the office socializing together outside the context of work.
How would you advise other companies who want to expand their global reach and locate in other countries?
Dang: Always keep an open mind. This was McAfee's approach when we did our worldwide search and due diligence. Our research took us to all different corners of the globe, including Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Some people have pre-conceived notions about a country or region based on what they see in the media. But you cannot truly understand the character and depth of a country until you've walked the streets, talked with the people, and (my favorite part) enjoyed the local cuisine!
In five years, how will the Santiago operation have affected McAfee's bottom line?
Dang: Hopefully Santiago will follow the same path of previous McAfee sites we have opened. In 2002, McAfee opened an office in Bangalore, India, starting with only 50 employees. Today, India is McAfee's largest facility with over 1,100 employees. In 2004, McAfee opened a new office in Cork, Ireland, with 60 initial employees - now there are over 300. We are very excited about Santiago's potential and also feel that McAfee has a lot to offer Chile by being the first software security company to create an R&D center in the country.
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