In America two narratives about Mexico dominate. The first, chiefly emanating from anti-immigrant ideologues who usually have never been here, holds that Mexicans have low IQs and cannot function at other than a primitive level. Breitbart News and something called Vdare are chief among these. They don’t quite expect to find all Mexicans either robbing banks or sleeping at the foot of cactuses with big hats and a burro, but they come close.
In stark contrast is what one hears from companies involved in high-tech fields. They speak of a large pool of Mexican engineers of high quality in everything from software to robotics. They hire them in droves. These are not assembly-line workers or even manufacturing engineers in traditional industries, such as cars. They are either in tech start-ups like Wizeline, below, or in software-development for big outfits like IBM, Intel, and Oracle, which have a large presence in Guadalajara. More on these in a later column.
The other day I want to Guadalajara to talk to Matt Pasarienski, of Wizeline, a software-services outfit based in San Francisco but with large and growing presence in Mexico. (Wizeline: “Intelligent Solutions, PPM Software, Services, and Chatbots”)
Pasarienski is a wiry, high-energy guy. One can imagine him as a kid in a garage in Silicon Valley, living on Cheetos and Jolt Cola and writing code for days without sleep. Undergrad at Berkeley, PhD in physics, University of Illinois.
Wizeline has two big buildings in the old Kodak facility on Mariana Otero, vast open rooms with rows of desks with screens, lots of young techy-looking people, cafeterias. The atmosphere reminded me of the SpaceX assembly floor in Hawthorne but without the rockets.
Pasarienski speaks fast and cogently. “We have 200 (software) engineers and want to hire 1000 more. We now hire about 15-20 a month. They are good, speak English, and learn fast. Definitely good for a world-class enterprise.”
He mentions that Mexico graduates 13,000 software engineers a year, and sees the country as fertile ground for IT start-ups, for which Guadalajara is becoming a hub.
(Interstitial tidbit: Tesla recruiting Mexican robotics engineers.)
Among many other things, Wizeline builds chatbots, roughly software that can intelligently answer questions, either by classic keyboard chat or voice, about products and services. These might, for example, replace the customer-service operators in Mumbai whose accent you cannot understand. This is definitely artificial intelligence, which means that you need real intelligence to figure out how to do it.
Wizeline is not close to unique in hiring local engineers. Bloomberg: “As global automakers pour billions of dollars into their Mexican factories, Marcos Perez is trying to make sure the nation’s future goes beyond assembly lines. The head of product development at Ford Motor’s Mexico unit, Perez has helped the company almost triple its local engineering staff, to nearly 1,000, since 2010. “
Says Pasarienski, “There is a fundamental difference between tech–what we are doing–and traditional manufacturing. To manufacture cars you need a billion-dollar factory, and engineers with a lot of experience. The factory belongs to a company outside of Mexico, which repatriates the profits.
“In what we are doing, AI, nobody has twenty years of experience because the field hasn’t existed that long. We can jump to the head of the line.”
Many tech-oriented people see things this way. I talked to Andreas Kraemer of MItaventures, a venture-capital firm looking to fund start-ups in Mexico. He too wants to tap into local talent. From the website: “Cross-border tech innovation: We see Mexico as the innovation bridge between Latin America and Silicon Valley. We believe there are emerging opportunities for tech startup successes between these regions”
The foregoing is corporate-speak, yes, but bear in mind that these men and countless others are hard-headed, very savvy tech-and-finance guys. They don’t do racial ideology. They do can-we-do-it and will-it-work. And what’s the bottom line.
Pasarienski gives an interesting rationale for Mexico as start-up territory. “It used to be that kids doing a startup lived in a house and built the start-up in the garage. Today things are so expensive in California that they would have to live in the garage. The cost of living eats up more capital than most people have. Mexico is much cheaper, both for rent and paying engineers,”
Actually, technical talent is visible to anyone who lives here in all manner of things. But the ideologues saying how stupid Mexicans are don’t live here. The leaders tend to be talking heads of the Manhattan-DC corridor and, to my certain knowledge, many have written for years of this country’s hopeless primitivism without bothering to visit. I think we call this “fake news.”
Jane’s: “While designated as Oaxaca-class vessels, a type designed by the Mexican Navy, the new OPVs are actually improved derivatives of this class, featuring several modifications, including a bulbous bow and a BAE Systems Bofors Mk.3 57 mm main gun.” Jane is not a girl. Jane’s is probably the world’s leading military magazine.
Further saith Jane’s: “Constructed at the Naval Shipyard (ASTIMAR) N°20 in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, Chiapas is the first of four OPVs that were ordered as part of the SEMAR 2013-2018 plan. The second, ARM Hidalgo (PO 166), has already been launched and is expected to be commissioned in 2017, while construction of the third ship has already started in Salina Cruz.”
Wired. HOW 4 MEXICAN IMMIGRANT KIDS AND THEIR CHEAP ROBOT BEAT MIT
Interesting story, this, from 2004 with here a gee-whizzy slightly lengthy video. Interpret it as you will. In short, four illegals in a lousy high school in Phoenix entered a university-level contest to build an underwater robot. They won. I won’t recap it lengthily here, but follow the links if interested. This was not a softball contest. The judges were heavyweights in submersible design from the US Navy and the petroleum industry.
The British automotive show Top Gear, having made snotty remarks about the very idea of the Mexicans making a sports car, received a great deal of flack, and so a staffer to test drive it in Mexico. He noted that first cars in a country were usually cheap family boxes and that it was unusual to go straight to a sports car. He concluded that it was a decent enough car despite some fixable teething problems.
Aaagh. Enough. The point here for anyone interested in the United States and its neighbor is that a lot of growth in tech ffelds is going on here which businessmen have most assuredly noticed. This has not gotten through to the recorded messages who write for Breitbart and its metastases.