As Fabio, an RoR developer from Brazil, who has been in the software industry for 10+ years, sharply said, tech skills are something that you can train later. Still, if a person has no good values or a not good personality, there is nothing you can do about it.
It was no surprise to us that the workplace cultures of various LatAm locations can be quite different. Within this interconnected region, a mosaic of beliefs shapes their work identities, making local working cultures unique.
From talking to software engineers from there, we got a detailed glimpse into what professional life looks like for some of the most talented individuals working remotely with the growing US tech companies today.
We conducted 20+ culture screening interviews with engineers from Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, and El Salvador for this research only.
Let’s take a look at what we’ve discovered.
Top shared values among Latin Americans
Among the shared merits that most interviewed engineers mentioned, you can find warm and approachable people. They show sympathy and kindness, are often open to others, and quite enthusiastic in their interactions. On the flip side, cold, competitive, and aggressive cultures lead them to stress and frustration.
Rene, a Ruby on Rails developer from El Salvador, recalls how he struggled ten years ago at his first company because of a toxic culture. Managers were insulting and sometimes very aggressive towards employees. Such cold social environments fail to create lasting teams and success, being something local people are most afraid of and never willing to tolerate.
Hard work is another value most Latin American workers share. They both value an opportunity to help their peers and expect the same support from their teammates.
Jose, a senior IT professional from Argentina, tells us about a past situation when there was a problem with the product he worked on. The team needed his help over standard working hours. He was open to providing the necessary support, jumped in, and worked for several weeks for 14 hours a day to come out of trouble.
Sure, this works for exceptional cases only, but commitment and openness to hard work are often a part of the journey for growing tech companies or startups.
Creativity is another outstanding trait common for locals. Latin Americans are highly valued in tech companies due to their creativity, as they are known to provide fresh insights and end results that are often more effective than traditional methods. Having a knack for making the mundane exciting is a skill many teams find attractive, so creativity can help Latin Americans stand out from other nations.
Developers’ cultural self-portrait. What matters most to them?
During the interviews, we asked engineers to describe their personal values and how they reflect in the job environment. The biggest number of respondents talked about empathy in this or that way, which allows us to confidently say this is the number-one value in the workplace for the region. Mainly, one of two respondents claimed being empathetic and helpful to others is necessary for them to feel fulfilled with the job.
With that, local engineers need to feel valued for their contribution to the work process. Daniel from Mexico, who has worked with MERN stack for a decade, shared that he would like to work with US startups because he doesn’t feel valued in local companies. Locals tend to give inaccurate feedback and don’t care much about their employees’ growth.
Teamwork and being ready to support peers were mentioned nearly as frequently as empathy. They value interacting with other workers on their tasks and exchanging ideas. In this regard, it’s difficult for Latin American developers to work in cultures that don’t appreciate group work and sociality.
Fernando from Brazil, who has been in software development for years, highlights that it’s not specifically a company culture that reduces a company’s team spirit. What happens is that sometimes it’s individual members who make that same company a bad place and negatively influence the whole team.
Last but not least, respect is a value that most engineers claim. Respect is a core value for Latin Americans in the workplace, both among colleagues and employers. Prioritization of family, relationship building, an open-door attitude to those who need help, and a sense of duty combined come together to create a professional atmosphere where respect is key.
What companies do Latin American developers dream of working for?
Well, first of all – Latin American people expect companies to be human and sometimes even compassionate. They are sure that some things matter more than numbers, workplace productivity, and velocity.
Luiz from Brazil, who worked for 17 years in software companies, recalls that once he had problems when his mother was very sick. The company he worked for didn’t respond in any way to help him overcome these challenging times. With that, he felt they lacked a human side, leaving him alone to cope with the stress and work issues.
Honesty and transparency are other major values their dream company should share. Jon, an RoR developer with 11 years of track record living in Brazil, had some negative experiences in a company he worked for in the past. He noticed that many people were not transparent, creating an environment where no one wanted to share thoughts or push the extra effort to reach common goals. Also, the previously mentioned Fernando encountered situations when people were unfairly fired, depriving team motivation and nudging them to leave.
Ownership and direct influence on products inspire developers there and push them towards getting a job in the US companies. For Halan, a Brazilian RoR, Java, and Typescript developer with 20+ years of experience, working directly with the product is a preferable option, though he used to work as a developer and consultant in various companies.
According to Charlie, an RoR developer from Costa Rica, management styles can completely change a company’s culture. In his professional history, he recalled the management he worked for sometimes was hard to approach and make them listen, so it was tough for him to agree on work. The company’s values always root in its management and core team, so it has to be professional and accountable. Nielson from Brazil, working in software development for a decade, says it’s a problem when managers make decisions that don’t work or end up in ways no one expects, leading team members to burnout.
Finally, communication is a key value more experienced developers put on the list. Most problems stem from misunderstanding and looking at the situation from different angles. Communicating the needs and standpoints of each other help to reach common ground and overcome differences. Fábio, an RoR developer from Brazil, says he had some difficult situations with teams or managers. Still, he always tried to find a solution, and communication was the primary key.
The bottom line
Latin Americans and the United States may not share a common language and love burritos instead of burgers, but we are split by very little regarding values, beliefs, and ideals. From Argentina to Mexico, we find that they hold the same principles, uniting around shared beliefs.