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Chavez: At GECI, we have the full spectrum of engineering resources that includes a good mix of both males and females. We have designers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, quality engineers, configuration management, etc. The way the team works is very simple. Individuals know that it starts with you. Have a positive attitude, have full team buy-in, and by all means, have communication, communication, communication.
Dack: Can you describe the resource? The basis of my question revolves around the stereotype of the engineer from India as highly educated; maybe it's very economical to hire very educated people to do the work. Tell us about that.
Stephen: All of our team members at the GECI are very educated, hardworking, talented, dedicated and dependable team players. The India culture is a peaceful, spiritual one. Most engineers are courteous, extremely friendly, generous and eager to succeed, not only as individuals but even more as a team. Education is extremely important and very competitive in India. All of our PCB designers there are either IPC CID or CID+ certified; UTC Aerospace Systems values the importance of the IPC industry standards and education. As for the economics of it all, in general, the cost of an India resource is about one-fourth in comparison to a U.S. resource. That is why many U.S. companies have set up business units in Bangalore. I’m told by many of my local GECI colleagues that Bangalore is also referred to as the new “Silicone City” or “IT City.”
Dack: You mentioned that as a team leader, you're willing to work late into the night or adjust your hours or your team's hours so that it gives the team in India more normal working hours. What are the typical working hours for a PC board designer in India?
Chavez: Typically, because of the very heavy traffic due to the city’s population density and growing city infrastructure, many companies will bus their employees from specific focal points throughout the city to help mitigate the traffic and employees’ daily commute. Since it’s extremely expensive to live in the city of Bangalore, even by U.S. standards, many people choose to live outside of the city, which causes lengthy daily commutes. In many cases, people will travel up to two hours each way to and from work. Usually, PCB designers at GECI will start around 7–7:30 a.m. and end their shift around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m., as dictated by the company bus schedule. In some instances, a designer may not follow the typical working schedule because he or she is willing to work whatever hours are required to get the task done. In those instances, an individual may drive into work or take a taxi or city bus.
Dack: Stephen, tell us about some of the cultural differences. I know there's the American designer and there's the Asian designer. Tell us how the Indian designer is different or the same.
Chavez: The difference, in my opinion, is that the Indian designer will always maintain his or her composure and be very professional and respectful at all times. Where they lack in experience, they more than make up for it in knowledge of the tools. In my experience, when I initially started working with them, they would follow instructions exactly as I laid them out and not deviate or question them, even if they didn’t fully understand them. If I would ask, “Do you understand?” I would always get a “yes” response, along with a head nod, even if they did not. It took a bit of time to get away from that mentality and to draw them out of their shell. Once we got past these cultural differences, we truly started creating magic. It is amazing what can be accomplished even though we are thousands of miles apart; we function as if we are one. I always say that it is an honor to work with such colleagues and that I can truly call them my friends.
Dack: How about some of the physical constraints in operating work in India? I think I heard you mention challenges like rolling blackouts, and cows that cause traffic jams. Tell us about some of these things.
Chavez: That was a surprise to me on my first visit to India. I usually travel to India once a year, sometimes twice. The traffic congestion is a shocker, but the biggest thing is the rolling power blackouts. I was there last October, and in one day I counted twelve. Two days later I counted twelve again. It's a challenge there, but the majority of companies mitigate that by having backup generators, so work loss is usually a non-issue. It helps that several of them have laptops so they have battery backups as well. Many families in Bangalore have battery backups or power generators in their homes so they have power continuously. So it’s not a big deal, but for someone coming from the U.S., it is surprising to witness. As for the cows causing traffic jams, in India cows are sacred so they roam freely about the city. That means they may end up walking in any street or open highway. Traffic is bad enough. Add in freely roaming cows to the mix and it’s definitely a sight to see.
Dack: I don't want to get into any political differences between the countries and I certainly don't want to get into any proprietary information with your company, but what can you tell us about benefits and pay?
Chavez: What I'll say is that for the majority, the pay is about one-fourth of what you would receive in the U.S.
Dack: But still, from a standard of living standpoint, it's equal?
Chavez: I would say that it is not equal compared to the standard of living in the U.S., but it is fair to their standards. Of course, anybody in the world wants to make more money and do better for their families—all of us do!
Dack: How competitive is the workplace? With the understanding that Bangalore could be a very competitive workplace as far as jobs go, are there many engineers and few jobs, or is it just the opposite?
Chavez: It's just the opposite. There are so many opportunities for engineers with the right talent and experience. As a matter of fact, there are many companies moving over there and taking advantage of the talent and the resources. I don't mean taking advantage in a bad way; I mean, the cost is cheaper and they can get more engineers for the money. Benefits are similar such as medical and dental coverage, just the way you would have in the U.S. Yes, the pay scale is different compared to the U.S., but for the most part there are many opportunities for engineers. Finding a good job in a good company in Bangalore is not as difficult to achieve as it is in the U.S.
Dack: Stephen, you've given us really good insight into the cultures, the workplace, and the workers at UTC Aerospace Systems in India. Thank you very much. Also I want to congratulate you on your new status as a Designer Council executive board member. What are some of your goals and aspirations on the board?
Chavez: Since I have been the vice president of our local IPC chapter in Phoenix for several years now, I feel very strongly about IPC and what it stands for. So it was an honor to be selected as a new executive board member. My long-term goal is to make a difference and to help take IPC into the future and grab the next generation of engineers and share the passion and bring it back to where IPC was when I first started in 2003. I heard the buzz of what it was just to attend a convention, much less any IPC training or certification courses. There was so much excitement just to be a part of IPC and to be involved at that time. I'm hoping that with a lot of effort, positive thinking, and a positive attitude, we can make a difference and bring that buzz back to IPC. That's my goal—to try to do whatever I can to help IPC Designers Council move into the future and be sustaining.
Dack: We certainly wish you the best. We wish you the best within your company, and within your teams, and in your endeavors with the Designer Council. Thank you very much.
Chavez: Thank you very much and thanks for allowing me to offer insight into my international team in India. It is a great thing to be a part of.