Offshore yourself: Making the move to S?o Paulo
(InfoWorld Daily Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Brazil's two most famous cities are Rio de Janeiro and S?o Paulo. One is for fun, and one is for business. S?o Paulo, as you might have guessed, is the city if you want a variety of good work opportunities, according to Debbie Guerra, vice president of operations for Unisys Global Outsourcing and Infrastructure Services. "There has been a 15- to 20-year migration of global and national businesses from Rio to S?o Paulo," says Guerra.
But S?o Paulo is also one of the more beautiful cities in Latin America, she adds.
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What's hot: In S?o Paulo, there is a significant demand from the software development side and widespread support for everything open source, from Linux as the operating system to ODF as the document format of choice. The government of Brazil has gotten behind open source in a big way, and it has invested heavily in open source technology for public sector organizations.
There is also a great need for those with skills in networking, communications, collaboration, and mobility. "Mobility particularly because the telecommunications infrastructure on the mobile side is more advanced in Brazil because they don't have the same restrictions that we have here in the U.S.," Guerra says.
Outsourcing spans everything from IT to distributed infrastructure, application outsourcing, and business process outsourcing for the financial service industry. "Payment skills are real hot," Guerra says.
U.S. and multinational tech companies: All the major tech companies -- including Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, Infosys, Satyam, Softek, Tata Consultancy Services, Unisys, and Wipro -- have their headquarters in S?o Paulo. The bulk of telecom firms are also in S?o Paulo, though there are a few in Rio as well. The major local IT services firm is CPM Braxis. The university town of Campinas, 61 miles away, is also a major hub for tech companies, including IBM.
Although many multinationals have subsidiaries in Brazil, the hard fact is these companies mostly hire Brazilians. "Brazil is a complex country, and typically they don't encourage foreign professionals to work there," says Gabriel Rozman, executive vice president for emerging markets at Tata Consultancy Services.
Red tape: Brazil has employer-friendly labor policies, but ex-pats may have a hard time getting a job even if they are sponsored by a multinational. Such sponsorship is required to get a temporary work visa. If your local Brazilian consulate accepts the application, the permit will be good for two years.
The work-permit process is extensive, according to both Rozman and Guerra; the hiring company must show why it needs a foreigner rather than a Brazilian. If the company can prove the need, it takes about two or three months to acquire the necessary work permit.
Language: It is very important to know Portuguese to work in Brazil. Although quite a bit of English is spoken among upper managers, to be an effective IT worker, you should know the local language. If the company sells to the U.S. market, you can get a job without knowing Portuguese, according to Peter Harrison, CEO of GlobalLogic. But if it sells to the domestic market, you have to know the local language. "Focus on companies that are selling to the U.S. market," Harrison advises.
Outside of work, it's also key to know that Spanish is most people's second language, not English.
Financials: Brazil long had a volatile monetary market with hyperinflation. That has changed. But with stability has come a lower exchange rate, effectively cutting the dollar equivalent of salaries in half (from 3.1 reals to the dollar just a few years ago to 1.6 today).
IT salaries are good based on local standards. If you are paid in local currency and spend locally, your salary will be quite comfortable. A software engineer, programmer, or developer with one to four years experience can expect to make about 88,000 reals a year, or $55,000. If you have monetary obligations back in the United States, such as child support or a mortgage, the exchange rate can make living in S?o Paulo far more difficult. Of course, if you are brought in by a multinational, the salary may be based on your U.S. wages and not on local standards.
An apartment with Internet, cable, and a cleaning lady twice a week can average about $500 per month. S?o Paulo has world-class restaurants, but an average meal with a drink still costs less than $20. A Coke costs $1.67, a local beer $2. A pair of men's shoes costs $48, while a cell phone costs $90. Bread is a bit steep at $4.83.
Note that workers on a permit must receive a portion of their salary in Brazil (such as deposited into a local bank) and pay Brazilian taxes.
Family: If you are accustomed to big cities and the problems big-city life has to offer, S?o Paulo will present no special challenges, according to Guerra. "It is like New York City, Hong Kong, or Mexico City," she says.
However, adds Guerra, "it does have a unique set of security issues." Basically, a large component of Brazil's population is very poor, and there is a great deal of theft and something the locals call "lightning kidnapping," in which victims are carjacked, driven around to ATMs, and forced to withdraw money.
If you have a teenage daughter, you would not give her anywhere near the level of freedom to hang out in the mall or go see a movie alone as you would in the United States. To be safe, children should call when they get to their destination and call when they're leaving, she advises. "It changes the way you interact a bit," says Guerra.
If you do move to S?o Paulo with your family, there are many international schools -- American, British, German, and Swiss -- all of which are excellent academic institutions.
Daily life and culture: Brazil is a mixture of Portuguese and African cultures. The lifestyle is slower than anywhere in the United States, and business negotiations require more personal contact and time to complete than in America.
Brazilians are very warm and welcoming; you can quickly make lasting friendships, says Guerra. "The population is happier, friendly, and they have wonderful food, great music."
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