Casting Call

The challenges of finding IT leaders to handle localization in far-flung regions.

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Going Home

Though not the only option, an obvious place to look for senior IT executives who can think across cultures is amid the growing number of foreign-born candidates who have been educated in the U.S. or otherwise steeped in U.S. culture but are amenable to moving back to their homelands. "In many ways, the ideal solution and the first pool to look at is those expatriates who have lived in the U.S. for 10 to 15 years. These people are truly the product of both countries," notes Umesh Ramakrishnan, vice chairman at executive search firm Christian & Timbers in New York.

Less than ideal, however, are those candidates who officially hail from another country but have resided almost exclusively in the U.S. "If the person falls short on in-country culture, that is disastrous," Ramakrishnan remarks. "On the other hand, if an executive is able to solve problems in his or her own country but has trouble communicating with superiors in the U.S., in my mind, that is trainable."

Despite some difficulties in finding employees truly familiar with both cultures, corporate hiring officials and professional search firms are now looking at substantial pools of expatriates willing to exit the U.S. for the right opportunity, according to Mark Minevich, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Enamics Inc., co-chairman of the BTM Institute and co-author of a forthcoming book on globalization.

"We have seen that the movement of highly educated IT talent from developing countries to developed countries has had significant economic, social and cultural implications. Now it is in reverse, with IT talent returning to their homes in developing countries and creating new economic environments," Minevich observes.

To many expatriates who have grown used to U.S. lifestyles, however, returning to a developing country must be well worth it. "There are a lot of practical considerations here. It is hard enough to get someone to move down the street, much less across the world," says Shawn Banerji, a recruiter in the technology sector at New York-based executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates Inc.

Financial concerns are the chief reason a lot of expatriates will balk, Banerji says. "These individuals realize that replicating their executive urban or suburban lifestyle will be incredibly expensive, even in locations such as India or Asia," he says. "Forget that you get [several] rupees for every dollar; you've got to spend way more in India to get what we have here."

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