Meet Joanna Lupa, a Polish woman living in South America since 2000 and associated with Comarch in Chile for six years - she is currently an administrative manager in Santiago. We asked Asia about South American society and the local IT market.
Where did you get the idea of living in Chile? How was it to first arrive at Santiago?
In 1998, on an Erasmus scholarship in France, I met my future husband. After a year of acquaintance in Antibes, then in Lyon, and the next months of a virtual relationship, when I was finishing my studies and he was living in the USA and Chile, we decided to finally move together to one place.
I only spoke a little Spanish when I came to Chile, and French certainly helped me learn the language. Quite quickly, I found a job as an English teacher in one of the local institutes. Thanks to that, I met many foreigners in a similar situation to mine, as well as many Chilean students. The fact of having my own friends and new professional responsibilities certainly helped me to get used to this huge city.
What kind of country is Chile? What do you think is characteristic of the climate of this South American nation?
Working and living conditions in Santiago are similar to European standards. However, a few things surprised me upon arrival. First of all, very long working hours. The mentality here is more about how many hours you spend in the office rather than how productive you actually are during that time. The morning paper, coffee, long lunch breaks, another coffee, etc. - some people finish their working day even at 7 pm. Although the pandemic has firmly corrected the productivity problem at work, it is still noticeable in some enterprises.
Working in foreign companies looks different. For example, Comarch employees in Chile work on large projects, which forces us to focus on work and pay attention to the real effects of our actions.
After arriving in South America, I also had to get used to frequent compliments, the so-called 'piropos' falling from all sides. People in Poland are much more reserved in this field. In South America, taking off shoes at home is also not expected; women wear a wedding ring on the left hand; on the streets of Santiago, you can still meet bootblacks and organ grinders in the parks.
Chilean society is similar to other South American nations regarding punctuality - or rather the lack of it, both in social and business meetings. Although apparently, Chile is still "more serious" in this aspect than other Latin American countries.
What deoes the IT market look like in South America? How does Chile compare to the neighbouring countries?
In Chile, we have a very high level of service digitization. A great many things can easily be done online. Modern technologies have developed here even faster than in Poland or Western Europe, thanks to which it is a very absorptive market for technology companies worldwide, including Comarch.
It is also difficult to talk about Chile as a separate IT market in South America considering that our team currently works with clients from all over the continent. Comarch in Chile cooperates very closely with other Comarch teams in the area on many levels. We work together on projects for the largest companies in the region. I think that the IT market on the South American continent is developing very strongly. Society is open to new technologies, and companies take advantage of it.
In the recent past, Comarch provided IT support for one of the largest astronomical observatories in the world. Can you tell us about this project?
It was one of Comarch most significant projects in Chile in recent years. We provided technical support for the Paranal Observatory belonging to the European Southern Observatory. Almost half of our local employees were involved in this project (half of them assigned to Paranal, where the observatory was located, and the other half working fromthe ESO office in Santiago).
The telescope itself, or rather the astronomical center in Paranal, is fascinating. It is located in the Chilean Andes at an altitude of 2635 m above sea level in Cerro Paranal, just 12 km from the Pacific coast. The astronomical center is one of the largest on the continent. Thanks to its location, it also has a unique value for the world of science. Comarch employees in Chile had the opportunity to visit Paranal many times during their work.
What other large projects have Comarch implemented or is implementing in South America?
In the recent years, our team in Chile provided support for one of the ICT operators - Telefonica. It is one of the largest companies in this part of the world, providing the Internet, television signal, mobile telephony, and many others. In addition, the team from Santiago was responsible for supporting the implementation and operation of new-generation terrestrial antennas.
The Comarch team in Chile currently works for one of the largest airlines in South America. Moreover, in Mexico, we work with one of the largest companies in the Central America region. It is impossible to mention even just the most significant Comarch projects in South America. Several teams, including the one from Chile, work with dozens of clients across the continent.
Would you recommend working in South America?
Yes, indeed. Comarch in Chile, among others, is regularly involved in social life. For example, a few years ago, our office helped to organise a meeting of the Polish community on November 11 in Parque Intercomunal de la Reina, one of the largest parks in Santiago. A big group of people gathered then. There were also representatives of the Polish Embassy and the Union of Poles in Chile.
When choosing a job in Chile and, more broadly, in South America, social differences should be considered. They are much more visible than in Europe. For example, in cities next to each other, there are impoverished and dangerous districts as well as the so-called “Barrio Alto” – an exclusive area where the wealthiest people live.
Government institutions in South America do not provide the highest quality service, and it is necessary to rely on private enterprises. In Chile, this is well illustrated by the example of education. Private schools in Santiago are among the best on the continent. On the other hand, the level of education in public institutions needs to be improved.
Chile is a country of contrasts, where a good situation is necessary. But in addition, it is a beautiful country with over 300 days of sunshine and a gentle maritime climate.