Startups – Latin America’s Opportunity

8 min read

Having a job and starting a career are two quite different things. It can be very difficult to find the right position to advance your career, as opposed to simply paying the bills. There is a reason the expression “get your foot in the door” is so often used – in order to obtain the job you want, you must push yourself forward, and seek opportunities in unconventional ways, or unconventional places. If you are from an emerging economy such as Latin America, this can be especially true. Startups may be the answer to this challenge.

Why Startups?

Established organizations with multiple products or services can be very difficult for someone just starting out to gain employment. The job you get might be only marginally related to the career you want. This in turn means that the experience you gain might not be extremely helpful in further opportunities, beginning a cycle of lateral moves, rather than advancements in your career. 

A Startup, on the other hand, is by definition trying to prove itself in the marketplace in the same way that you are trying to prove yourself in your chosen field. A Startup is a young organization that is dedicated to the development of a single product or service, bringing that product to market, and validating a scalable business model. They are often largely funded by their entrepreneurial founder and are looking for the biggest bang for their buck when it comes to talent. Whether funded by the founder or by angel investors, the need to keep costs down means that they are more willing to gamble on unproven resources with the right skill sets. They are also often willing to invest more in resources that will stay and grow with them. This means more one-on-one training/mentoring and possibly investment in education/skillset. If there is a gap in knowledge within the team, a startup knows that finding a compatible resource might be as costly and time-consuming as training one, and therefore will provide an opportunity to someone they already know who works well within their team. 

Another advantage to Startups is that they are often trying to do something new, to break the mold, and to work with cutting-edge technology. In other words, they may very well be working with something that could potentially become the new standard for an industry someday. This means that the experience gained at a Startup is likely to be a highlight of any future resume. 

In addition to this, Startups are always looking to attract talent, which means that they often provide flexible working schedules, and are open to remote work and other benefits. This often attracts top talent to learn from and work with, and along the way, provides the potential for an ideal work-life balance. 

As you can see, Startups are ideal for almost any young jobseekers looking for opportunities to launch a career. They are more likely to obtain the training/experience they seek than at an entry-level position elsewhere and have both the opportunity to grow within the organization and to improve their chances of landing their dream job elsewhere.

Hiring in Latin America

For a long time, it seemed that Latin America (LATAM) was left behind in this age of globalization. Even today, Latin America has not fully emerged, and many countries remain in a third-world status. Poor government, poor education, and lack of stability and security are just some of the factors that have prevented LATAM from flourishing as it should. Many countries have made strong strides in the past 20 years, some pushing through internal difficulties, and others growing their global presence. With improvements in education and infrastructure, in the last ten years, Latin America has managed to make itself a strong candidate for international investments. 

However, it is not just international business coming to Latin America that provides strong nearshore opportunities. The pandemic has given rise to a new employment trend that provides immense opportunities to young Latam jobseekers – remote work. And Startups are at the forefront of these opportunities. According to Y Combinator, the WaaS (Work at a Startup) platform has seen a 6.5x increase in the number of remote-friendly jobs, with 70% of listings being remote or remote-friendly positions. Other sectors are seeing increases in remote work as well, but not quite to the same extent. This means that with a steady internet connection, opportunities for young Latam resources to further their career are now global, not just regional.  

As you can see, if you combine the benefits of Startups described above with the increased opportunity for remote work at said Startups, you can see why the time is right for Latin Americans to launch a promising career in their field of choice. But what can you do to improve your chances in the global market?

Better English, Better Jobs

Increased international investment has led to international opportunities for job seekers as well, and not just in the form of local job opportunities. Investment in network infrastructure has made remote work more accessible, and Latin America has pushed a more extensive knowledge of foreign languages in its education system, notably English. Increased investment in language education, particularly English, presents an immense opportunity for Latin American job seekers.

As mentioned before, in many countries in Latin America, access to quality education can be lacking. However, with the efforts to globalize and promote international investment, as well as infrastructure improvements, language education is one area that is becoming increasingly accessible. It is simply a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity. Increased access to the internet and local advances in technology means that it is easier than ever to access language education. If you can avoid the distractions of the entertainment industry and social media, there is an unprecedented opportunity to learn.

Whether in terms of apps on the phone, computer software, or online resources, the opportunities are endless, not only in terms of accessibility but in the tangible benefits another language can bring to your career.

Any 2nd language can help your chances to land a better career, but for Latin Americans, learning English improves your chances of landing your dream job significantly. English is the lingua franca of international business, by far surpassing other globally spoken languages as a second or business language. However, the reason it is particularly recommended as a proficiency for Latin Americans is: 

  • A growing number of international businesses looking to expand business opportunities in Latin America
  • According to a study by OCCEducacion, 80% of job listings in Latin America require a proficient English level with only 20% of professionals having this capability. Proficiency in English will immediately boost your chances of getting hired.
  • Rise of remote opportunities due to the pandemic – with more and more access to high-speed internet, Latin America can take advantage of the increase in remote work and international freelance opportunities
  • English proficiency is on the rise, particularly during the pandemic, with record numbers of Latam people learning the language – you don’t want to be left behind.

Personal Experience

The opportunities inherent in Startups, and the importance of a second language are not merely an academic abstract, or the observation of a trend. With Flatirons Development, I have personally seen the benefits of working for a Startup (Flatirons Development is not just an agency — they build their own products, too!), in terms of professional and personal development. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime while in my last semester of college when I was referred for a job at this American Startup. 

To be an undergraduate student, working for an international company, completely remote, paid in USD$, has definitely been the highlight of my personal career.  I was able to do my final graduation project about Flatirons Development, and whilst working on it, realized quickly how lucky I was to have this opportunity. Flatirons Development provided me with opportunities to work with new technologies and to take on responsibilities I simply would not have afforded at a larger organization. I truly believe that the experience has made me a more competent, well-rounded, and confident professional, ready to tackle whatever challenges the world throws at me. This would not have been possible without the hard work I put in to improve my English language skills, skills which I am honing to this day. I firmly trust that having a second language provided me with an opportunity to grow that would not have been afforded to most new graduates in LATAM. 

For the reasons outlined above, it is safe to say that Startups offer huge opportunities for any LATAM college graduates looking to begin their careers, provided they are willing to overcome local challenges with a strong will to learn, particularly if learning a new language. Opportunities are now global, and it is vital to place yourself in a position to succeed globally. 

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