Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Expat moves back

A friend posted on Facebook (FB) an article in the Argentine Post about Americans fleeing the economic crisis and moving to Argentina. It seems Argentina continues to be a destination of choice for many who are seeking greener pastures. For my part, I have met, through our monthly Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office, more Americans coming down on short-term visits and scouting missions from the US to check out the possibility of setting themselves up longer-term in Buenos Aires. Whether they decide to stay or not, only time will tell.

We, however, are getting ready to move to the US in the next couple months. San Diego, California to be exact. The timing is obviously dubious, but that's life. My girl friend got accepted to Scripps to do a Phd in Oceanography. Scripps is one of the best in this field, so it's an opportunity not to be missed.

Because I have never lived in San Diego and have no contacts there, I'm treating our move like a move to a new country.

What this means:

1. Pre-search online
I'm conducting google searches to figure out what life is like. What neighborhoods will be on our short-list to live in. What is the cost of living so I can build a realistic budget. What to expect in terms of transportation and social life. For this information, there is a helpful relocation forum called I found there are a lot of East Coasters who ask many of these same questions to local San Diegans.

2. Reaching out selectively to my network
One advantage I have over expats looking to move abroad is that at least I have a network already in place in-country. My network may be mostly in Boston and Buenos Aires, (see my "touch graph" map on FB above), but reaching out to some close friends and family is starting to bear some fruit. An ex-coworker and good friend from Japan put me in touch with a an ex-coworker of his that works in San Diego. We've already spoken via Skype. It was an excellent opportunity to confirm a lot of my pre-search notions, get additional insights from a person on the ground and have a contact for my future scouting visit. My mom also reminded me of a former high school classmate who lived in San Diego for a few years. This classmate and I have a coffee meeting setup for when I'm back home this summer and has already graciously put me in touch with her brother via FB who still lives in San Diego.

3. Casting a wider net via Social Media
I'm making a concerted effort to connect with people in San Diego via Twitter and scouting local blogs. Another advantage to moving to the US is the world of bloggers and twitter is much larger than Buenos Aires giving me more opportunities to create connections and initiate interactions. For example, per Twellow here are over 7K people on Twitter in San Diego vs less than 2K in Buenos Aires. Of course the majority of tweets in San Diego are in English which makes it all the more easy. In fact, I've already contacted a person who plays in a roller hockey league there!

4. Preparing to reach out to my entire network, ie Facebook
Interestingly, I haven't until very recently posted anything about our move on FB and that's only because FB now publishes Wall comments on the News Feed (which I allow). Facebook is my most powerful social networking tool, filled with a plethora of close friends and distant acquaintances. One would think facebook would be the first place to post. Normally I'd agree. But I'm holding out a bit longer to better prepare to catch those important fleeting glances.

Before announcing on Facebook, I've taken steps to integrate FB with my online job search which mainly resides on LinkedIn. That's right. The line between professional contacts and friend contacts has been officially blurred in my case. Why? Facebook has a much wider reach because I have been accepting friend requests from casual and professional acquaintances as well as some online only personalities. All of which I manage distinctly through FB privacy settings. For a tutorial on FB privacy settings read this article. In contrast, LinkedIn is populated with only people I have actually worked with, so in my case, it is a smaller universe of potential contacts.

a. LinkedIn
Even though it is more limited in reach, LinkedIn is more career focused and has become almost as addictive as facebook. Before letting all my FB friends know about our move, I've revamped my LinkedIn profile, including the sending of a request to ex-coworkers, ex-bosses and ex-clients to write a recommendation. I've also posted my intentions to move to San Diego on my status. I've had a few of my contacts even send me email asking what's up and offering help.

As a second phase of LinkedIn I've joined groups. I've selected groups that are relevant to me either professionally or geographically. The idea is to interact in these groups and build a professional brand through the demonstration of one's knowledge. To be honest, I haven't found too many of the conversations very engaging, and many somewhat gimmicky. (Swampland in Florida anyone?) but it's early.

Now that my LinkedIn profile is ready, I've moved on to integrating it with my Facebook profile. I've added a small blurb about the move and ask for referrals in the "about me". I've also put a LinkedIn badge and a Professional Tab for those looking for a more complete work history. For other useful business tools for Facebook, I suggest you read this Mashable article.

b. Blog and twitter integration
You'll notice, I had taken some additional steps already for this blog by adding a LinkedIn badge, a gadget that links to my facebook and twitter profiles (also revamped to announce my employment search) as well as a gadget to read past tweets. All of this is to create a web of links and content where I can catch the attention of my busy friends, new contacts as well as make life a little easier for those who will research my profile when they consider me for a position.

5. Traditional Job Search
Is the traditional job search dead? No way. The key difference between my social media actions and traditional job search is the measure of control I feel I have and the inevitable overlap that occurs between the two.

For traditional job search I'm using:

a. Job Boards
I've created a list of every job board I can find. Here in no particular order:

Idealist (non-profit)
realmatch tech jobs - paid
Ladders- paid

What I've found out quite quickly is that large job boards are a waste of time right now in the fields where I'm looking. After a couple of weeks, you see many of the same low quality jobs where they need a tsunami of resumes to fill them. Am I giving up on job boards, not entirely. For the time being, I keep tabs on them with key word email alerts. I find SimplyHired the best for this. But in general, job boards are a lower priority on my to do list until the economy starts to rebound.

b. Recruiters, professional organizations and job fairs
I'm digging down another level and looking for San Diego based recruiters, recruiters in my profession, local professional organizations, networking events and job fairs. I'll do some pre-contact and also keep them on my radar for when I do my own scouting in San Diego this summer

c. Targeting specific companies
Most companies with jobs, are not posting them on mass job boards now. They are either posting them internally or on their own career websites. So I'm targeting them and my network for inside connections while checking their websites regularly. In fact, as I write this, a contact at a former company I worked at just sent me their internal announcement of job openings. How about that!

d. Alumni organizations
I'm updating my profile on my alumni websites for my past schools, perusing the directories for alumni living in SD and checking out the career centers

6. Keeping in touch with my inner expat and inner entrepreneur
Are there jobs to be found? If you read the newspaper, it's armageddon. California in particular is in dire straits. So what are you to do? Over the years as an Expat, I've had to take initiative, be creative and be persistent when macroeconomic conditions are not going my way. So moving back to the States where I have a wider network, more support and a common culture, will be a piece of cake in comparison.

Being an entrepreneur means more than starting your own business. It means you need to be resilient and an eternal optimist. A job would be great, but according to many reports, the average time to find a job is 5 months. The NYtimes also points out that because of the lack of jobs, many are getting in touch with their inner entrepreneur. So like a blood hound on the hunt, I'll keep my nose to ground while keeping my eyes, ears and mind open so no opportunity slips by.

Have a resource or a connection you'd like to share? Throw a dog a bone!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office gets first podcast mention

I love it when cool things happen without you knowing about it. It's makes it even cooler when you stumble upon them. Today I had this happen when listening to a new podcast called "Awaken", by Mattias Dutto and Alexis Garbarz. I decided to give it a try since I have met Mattias and his wife Lindsay a couple of times, and had heard Alexis is behind OLX, a popular free classifieds website. I figured at the very least it would expand my podcast listening beyond my current selections of NPR On Point radio, This American Life, 60 Minutes and the Bugle all of which are in the English language. I wanted to add an Argentine Spanish podcast to the mix.

I'm very happy I did. In only their 4th progam, the production was top notch, the commentary lively and most of all lots of Buena Onda (good vibes) . They sound like they are having fun and you can't help but have fun with them.

I also found it very interesting to get an Argentine perspective on a number of topics ranging from movies to social media. The cherry on top was when they spoke about events going on in the city and to my surprise Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office got a nice mention and a high recommendation on our choice of venue.

What podcasts do you recommend?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office Wed, Jan28. 19:30-22:30

We are back for our first After Office of 2009!

CARNAL on Niceto Vega 5511, WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28 from 19:30-22:30.

I'm very excited that our group continues to grow and our turn out to this After Office just gets bigger and better every month. Our official group on Face Book is about to crack 250, plus we have another 20-30 on our mailing list. Because the group has now expanded to a point beyond our collective circles of friends and acquaintances, we will be encouraging the use of name tags. This will not only help new people identify us, but also help Name Retention Disorder (NRD) sufferers like me.

We highly encourage you to bring friends who have or are interested in StartUps, especially your local Argentine friends so we can have a good mix of perspectives, opinions and more opportunities to make valuable connections.

Look forward to seeing you all there!

Estaremos lanzando el inicio del primer After Office Buenos Aires del año el Miércoles 28 de Enero en Carnal. Asegurate de acercarte y mirar en la terraza.

Este es un gran evento de networking para conocer otros empresarios, freelancers y candidatos. No olvides tus tarjetas de presentación.

Espero verte allá!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Women in Science and real-time Oceanography

The New York Times ran an article recently, "In ‘Geek Chic’ and Obama, New Hope for Lifting Women in Science". Boiled down, the article explains that while the number of women in the sciences has grown in leaps and bounds over the decades, there are still not enough. Those women that do manage to make a career in the sciences, do so at a cost of higher rates of divorce and fewer children. With President Obama's stating in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place”, many scientists are hopeful not only for more research funds, but changes in policy to support women who choose science as a career.

Why does this matter?
In addition to running that connects Spanish-speaking tutors and students for academic support in Math and Science among other subjects, I have a special interest in this topic because the woman in my life is a budding scientist in Physical Oceanography. Physical Oceanography examines "oceanic motions, from small-scale mixing processes to basin-wide circulation patterns...that requires a thorough understanding of fluid mechanics and the laws of thermodynamics." In layman terms, understanding these processes and how they interact with the atmosphere are incredibly important if we are to reveal the truth and consequences of global warming.

Being located in Argentina, the research topic for her thesis has centered around chlorophyl phytoplankton blooms in the Patagonian Sea, (a crucial link in the food chain) where she authored a chapter for the Conservation of the Patagonia Sea, (in Spanish, Exec Summary is in English)

Currently she is at sea on the RV Revelle for the DIMES project, a joint US/UK field program to study mixing in the Southern Ocean. What has been fascinating is keeping track of their progress through real-time updates and Surf Swell forecasts. The ship is even equipped with a few webcams that snap photos in various sectors of the ship every 10 minutes. So one can see what a real oceanographic research expedition is all about. I am guessing once Telefe (a local broadcast channel) gets a look at this, we will have our next season of Big Brother mercilessly upon on us. :-S

So to all those interested in the sciences, it does not necessarily mean a life in a lab or behind a computer (though those options exist as well). Oceanography is a rapidly growing field and as the article "Sea of Dreams" in Nature magazine does a good job of pointing out, new careers are opening in environmental, commercial ventures, government, international agencies and more.

P.S. The pictures of the icebergs they are passing and the equipment they are deploying are particularly impressive.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Kayak Startup and a relaxing day on the Tigre

As I mentioned in a previous post, most people try to escape the city in the summer. The heat and humidity, noise and pollution of down town can really wear one down. However, if you do find yourself in the city, you need to make the best of it and a new Kayak startup El Dorado Kayak ( might be just the thing.

El Dorado is the name of a local fish found in the Tigre. I've been kayaking with El Dorado twice now. Once I went with my girlfriend and my parents who were on a visit. The second time I took a couple of good friends from Boston who were here on their honeymoon.

What is special about El Dorado Kayak is that they take you away from downtown Tigre, about an hour by Bus Boat or 20-25 min by private charter, to the island off a sparsely traveled canal where a few locals live.

Each time we went, Chapa, Martin and Carol took great care of us. Upon arrival you start off with a little snack which I didn't think we would need, but when you get are hungry! Next we got outfitted with life jackets, adjusted the seats in the kayaks and got a kayak lesson from Martin who was our guide on both trips.

The next thing you know the kayaks are in the water and off you go. What is especially nice is that their launching point is towards the end of a narrow canal so it is very peaceful and calm. Also they use wide, double kayaks which are very stable. My parents, who are not frequent kayakers, were very comfortable in them. The biggest challenge for us was deciding who will kayak together. I'm happy to report both my parents and the honeymooners are all still married. :-P

The kayaking itself can be very relaxing like when I went with my parents. We meandered down the delta in absolutely no hurry at all, taking lots of photos. Or it can be more invigorating like when I went with my friends and we hauled ass for parts just for the fun of it.

Regardless, each time I have gone I have had what I can only describe as a moment of zen. It must be the combination of green and quiet. I felt extremely relaxed and amazed this change of scenery is so close and yet seems to transport you so far from the stress of the city.

Once back at the island, the asado (barbeque) is in full gear and we ate and drank while chatting away. Some others took advantage of the hammock or a dip in the delta. Time does fly and before your know it, you realize you have to head back to reality. If you are looking for an up close and personal view of the delta, I doubt you can find a better way.

What recommendations do you have for spending the day out in Tigre?

Full disclosure: the folks at El Dorado Kayak are good friends of ours. So I do hope you give them a try. They recommend week days as the delta is a lot less busy. If you do go, like any startup, they would highly appreciate anything you can do to help them get the word out such as writing a testimonial, sending them some photos for their website, writing a blog post and of course word of mouth and word of Facebook, twitter and whatever else to your friends and followers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top Five survival tips for spending New Year's in Punta del Este, Uruguay

Happy 2009!

Expats find out very quickly that Buenos Aires is not the IN place to be for the holidays. The city empties as people find family and friends anywhere else they can. The most popular place to head, of course, is the beach. There are options in Argentina such as Pinamar and Mar del Plata, which I'm sure have their supporters, but the fashionable place to see and be seen is Punta del Este in Uruguay.

When you go to Punta del Este you need to clarify if you are staying on the peninsula of Punta del Este or if you are out on one of the other beaches like La Barra or Jose Ignacio etc. These recommendations are for those who are staying on the peninsula of Punta del Este. After 3 years of navigating crowds during New Year's on the peninsula with family and friends, we have slowly managed to turn this art into a science.

Why stay on the Peninsula?
What it has is infrastructure (lots of shops, restaurants, and beach with mostly calm water, all within walking distance) As you will find, this is attractive to families with small children and seniors. Secluded and natural it is not. For that you should head further north to Cabo Polonio.

Top recommendations for Expats:

When to go?

Shoulder season is the best time to be on the peninsula. Late November/early December and Easter are perfect since the weather is usually still good, and their are no crowds. New Year's in particular, all bets are off. It is a zoo. So the name of the game for New Year's is crowd and ripoff avoidance.

Eat Fish
After spending the year eating nothing but the cheap and plentiful meat in Argentina, fish is a welcome respite. The king of fish to eat in Punta del Este is Corvina Negra (Black Drum) and the place to eat it is at La Marea in the port. They cook the fish over the grill with the scales on one side and with a thick provencal topping of parsley and garlic which steams the flesh. One piece is enough for two people who order a couple sides. The price is very reasonable which makes it an even rarer find.

My other recommendation is right next door. El Artico. This restaurant is a fast seafood type place perfect for your after the beach munchies. The highlights are the Rabas (Fried Calamaries) and new this year, they added fried chipirones (squid) which were also scrumptious. Want to fill up a little more, buy some extra bread and make little fried calamari sandwiches.

Bring white wine and then drink Clerico or Medio y Medio
Argentine wines are very expensive in Uruguay. Bring over a couple of bottles in your bag and you won't regret it. The temptation to bring red wine will be great, but with the heat and the fish, white wine is the way to go. Once you go through your bottles, try the Clerico (white wine Sangria) or find some Media Media (half and half), an Uruguayan invention which is simply a blend of white wine and spumante. It's very refreshing.
If you drink beer, Patricia is the one. It is brewed by Salus who also sells the best bottled spring water you will ever taste.

Hit the beach early
The beaches on the peninsula during New Year's remind me of a National Geographic special where you see the thousands of seals laying next to and on top of each other. The key to hitting the beach is getting there early. From 8-11am or so, the beach is empty since everyone went out eating and partying the night before. It's also the best sun.

If you have some transport, even better. There are some very nice and less crowded beaches on the Mansa side over near Casa Pueblo. One of our favorites is Las Grutas which is about 15-20 minutes by car. For New Year's make sure you reserve your car far in advance and prepare to stretch your wallet.

Speaking of transport, don't try to save a few bucks and go the long way to Punta del Este by bus. The bridge that connects Uruguay and Argentina over at Gualeguaychú is a popular place for locals to set up road blocks, especially during the high season, in protest of the cellulose processing factory that Uruguay built on their side of the river. .

Get a nice work out
The salt air and sun is a great contrast to the dreary city heat of Buenos Aires. A relaxing way to work out is to walk the peninsula. The far end of the peninsula has smaller houses so you don't feel as urbanized as in the center. There is a walkway next to the ocean where you can burn off those extra calories and take in the sunset. The best kind of multi-tasking! For the more athletic, keep on going to the front of the Conrad Casino where they have an open, outdoor gym (pull up bars, push up stations etc)

So there you have my top 5 survival tips for Punta del Este. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

5 differences with Christmas in Buenos Aires

What is different about Christmas in Buenos Aires? Well this depends a lot on one's personal experiences. Here are a few of mine:

Weather: We have a sunny 80 degrees this morning. I just skyped my Mom and Dad in Massachusetts and they are enjoying a balmy 40 degrees with hopes of seeing the ground after some recent snow storms.

Food: Typical Christmas fixings here are Lechon (suckling pig in the photo) and ensalada russa (russian salad) which is potato, carrots, and peas mixed with mayonnaise. My family has always been non-traditional with our holiday meals and luckily this seems to be holding so far here. (I am not a big fan of ensalada russa.) Another item you see a lot of are Pan dulce, the holiday equivalent to the obligatory fruit cake. We bought ours in the neighborhood bakery, but if you happen over to Palermo I'd check out Sugar and Spice. They seem to be taking Pan dulces to a higher level.

Celebration: Here Christmas Eve is really the big to do, not so much Christmas day. Last year for example, I spent christmas eve at a friend's asado in Boedo. At the stroke of midnight, people start shooting off fireworks. This might be one reason why Santa, tracked by Norad, stopped in Cordoba and only did a fly by of Buenos Aires. Too much shrapnel in the air space. My other theory is the naughty index was a little too high here this year, but I haven't been able to confirm this yet. It's just a hunch.

Opening presents: For kids, the fireworks are more like the sound of the starting gun. Here they get to open their presents at midnight. None of this going to bed and waking up super early nonsense for them. I assume this is because Argentines are accustomed to eating dinner quite late, typically betwen 9-11pm. However, it seems adopting this custom on present opening would be a good idea judging from the number of my friends in the US who made comments on FaceBook about their kids not going to bed on time.

Silence: Ok, this is not a difference between home and here, but a common comment I get from those who call me is, "Where are you? outside!?" We live on the 5th floor of a street side apartment and when a bus passes, it sounds like we are next to the landing strip of an airport. Noise pollution is rampant in Buenos Aires. However during the holidays, the city and our neighborhood in particular clears out. Since we are at home this year, the silence is wonderful. The down side of this is relying on public transport, in particular on Christmas eve. I tried to take a bus back from the asado in Boedo and was nearly stranded.

Those are some differences that come to my mind. What differences stand out to you?