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My competitive landscape in Chile

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Notes from Underneath: My competitive landscape in Chile

Notes from Underneath

A California girl in Chilsters (that's Chile to you)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My competitive landscape in Chile

My competitive pool is much smaller in Chile.

Granted, this is perhaps directly correlated to the fact that Chile has a population of about 16,758,114, of which, about 85% is urban dwelling... i.e. the majority of them are crowding my space here in Santiago.

But I spent days wondering, how many of these 16+ million are in the same competition pool with me? I'm not going to say that I'm schooled in what the AVERAGE Chilean person, man and woman, aspires to because I'm sure it varies from person to person and social bracket to social bracket. All I can really base my assumptions on are family members, either close to me or not, as I observe what they accomplish in life and what they set as priorities.

Back home in CA I'm from a very, VERY competitive landscape. We're talking Silicon Valley, Sand Hill Road: the venture capitalist mecca of the world, Stanford University, Nasa Ames Research Center, UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Financial District all within a good 60 miles from one another. And I lived (and grew up) right smack-dab in the middle of that. On top of that, I was also living in the DIRECT outskirts of one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., where, according to this year's Forbes report, San Francisco comes in as the 4th most expensive city in the U.S., following NYC, LA and White Plains, NY.

It comes as no surprise (to me at least) that my high school graduating class consisted of sons and daughters of bank owners, hedge fund owners, partners of VC firms, notable investors, reputable doctors and lawyers, etc, etc, what have you. And that was the crowd that surrounded me in a PUBLIC school of the area... I can't begin to imagine the company kept at the local private schools!

The competition I felt throughout my years in California was fierce. Seriously, something I wonder if many Chileans can understand. Right now, couples I know are purchasing homes that cost upwards of $2 million DOLLARS. Yeah. Couples that are between 31-35 purchasing homes or even ASPIRING to purchase homes in that price range. And even if we never dreamed of doing such things, we still have/had a pretty skewed view of what it meant to be successful. Ok, so MAYBE not a house worth millions of dollars but a two bedroom apartment/townhouse/flat that costs ALMOST $1 million. Trust me, this is NORMAL where I'm from because unfortunately that's our reality. We either strive to make it or ... we keep striving to make it (fortunately I don't have friends who are quitters.) And I believe that we ALL went through a kind of crisis between the ages of 27-30 when we felt like we'd accomplished only a fraction of what we set out to accomplish and we held our heads in hands because we felt like we were 'lagging behind' when compared to our peers.

When I lived in CA I had decided that I didn't need to live in Hillsborough or Marin County or even in San Francisco itself. Perhaps it was because I felt overwhelmed by the ridiculous competition and I knew that if I wanted to be in that race I had to keep on studying and add another degree to the arsenal. Unfortunately (or not) where I'm from, every other person has a Masters degree of some sort and it was quickly becoming a state of Bachelors = high school diploma. The only exception to this rule that I personally saw was with innovative people who created either a new service or a new technology (and in Silicon Valley, trust me there were many!) I didn't find myself to be particularly creative - not in a core-shaking kind of way - and I certainly didn't attend a top-tier university and the combination of both of those 'setbacks' made me feel that the ONLY way I could remain in the competitive game was to keep studying... but then again, choosing to study resulted in another set of suffocating avenues I had to weave through. Primarily, which school, what to study and PRAY TELL how would I pay for it!!??

But now I'm here in Chile ... something that I hadn't planned on years ago when I was mapping out the would-be actions I wanted to take to arrive at the life I wanted to have. In fact, during high school, college and as I entered the work force, all my decisions were based on living my life in the U.S., just as I had been for as long as I could remember. My frame of reference was that which I noted above and yes, I would adapt myself accordingly (perhaps in a fashion I now see as "settling" when compared to what my peers were setting out to accomplish) but my life would reflect SOME aspect of what was the "norm" around me. Said norm being where even over achievers fade into the background in the highly competitive environment.

All of the above brings me to this: I'm starting classes at a business school here in Santiago in April and I decided to focus on Marketing. Whereas in the States I would have probably chosen an MBA program due to the competition around me, here I feel that I already have an edge given that my undergrad degree is from a U.S. university so I decided to do something I was actually interested in. And so I sit back and think that all my prepping in an UBER competitive landscape in CA is going to serve me well here in Chile. I speak fluent English and Spanish, I work in a multi-national company where I manage an entire region, I have an undergrad degree from the U.S. and now I'm going to work hard for a Masters in Chile. I'm already wired to be an agro competitor, no holds bar, the "I-will-not-allow-you-to-be-better-than-me-without-a-fight" kind of mentality that I HAD TO HAVE growing up where I did. I don't think it will be easy to charge ahead and become a leader of some sort here in Chile and I know I have a LOT of things to learn before I become one.

But I can say I do believe, 100%, that my competition pool here is much, much smaller than it was in the SF Bay Area. My mentality and focus hasn't changed, my environment has ... and it will be interesting to see what I accomplish and learn because of that.

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I HATE how stupid bachelor degrees have become the new high school diploma. I cannot afford to go back to school, nor do I really want to. But, I guess as long as I keep working for myself, I'm ok.

$2million, anyone our age...considering houses in that price range = INSANITY.
hey, congrats and good luck!! im really kind of feeling the tug to get a masters (which i would love to do) but i just have no idea when where or which one! so i'm putting it off for now until something outweighs the other.

i think you'll be just fine if not ahead of everyone based on your background.
I like how one of your labels is "World Domination." : ) And, congrats on the Marketing choice! I think that is a natural for you and I'm so proud of all you are doing. If I could ever go back and get my masters (not quite possible now due to all the factors you pointed out above, though Colorado is certainly more affordable than CA), I would proably get one in either Public Policy or get my MFT (Marriage and Family Therapy). Who knows? Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to do that. I'm really excited for you that you're getting it. : )
go dre! yes, it may seem less competitive at first blush but OJO there are WAY fewer jobs - or at least for me - a lawyer who looked for jobs in both law AND finance...on the one hand i was like SWEET i have an advantage but then i realized...oh wait, there are only like 5 i-banking institutions worth anything in Chile and 2 of those are local and don't hold much weight abroad...and SWEET among those 5 institutions there's like 2 job openings at any given moment and SWEET they all tend to go straight to civil industrial engineering majors and MAYBE business students from la catolica, possibly la chile and in rare instances Adolfo yes, on the one hand the bar is certainly lower bc you dont have all the nutso uber competitive int'l peeps that you do in CA but it's still pretty competitive here in the top firms whether they be law, finance or, in your case, marketing. that said, you totally kick as# and your extensive and **INTERNATIONAL*** USA experience will mean you're def going to be getting a really sweet gig. as for masters your case it's very specific and will give you add'l skills in a field that you already know you want to work in and where you have experience...there are, however, MANY MA programs in the US that are complete and utter wastes of $$$ i mean sure, they may be interesting, but you will bleed money to be able to study and often times won't be in any better of a position to get a higher paying job than your counterparts w/less education...there are, of course, exceptions...such as yours...but trust me i know many a person with an MA in international XYZ or MA in comp lit or MA in X random thing that are + intelligent maybe, but poorer and in no better work position...this is something i have a really strong opninion about as i've watched many friends and old classmates spend 30+ grand on 1 year of some silly MA program just to find that they can't get that amazing job at the UN they thought they'd be a shoe in for. one other thing that's great about Chile - the schools are much cheaper!!!
Yay! Back to university! I take it you got accepted then?! Congratulations! I am interested to know how your whole university experience in Chile will compare with what you're used to in the States. I'm sure they will be quite different!
Oh, so is this why I'm freakishly competitive? I actually noticed the difference even between high school and college - freshman year of Castilleja was WAY harder than freshman year of UCLA! Seriously, there were people in my GE class who didn't know what paraphrasing meant and wrote essays with incomplete sentences.

I've noticed that people think I am a rockstar evne when I'm doing something that to me is totally normal (working quickly, doing it right, getting it in on time). It's quite nice, really, although it does make it tempting to slack off since my version of slacking off is still above average.

In my experience, I'm at a slight disadvantage professionally because I didn't study exactly what I wanted to work in, but because I'm used to working hard I can make up for that. Congrats on the masters and good luck!
Hey! I just found your blog. Thanks for linking to me, I'll link to you too. :)

I also hate that a bachelors degree is worth less and less. I also feel that this is the case especially in Chile where bachelors degrees are much more specialized than they are in the US.

I too am considering getting a Master's and would love to do it here since it's way less expensive, but I guess I have to figure out what I want to study first! Ha.

Good luck with your new classes!
This is so interesting, and sounds so familiar! My husband and I both have MBAs and were both working like crazy in San Francisco until earlier this year, when we realized that we hated our jobs and weren't having any sort of life (we, too, looked at buying a house and realized we'd have to pay at least 7 figures, which seems ridiculous), so we quit and have been living in South America since March. We just "moved" to Santiago and are checking it out to see if we want to stay longer - seems like an amazing city!

Hope you're enjoying your MBA program here - sounds like a great experience!

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