Friday, December 20, 2013

Smartmatic Panama celebrates Christmas

Panama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas party
Panama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas party
Panama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas party
Panama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas partyPanama 2013 Christmas party
Hi there! We would like to share some pictures from the Smartmatic Panama Christmas party, which was held last November 22th. We hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do you know what CONNECT is? Adrenaline, passion and technology

Guillermo Solís

The Smartmatic CONNECT programming marathon goes beyond a challenge for programming lovers; it's also a window we open here at Smartmatic not only to search for new talent, but to foster direct interaction between our partners and collaborators, in an activity where we all give our personal best to make the event a massive success. 

I can personally tell you this: it's an amazing experience! 

Many may see this as "another corporate event", but it isn't; it's a race against the clock, it truly is a "marathon" that begins long before the day of the contest and then reaches its grand finale. 

In many aspects, working for CONNECT replicates the methodology we apply to all projects we execute in Smartmatic: there are thousands of details to notice, from knowing where a cable goes, to answering e-mails, setting up the technological platform, programming the proper operation of the competitors' machines… all the way to hanging up the balloons that decorate the competition hall! So many variables, some more complex than others.  

As a team, this is an opportunity we get to interact as a perfectly wound clock: IT, General Services, HR, Communications, Products, etc. We are hundreds working with a single goal in our minds. The best of all is that when the day is done, as far as Smartmatic is concerned there isn't a unique winner - we all win when the tasks and activities of the event have been executed and we see the fruits of our successfully completed labour.   

This year will see the fifth edition of Smartmatic CONNECT in Venezuela and the first one in Panama. Both were a resounding success, we learned new lessons and held Smartmatic's name high. Are you ready for the challenge? At Smartmatic, we always are! 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Emotional agility – and how we should let our values guide us
Hayes Thompson

Have you heard of emotional agility? It’s the ability to free yourself from patterns of negative thoughts and feelings and move forward positively towards your goals. 

According to Susan David and Christina Congleton in the Harvard Business Review magazine:

“Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way—developing what we call emotional agility.” 

It reminds me of some research we learned about in our leadership training in Amsterdam – research that shows that the more we try to deny certain feelings – the more they’ll come back to bite us.
In a way, we have to embrace our thoughts and feelings – however negative. We shouldn’t try to supress or control them. We should experience them, perhaps inside ourselves, and then use their power to channel positive action.  

David and Congleton continue:

“In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, from the University of London professor Frank Bond and others, show that emotional agility can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.”
The authors go on to suggest four practices taken from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) designed to help us build this skill; build emotional agility.
Recognise your patterns  

As with any type of change of behaviour, the first step is awareness. You have to realise you’ve become hooked by your own thoughts and feelings. 

It’s difficult, not impossible, say David and Congleton. Look for repetitive thoughts and feelings. Those things you always say to yourself when you doubt yourself, perhaps, that you’re not good enough, that you can’t do it.
Label your thoughts and emotions 

Labelling helps you look objectively at thoughts and feelings that can be all-encompassing. Simply saying you’re having the thought instead of having the thought helps you distance yourself and see negative ideas as temporary sources of unhelpful data. You might already know this as ‘taking a helicopter view’. Look down on your thoughts from above, as they float by like clouds. 
Accept them  

I’m going to quote from David and Congleton verbatim here because it’s so good: “The opposite of control is acceptance—not acting on every thought or resigning yourself to negativity but responding to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention to them and letting yourself experience them. Take 10 deep breaths and notice what’s happening in the moment. This can bring relief, but it won’t necessarily make you feel good. In fact, you may realize just how upset you really are. The important thing is to show yourself (and others) some compassion and examine the reality of the situation. What’s going on—both internally and externally?”
Act on your values 

When you detach yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you can decide to act in a way in line with your values.
This is really what made me want to share this piece here – because at Smartmatic we have such strong, clear values.
So next time you face a challenge, call on these values to help you respond in a workable fashion – in a way that will serve you and the company in the long-term; in a way that will steer others towards a common goal. 

And just in case you’d forgotten, here are our Smartmatic values:
•    We commit to honesty and truth at all times.
•    We base our dealings with others on mutual respect and trust.
•    We show appropriate behavior and performance as an example for others.
•    We act and behave in accordance with what we say.

•    We challenge the status quo and search for continued changes.
•    We propose state of the art ideas.
•    We uphold new initiatives in our work.
•    We encourage others to be creative and innovative.
•  We are flexible in the presence of challenging situations, leading us to efficient and creative solutions.

•    We are able to communicate frankly.
•    We say what we think and have others understand our objectives.
•    We are open to change and to adopt new attitudes from our learning and feedback.
•    We create an environment where everyone can learn from mistakes.
•    We offer and seek for training as well as informal feedback at all levels to improve performance.

•    We deliver results as agreed.
•    We perform our tasks diligently and with quality.
•    We simplify systems and processes to eliminate unnecessary workload.
•    We deliver excellent quality results without mistakes.

•    We support and implement decisions.
•   We are completely committed, i.e. we are morally obliged to reaching the company's objectives (we work hard to achieve what is "almost impossible").
•   We follow through objectives with determination. We do not give up, much less when facing adversity.
•    We encourage professional and personal betterment and development.
•    We overcome barriers to achieve our objectives.

•    We understand the organization's business objectives and translate them into specific principles.
•    We balance daily activities focused on our future.
•    We align objectives, goals and resources to the needs of the business
•  We anticipate and eliminate potential problems that may arise, and implement contingency measures when necessary.
•    We understand the priorities and work of our colleagues.   
•    We track progress and adopt plans according to the circumstances.

•    We share information without a problem.
•    We anticipate and promote conflict resolution.
•    We listen carefully and accept answers.
•    We genuinely care for others and show sympathy.
•    We encourage people to work together.
•    We promote a sense of belonging to the organization.

By the way, these values don’t just help guide our response to challenging situations. They also help guide the way we sound in our business communications – our tone of voice – but that’s another blog post.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why we must step out of our comfort zone and expand our circle of influence

Arquímedes Machado

Many of you have heard about the “circles of influence” and the “comfort zone”. Today I’d like to talk a little more about these concepts. 

Let’s start with the first one, the circle of influence. To better understand this concept it’s useful to picture two concentric circles, where the smallest is the circle of influence and the biggest one is the circle of concern. The circle of influence represents the situations we can change, those we can control.

This way, whenever we hit a crossroad, we can assess if the situation belongs in our circle of influence or our circle of concern. That is, if the situation is something we can take care of, something we have control of, or rather something that concerns me but is beyond my possibilities. A typical and I think very familiar example for us is the traffic jams in Caracas: it’s very likely each one of you would agree they are stressful. However, a solution to Caracas’ traffic escapes our circle of influence. Luckily we can always improve our situation by taking actions that minimize their impact, e.g. leaving earlier to avoid rush hour, taking the subway instead of driving, all the way to more radical solutions like buying a bike, moving closer to work or even to a different city and job. In any case, these are decisions that can alleviate my traffic related. 

I’ve realized that if there’s something we have to strive for, it’s making our circle of influence grow steadily. This way, if I’m facing a problem (initially in my circle of concern), I’ll be able to control my actions and reactions to solve it, bringing it into the circle of influence. I’ve read that proactive people focus their energy in solving situations within their circle of influence, thereby expanding this circle every time.

Another concept I’d like to discuss is the comfort zone, the space where I’m comfortable with what I’m doing even though it may be hard work, because I have the expertise to do it right. Being in the comfort zone lets me feel good about what I do because I’ve mastered that skill, I’ve become an expert on the matter. However, it’s so important, so valuable for our personal and professional growth to step outside of these boundaries and go into the unknown, facing uncertainty (or what some authors call the learning zone).  

When I visualized the comfort zone I never pictured it as a circle, but just like with the circles of influence and concern, we can use the same analogy and see our comfort zone as a smaller area encircled by a zone of uncertainty (or learning). After reading this article and seeing that image, I realized that both concepts are closely related, close enough to be viewed as synonyms. Personally, I think they’re different. Widening my circle of influence lets me be the master of my actions and reactions toward the situations in my life, having greater control over them. Similarly, expanding my comfort zone lets me have new tools to solve things I couldn’t solve before, acquire expertise in new situations, and broaden my knowledge.  

As both circles grow, we grow as people.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Smartmatic Dragons: recognition to excellence

There’s no doubt that 2012 was a very positive year for our company. We had the chance to execute large projects. We carried out elections in three countries (in the same month) with different law systems, cultures and even languages! Once more, our solutions were vital in supporting the will of millions of citizens. But, beyond technology, it was our people with their commitment and hard work who made possible to turn all of last year’s challenges to success stories we now celebrate.   

For this reason, we’ve held award ceremonies in several of our offices to award our Smartmatic Dragons. These awards were created in 2004 after the two big electoral projects we conducted in Venezuela, as a way to recognize our valuable human capital, which had grown and matured together with the company. You can read the history of the Dragons here, written by Edgar Zorrilla. 

The following people have been recognized for their work in 2012: Mauricio Ascanio, Finances; Ruliena Piñate, OPO; Herlen Rosales, José Lucena, Alejandro Claro and Fernando Hernández, Electoral Solutions; and Ricardo Hernández, Mayerling Fajardo and Ely Alvarado, Global Services.

Pleased for being selected as recipients of the 2012 Dragons, some of our coworkers took the time to talk to us about how they face their daily challenges at Smartmatic.

Maryeling has been with us since 2007 and has worked in the coordination of complex projects like the Venezuelan regional elections, working against the clock handling hundreds of pieces of data and information, and thousands of variables. She told us that “it’s very important to know well how our processes work, not just the ones I’m in charge of but those from other departments, because that lets you gauge all the information coming from your peers and organize things, answer all their requests, help them solve problems and do a proper follow-up on their tasks.”

For Ricardo, who has been with us since 2010, previous planning is important. “What I always try to do is prepare beforehand, before a challenge pops up; that is, I do my daily tasks but I also spend time reading on new technologies, applying new techniques to solve small everyday problems to avoid repetition,  and asking my teammates about different approaches to do my activities. This way of approaching work makes me need more time to fulfill my obligations, but when new challenges come up I can face them more efficiently and with a short-term vision of automation and the application of the best possible tools.” 

Mauricio, from Finances, told us that he approaches his daily challenges by “taking the initiative of starting and finishing whatever I want to achieve, with an open mind, creative and proactive in the face of any situation that arises, [being] patient, methodical and unshakable to reach my goals.”

Perseverance, dedicated work and commitment, taking the initiative, daring to innovate, looking for excellence, being efficient, having the courage to be self-critical; these are key traits that the 2012 Dragons identified as present in their day to day work. Many of these are our values, the backbone of our work methodology.

Ruliena coordinates the OPO unit (Operational Planning Office) and tells us that this recognition goes beyond her, since it’s the support of her work team (small in numbers but big in talent) that has allowed her to meet the goals we celebrate today. “Personally, I’m very thankful to have had the honour of being nominated among so many brilliant people who work with us. I feel that this award is also recognition of my team’s work: Alejandro M, Julio César, Anaissa and Alejandro G, who are crucial to our success. I have to mention the importance of Roger’s leadership, my boss. His humane way of managing is a living example that respect is earned by example, and that vulnerability isn’t a hindrance but rather an engine that makes us work hard and lovingly towards our goals.”  

José Lucena worked in 2012 in different stages of the elections we carried out in Venezuela. “Getting the Dragon has been very meaningful to me, it’s a recognition but also a reminder that there’s someone watching what you do, that your actions and behavior don’t go unnoticed and above all, that there’s people who believe that your work has had some positive impact in our company.” For José, teamwork is crucial, having people that support you and trust what you do, and who you can lean on in turn. “Individual players score goals, but teams win games.”

The accomplishments shown by the Dragons prove that every effort to improve we make at Smartmatic, will always have outstanding results and give us another reason to feel proud of what we do, another reason to do our jobs as best as we can. In the words of Ruliena, “[our] departments and job titles are just a structure that organizes our labour, but the contribution of each one of us is just as important, that is why we’re all called to serve and help one another, no matter what our job description is.”   

We’d like to end with the words of our teammates when we asked them: What does it mean for you to be one of Smartmatic’s Dragons? 

"Offering solutions to every problem you or your teammates may have, feeling [these problems] as your own.” Maryeling  

Being passionate about what you do every minute and doing your job with a vision, understanding clearly how your work can help towards the goals of Team Smartmatic, to make it a better company evey day.” Ruliena 

"Being consistent with the work you’re doing and the responsibilities you have.” Ricardo 

"Putting dedication and effort beyond daily activities and towards improving our procedures, giving value added to the company.” Mauricio   

“Loving what you do; being convinced that whatever you’re doing, however minimal it may seem, has value, be it for someone in the company, a friend, a relative or society as a whole.” Jose

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Smartmatic Dragons' story: Acknowledging excellence and profesionalism

Edgard Zorrilla

Acknowledging personal, company, corporate, spiritual and mystical success is very important for every individual, but also for any corporation that considers Human Capital its greatest asset.

At Smartmatic, some 8 years ago, when we started growing faster than we had during the 2000-2003 period, and after the mega battles that were the two Venezuelan elections of 2004, we decided to find a way to acknowledge the valuable human capital that had grown and matured together with the company. 

I remember that during that time (and this is still true now) the subject of technology was so powerful, and the youthfulness and energy that was in the air at Smartmatic were so contagious, that it was practically impossible to say “no” to any challenge ahead of us, whether it was some sort of technical deployment or logistical services, for any real or prospective customer: Venezuela’s CNE and Banco Plaza, Mexico´s Banco Santander-Serfin, etc.

It was a time of great inspiration. From Antonio, Roger, Alfredo Anzola (RIP), Paul Babic, Eduardo Correia, to all the extremely gifted and talented employees in the company, everyone was particularly excited, committed, in some sort of technological non-stop that had synergy to spare; they wanted to meet the challenge of setting up two elections in less than three months. 

You could feel the magic in the air, the strength and technical capabilities coming from every single engineer in the company. There were no schedules, one day blended into the next one, nights were gone and no one seemed to mind the sun; Smartmatic as a whole was a great lab, a great battlefield, where the challenge at hand required absolute understanding. Absolute understanding of electoral matters, of the technological challenge posed, of the client´s expectations, in order to finally produce “the solution”. And so we did, while we also understood that we were making history. 

Two massive voting processes were completed in the most critical year in the history of contemporary Venezuelan voting and democracy, 2004.  

We had many collaborators and strategic alliances, much experience and knowledge, brought to the table by veterans of many campaigns such as Bob Cook, Jorge Tirado and his “Team Uncles”, etc. Together with our corporate alliances with telecommunications company Cantv, the Italian Olivetti and many others, we could meet our challenges.   

So, in several conversations both formal and informal, we decided to acknowledge the heroism and professionalism of our Smartmatians, who with their great efforts, dedication and inspiration had succeeded in making a great difference and building a great corporate “trampoline”: we went from being a 20-engineer company to a 200-engineer one, with projects involving the hiring, training and coordination of thousands of operators and technicians; strategic alliances of great transcendence for the manufacturing of the SAES–3000 (the first voting machine with printed vouchers used in a national election); and the training of coordination of software developers responsible for robust, secure and powerful solutions found nowhere else in the world, and which withstood the testing of geniuses, scientists and international experts that came to prove that we  “must’ve done something wrong”.   

But neither our human capital nor our technology did anything wrong. It was wonderful to see all the responses and verdicts in favour of our creativity and the technology we created at Smartmatic for a demanding client, in a complex country and under a unique political situation, in an atmosphere of instability that turned our project into a trial by fire of Venezuela’s democracy.  

Writing after 8 years, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it seems easy to describe these moments of great technological advance and premature maturity reached by Smartmatic’s leaders and engineers, who overcame these challenges and completed all their scheduled tasks. In reality, it was far from easy. 

From my own perspective, as the “spiritual white-haired mystic” of the team, I tried to understand the psychology of my engineer teammates at the time; I thought that by understanding Roger, Antonio, Alfredo and the rest of the team, we could find a way to give some recognition to these outstanding efforts and the giant steps we took. 

One day I saw a very excited Roger playing “Magic”, a viral Internet RPG. I decided to understand what was going on, who the game characters were, the logic behind it; I wanted to know how these wizards and dragons affected the outcomes of the game. Roger, as an expert Magic player, explained to me the differences between wizards, dragons, colours, special powers, the general rules of the game, etc.; we understood that what Smartmatic pulled off in 2004 somehow resembled the wonders and spells taking place in Magic. To this day I’m convinced that viral technology and these complicated real-time Internet-based games help young minds to move in a world of multiple dimensions, simultaneous realities and huge challenges, where they have to stay alive, conquer their foes, be competitive and differentiate themselves from others as much as they can to find success.   

So, we wanted to celebrate the heroes of the hour and we decided that the best way to do it was by creating a symbol: Smartmatic’s Dragon. This dragon needed to have certain physical characteristics and colours that showed its tenacity. It had to be a representation of the technical and operational excellence that engineers and specialists had shown; all our managers, coordinators and analysts who were immersed in great challenges and pressure, but who created the excellence that defines Smartmatic, excellence which seems to have no bounds.

Dragons possess a natural force that cannot be ignored. By definition, they are mythological beings, powerful and transformative, which go beyond human nature. They are avatars.

Dragons are also associated with yoga, since they represent the stream of universal energy that flows through the spine of all humans, called kundalini. Being visited by a dragon in dreams, or being drawn towards a fire-breathing one can signify the beginning of a spiritual and mystical awakening. 

We at Smartmatic have experienced great changes, we have accepted incredible challenges, we have conquered new borders and countries; we have reached an international and global presence, with offices and operations that grant us a worldwide reach, and the opportunity to strengthen electoral and democratic processes in many countries. 

We’ve come a long way from 2004 Venezuela. We’ve undertaken impressive challenges such as the Philippines in Asia, Zambia in Africa, Belgium in Europe, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, USA, etc. in the Americas. We’ve expanded our operations with centres of technical and operational excellence in Panama and Taiwan, headquarters for the top management and the internationalization and globalization strategists in London and Amsterdam. We keep growing, conquering and winning new bids. All of this because what make this corporation different are its people: its professionals and technicians, its , and the clients in the electoral world that gave given us great support and credibility as we continue to conquer it.

Acknowledging excellence is very important,executives strategic, and flattering for those who earn the recognition with their great efforts. As they get this award, they show their partners and teammates that it can be done, that the effort is worth it, and that the corporation values them. Because of them, because of our achievements, we are proud to work at Smartmatic.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Innovation and the jobs of the future

Image: Alamy
In these times we live in it’s not strange to hear or read about the importance of innovation as a propeller of the economic development of nations. The search for new and better ways to do things is one of the  engines that pushes hundreds of companies (ours included) to research, develop and try ideas, products or solutions that transform processes, improve efficiency and ultimately change our life and our world for the best. 

Working in an IT company that has innovation as one of its values forces us to see beyond what is known, what is considered as standard. We must constantly anticipate what is coming, what the world needs, and how we can materialize better solutions to satisfy those needs.

So, when I read this article on FastCoExist a few days ago, where they discuss the “8 new jobs people will have in 2025“, it was inevitable to think about the diversity of jobs that will originate from innovative technologies like ours, which daily change our surroundings and ways to do things, to the point of transforming the work itself and creating new job categories that seemed inconceivable before. 

"Digital Detox Specialist, Corporate Unorganizer, Digital Death Manager” – when reading these “future” job descriptions one may think it’s all a joke. Some may not materialize after all. But the idea behind the article is fascinating because it shows us that: 1. technology is an element that is intrinsically linked to our lives, to the point that it influences and will influence the way we communicate, study, the jobs we choose, job hunting and their execution. 2. innovation isn’t only a concept that we apply to a product, a computer program or a design, but it also involves transforming roles at the workplace, and changing us in the process. We need to keep looking ahead, anticipating the coming changes, learn new work methods and, why not? unlearn others.

As a company that develops technologies to create  a deep social impact, there is no doubt that many of these new jobs will spring from the need of having professionals capable of tackling the big challenges our future brings: an urban shepherd that oversees the proper operation of city infrastructures, and who knows how to handle resources; a vertical farmer that knows how to tend to vertical gardens designed to save space; a climate controller that manages and modifies weather patterns; a sustainability officer that implements eco-friendly policies in several environments. There will be dozens of new jobs that will require something more than a well prepared individual for their execution. Innovation will be a key quality in our lives. 

This is just the beginning!