Monday, December 08, 2014

Nine years in Smartmatic

Andreina Hernández

Last July I completed my ninth year in Smartmatic.  That is easy to say, but it has been a time of growth, challenges and deep learning.  That is why I decided to write this post. I humbly believe that my experience may encourage many coworkers in this big Smartmatic family.


My experience can be summarized in the following highlights:

Satisfaction. Working for more than nine years in a company like Smartmatic makes me feel that I have done it right, that my work adds value, and that every day is an opportunity to learn and grow.  And as someone here says: It's the same as the first year, but multiplied by nine!

Growth. When I started working in Smartmatic, we were some 40 employees. We have grown very fast. From being a homogeneous group, we now have come to be more than 800 employees around the world, with more branches and more challenges.

Learning. Working in Smartmatic has taught me many lessons in the professional side. The first one was —and has been— to adapt to work under pressure: everything goes like, do it right now! I've also had to adapt to team work, as a way to provide a better service.

Anecdotes. These nine years have been full of anecdotes. The most famous, which many still remember is: "Who the f… is Andreina Hernández?" starred by Alfredo Wolkowiez.  I had been working in the company for only one month and was very shy. We were in the 15th floor in the Banvenez building (our former main office in Caracas) and I was sitting at my workstation beside Liliana Sáenz, my Coordinator, together with others in the same floor. In a meeting with Human Resources, Alfredo came out from the office with an apparent angry attitude and said: “I've got this list of people that collaborated in the elections, and I don´t know who the f… Andreina Hernández is”.  Liliana and all those present could not stop laughing as they saw my frightened face. As a good girl, I raised my hand. Alfredo or W, as many call him, could not help laughing, too. Even today, many that were there or knew about this story still pass by my workstation, and joking say:  "Who the f…. is Andreina Hernández?"

Interaction. In the Design office, we practically have to work with all Departments. We have to consider them as our clients. And as everywhere, there are some people that we've had to learn how to deal with —very patiently. In spite of that, and of the hectic work pace, it has been a pleasing experience.

Recognition. I am very happy because in the last Employee Survey 2013, we were ranked as the Best Department.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Facing new challenges and finding opportunities

Samira Saba

This year I celebrated my first decade in Smartmatic. Ten years filled with great memories, hard work and lessons learnt.

In 2004, when I joined the company, we were just a small team of 50 people, most in our twenties and early thirties, with an immense desire to do something important. Ten years later, and having helped Smartmatic become a world reference in election administration, we're ready to take on new challenges.
Source: freedigitalphotos
Last week we formally announced the creation of SGO. For me it is sort of a hinge moment for our company. For years we've been building capacity and gaining experience. We've invested heavily in our R&D labs to create more technology with the real power to improve lives around the globe. Now, it's time to take another step forward, and begin a new chapter in our success story.

I am sure that the different ventures of our SGO will open the door to new challenges. And I am sure the vast majority of my colleagues are willing to harness our talent and the experience gathered to make the best out of the opportunities ahead of us.

We have a unique chance to further expand the reach of our solutions and make people's lives better in areas such as citizen participation, Identity, pollution control, among many others. Let's begin this new adventure now, with both aplomb and enthusiasm!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I have no time for review- Why I don't have time?

Arquímedes Machado

When the opportunity arises during idle time between projects, our organizations involved in project execution should review our processes. It's likely that we'll always find out how to optimize them, and above all, how to avoid repeating mistakes in future planning and become more efficient every day and in each new project.

Further, during the project´s progress we –both as participants and observers- can also detect how some processes (even those we think we had already improved) may be modified, so that we are able to complete them in shorter times, at a lower cost, and with less effort and/or better quality. And as participants, as these areas for improvements are detected, we can point them out to the team, so they may invest time in reviewing these improvements to later implement them.

Often, we are so busy while in mid-project that we deem it impossible to focus on issues that do not translate into a direct improvement of the original schedule. The problem with this way of thinking is that if we do not take the time to review our actions and learn from them (first-order learning) we are not improving the way we manage matters, at least not during the current project's duration, but instead we will have to wait until its completion to implement corrective changes.

Sometimes we have the same opinion about those meetings scheduled during the project´s progress. We are physically there, but mentally we're absent, since our focus is on our mobile phones sending messages, or on our laptops sending emails. Thus, our contribution to the meeting or to reviews or analyses has poor impact or influence compared to what it could have, and afterwards we feel the meeting was a waste of time.

Certainly and sometimes bordering on exaggeration, for instance a meeting is scheduled in order to set the time for another meeting, or it is simply ineffective (when we do not stick to the agenda, but make a soap opera of each item); or ge get into meetings that should take an hour, but end up lasting three hours.  In such cases, an analysis is also required that scrutinizes the reasons why these meetings are not as effective or impacting as expected. Hence, meetings are also processes that need to be reviewed.

For the above reasons, our advice to any team running a project is to make a forced halt in order to review any missing lessons, and analyze whether their immediate inclusion into the process under way would improve the remaining project execution (learned lesson applied as continuous improvement). Even F1 racing teams, with an execution exceeding 300 km/h, have their own pits to make the necessary stops, settling on a strategy to reach the podium. Then, why cannot we have our own pit stops in our projects, where we can check or change tires, clean the helmet visor of the pilot, refuel the car, and then resume with a fresh oomph the rest of the race? These are things that seem logical but we barely put into practice, and probably we have not done so because we have not turned them into habits.

Perhaps what I have written will not resonate with some of you. The good news is that I can also communicate it with an image you might consider funny, but it is important to remember that when you are involved in a project, you might usually be pulling the cart, and the one proposing a meeting to support you, is the one holding the wheels.

We can improve that process

We can´t talk now

We are very busy

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Dragon and Our Work Projection

Erika Isabel Montiel Schweitzer
The Smartmatic Dragon is an award to excellence, and a recognition presented to those who have exerted themselves to give their best. This year’s Smartmatic Dragon recipients: Bejiccy Delgado, Eduardo Mandry and Pedro Mugica have truly deserved this award.

In my experience, as a first time participant of the Dragon ceremony, it is a call to all of us to keep improving.

In our Caracas headquarters, Bejilccy and Eduardo received their awards in a warm, friendly ceremony, filled from the start with music and stories. Legends were told about the mystic powers of dragons, and how their strengths are projected in our Company through the Smartmatic Dragon award, which seeks to recognize outstanding achievements when pursuing goals.

Each award recipient was introduced by the respective area leader. Mayra Olivo, our General Manager in Smartmatic Venezuela, singled out Bejilccy’s tenacity and outstanding ability to execute projects, besides her great skills to relate to clients.

Manuel Vasquez, Technology Manager, then presented the award to Eduardo and emphasized his excellent performance since he started working at Smartmatic.

Personally, it was truly moving to see the joy on the winner’s faces after being awarded with the Dragon. Bejilccy Delgado said she was very satisfied to have received the award and how this will keep her motivated to take on new challenges. “This award helps us set up further goals on a daily basis. Receiving the Dragon means your work has reached the bosses, the client, and most important of all, it means it has been useful.”

Eduardo Mandry, who was very touched, said that although he was the one taking the Dragon home, the truth is that this award “reflects the success of a whole team. This Dragon is not only mine; it also belongs to my team's fellows. I must thank all the people in the Technology and Elections teams. The work was not carried on by a single person. This Dragon is shared with all of you.”

Pedro Mugica, the third Dragon 2014, is currently working in our Boca Raton headquarters. For that reason he could not attend the ceremony, and we could not witness his reaction. However, according to some people, when he received the news on the phone, he was speechless for a while, and then he got as excited as Bejilccy and Eduardo.

After this experience, I can say that the lesson to be learned here is to understand how important it is to trust yourself when you are trying to achieve the goals that you have set up for all facets in your life.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Knowing our Smartmatic women (part IV)

Managing the work we do in 15 countries can be a daunting task. No other company has helped cast or count as many votes as Smartmatic – more than 2.3 billion in over 3,500 elections around the globe. And our people show a deep sense of commitment, pride and sense of belonging, as well as trust and future company vision. See how Ruliena has contributed to our success.

Operational Planning Senior Manager

"My job always involves challenges that push me to learn and grow every day. I've worked with Smartmatic for many years. It's a dynamic company that's three times bigger than when I started!". 

Initially, Ruliena worked in Smartmatic's global services area to deploy best practice in its electoral solutions. She was then relocated to Asia as project manager. She managed large-scale elections with multidisciplinary, international teams. The most relevant was the 2010 Elections in the Philippines which were the first automated elections in Southeast Asia and the biggest elections ever managed by a private company. 

The elections were automated using Smartmatic products and services. "It was an amazing opportunity to lead a team of around 200 people from different countries and different knowledge areas. It was the richest experience I've enjoyed so far," enthuses Ruliena. 

"I currently live in Panama, leading the operational planning office that supports our chief operating officer. I'm in charge of translating the company strategy into operational results and supporting the various areas' VPs in creating implementation roadmaps, leading the implementation of better practices- and ensuring proper communication, measurability and governance across the organization," explains Ruliena. 

But 'soft skills' are also very important at Smartmatic. Employees achieve goals from combining hard work, passion and the combined smartness of many people. 

"The capacity to communicate and to serve, the perseverance, the empathy to understand others' perspectives are all very important. I create valuable relationships in all areas of my life," says Ruliena. 

"I'm in charge of translating the company strategy into operational results."

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Knowing our Smartmatic women (part III)

Smartmatic is a technology company and a “people” company. We work together solving problems. In doing so, we help to create a better world. This is how Samira works to fulfill this goal.

Integrated Communications Director 

“You can't communicate what you don't believe in."

"My job is to tell the world about what Smartmatic does and has achieved, through every possible channel," explains Samira. "I'm always working on our website, a press release, a YouTube video, tweeting or Facebook posts." Samira believes employees need to feel proud of the company they work for. "You can't communicate what you don't believe in." 

Feeling proud is common for employees at Smartmatic because the company aspires to make a significant difference to the progress of communities all around the world. Smartmatic offers technological solutions in two areas: Elections and Smart Cities. The company understands that technology is critical in helping solve large-scale problems and so they implement innovative solutions that advance society in ways never seen before. 

It is exciting to automate elections electronically. "We have to be meticulous, perfectionist and zealous in order to understand every detail that needs to be addressed in an election. I think women are good at handling details." 

Samira has spent almost ten years devising and writing media content and PR strategies for Smartmatic. Her job is always challenging. As our Integrated Communications Director, she oversees a lot of content about Smartmatic technologies and is constantly impressed and inspired by the extent to which a well-delivered project positively impacts a whole nation and betters the lives of its citizens.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What do we learn from mistakes?

Arquimedes Machado

In every project we are involved in, be it personal or professional, we normally devote a considerable amount of time and effort to comply with the due date.

Have you ever experienced this situation? You are engrossed in a project, and suddenly you make a mistake and realize that you had made it before. In my case, that makes me wonder why I am reliving the same situation over again. If this is not my first time, why do I make the same mistake twice?

The answers to these questions have to do with the project’s environment and the staff involved. From my point of view, this happens because you did not learn what you had to. Consequently, life puts you back in similar (or identical) situations to learn the lesson.  I truly believe that learning from a mistake depends on the person´s reaction to it.

The first thing to do is to accept your mistake. To face responsibility is a step that deserves applause.  We are so used to regarding mistakes negatively, that when we make a mistake, we frequently refuse to recognize it. Instead, we blame others and have pointless discussion, with the only aim of being free from blame.

Analyzing our mistakes is not about listing the bad things, possible punishments or feeling guilty because something went wrong.  The point is, to learn from them, to improve as a person and to avoid falling into the same hole again.

It is said that the only responsible person from a bad situation is you and you are the one who has the power to turn it around. To believe in this will help us recognize our mistakes and think about what we have to learn, evaluate, change and improve.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Knowing our Smartmatic women (part II)

Smartmatic’s managers empower and support candidates to define their very role. In life we don’t find ourselves – we create ourselves. Let´s know more about Simina and the work she does in London. 

Head of Talent Acquisition and Development 

"Working for a company that's helping to change the world for the better makes me feel very good." 

Before joining Smartmatic, Simina gained 11 years' experience working in HR departments for large, successful companies such as Vodafone, Philip Morris and Oracle. She joined Smartmatic to recruit teams in London, EMEA and APAC. 

"Working for a company that's helping to change the world for the better makes me feel very good. And setting up new offices in EMEA from scratch is an excellent opportunity to learn and develop. You get enormous exposure to the business," explains Simina. 

Simina heads up Smartmatic's talent acquisition and development. Her role is to develop the strategy to acquire talent for key positions around the globe and create a healthy pipeline of potential candidates. 

"I enjoy encouraging people to be creative and innovative. At Smartmatic it's important to enable people to learn from mistakes. We all communicate very openly and honestly." 

Simina has an MSc in International Human Resources Management from London School of Economics and was educated in Executive & Career Coaching at New York University. She is also a certified user of HOGAN Assessment Tools, such as HPI, HDS and MVPI. 

"Smartmatic's workforce is approximately 40% women so part of my role is to increase the number of females, especially at executive level. There's a lot to attract women to Smartmatic, from our open culture to the work we do promoting equality, fairness and transparency within society."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Smartmatic meets with different international election authorities

Matthijs Schippers
Last month, I had the privilege to represent our company during the 4th Annual Meeting of Election Management Bodies held from on February 24-26th in Tbilisi.

The event was hosted by the Central Election Commission of Georgia and had as main theme "Stakeholders Engagement and Effective Communication".
It is always a great experience to meet and discuss with election authorities from Europe, Asia and Africa, along with several international election-related organizations: IFES, UNDP, NDI (Central American Program), ACEEEO, IFE Mexico, OSCE and the International Centre for Electoral Psychology.

Our team not only had the pleasure to learn and listen to various interesting stories about their initiatives and remaining challenges to improve their electoral processes, but also took the opportunity to address the audience and share some experiences and observations from the perspective of a leading provider of electoral solutions and services.

As VP of Sales for Western and Northern Europe, I presented “A Bird’s Eye View on E-voting in Europe”, a comprehensive explanation of where Europe is today in terms of e-voting adoption and where it is heading. In doing so, the talk inevitably also touched upon developments in the past that led to today’s situation.

The response in the audience showed a genuine interest to learn from some of the mistakes in stakeholder engagement and effective communication as made by most European countries, when they embarked on e-voting programs in the past.

In another talk titled “Enhancing Transparency and Equality of the Electoral Process”, Edgar Fino, Worldwide Business Support Manager, presented success stories Smartmatic has had in Bolivia, Zambia, and Venezuela helping run more transparent and efficient elections by adopting biometric technology.

The experiences and lessons learned from Smartmatic’s recent voter identification projects triggered a tremendous appreciation for the magnitude and diversity of the challenges these projects imply. The audience understood how the combination of the right technology, project management capabilities linked with proper stakeholder engagement and clear public communication campaign are all key ingredients to a successful deployment. 

Two other Smartmatic colleagues, Alexander Rakov (VP Sales for Eastern Europe) and Juan Campodonico (Sales Support Manager EMEA), provided one-on-one demonstrations of the voting technology and services that have granted our company world-wide recognition as the election industry leader.

By sharing our experience and know-how, Smartmatic demonstrated that our commitment to serve electoral management bodies goes beyond the best of breed systems and services listed on our portfolio.