Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brazilian Laptop Project

This week my technical editing class covered cross-cultural communication. It seemed appropriate to share a professional international success story, especially one that sounds so much better here than the one-liner version on my résumé.

My last corporate project launched the first mobile product delivered to a Brazil local market for Compaq Computer Corporation (now Hewlett-Packard) in 2000. Pulling together a team comprised of third-party Taiwanese suppliers, ego-centric American product developers, proud Brazilian engineers and factory planners, a patriarchal Brazilian sales force and reporting to a Mexican national executive, we began the arduous task of building the first branded laptop in the country.
Brazil has one of the most complicated taxing structures in the world, raising the street price on laptops by more than US $1000. All components were historically manufactured and assembled into finished products by a third-party vendor in Taiwan, a role they were invested in retaining in full. The goal was to buy unassembled components and ship to our local factory for build; a role the Brazilians felt was their overdue right. Spanning twelve-hour time differences, four primary languages, and three continents, together we succeed in bringing a Brazilian-built laptop to the retail market on schedule.
I am largely missing from the story above, yet the project would not have happened without me.  Pregnant at 29, I certainly was not doing the heavy lifting to make this project a success. However, I had invested years into the relationships with all of the key players and was instrumental in keeping the team communicating and moving forward.
The on-schedule project delivered incremental revenue of US $6.4m and gross margin dollars over US $1.8m (39% GM) in the first quarter. The proud Taiwanese crew sent a smiling photo of them wearing the team shirts emblazoned with the Brazilian flag. I was on maternity leave before market share figures were published. The day my son was born ten positions were added to our three-person department.

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