Saturday, March 28, 2009

Latin American Businesswoman to Guest Speak in "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" Course

On Thursday, April 9th, Ms. Ruth Malcom will visit my Spanish & Entrepreneurship course. (Click here for time and place.) Ms. Malcom is originally from Guatemala. There are at least 20 extra seats in our room, so I invite others to join us if they would like.

Ms. Malcom currently works at ISS, Inc. in Champaign, and she describes her previous work experience as follows:

"I worked in different countries as a strategic planning and management consultant, research and development and quality control manager for the food industry, sales representative and Spanish interpreter. Some of the organizations that I have worked for are: PCA, S.A. (consulting firm), Nestle, Pollo Campero, Univeler, Molinos Modernos, Unipharm, PUMA Energy, Georgetown University, and Alimentos Ideal among others."

Our topic for that week is "Entender y atraer a los clientes"/"Understand and Attract Clients," but I have asked Ms. Macom to touch on the following:
  • Share some projects that she worked on while working in Latin American companies and countries.
  • Describe the Latin American business culture as she experienced it.
  • Recount any problems she encountered due to cross-cultural practices and expectations or language issues.

SPAN 332 students, please do two things:

  1. Leave a comment here with a question or comment for Ms. Malcom. Let her know what you're interested in, what you'd like to know about working in Latin America or with Latin Americans, etc.
  2. Check your schedule. I would like to invite two of you to have lunch with Ms. Malcom and me at Timpone's at 11:30 on April 9. I'll collect the names of those who are available on Thursday, and randomly pick two. (If you have another suggestion about how I should choose, let me know!)


  1. I would like to know more about etiquette for addressing co-workers and clients. I find that with my Latin American co-workers, I have a much more relaxed relationship with them because we work together on a regular basis. With clients, I want to be respectful and polite, but I do not want to be overly polite to the point where I seem distant and cold. Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Navigating the treacherous waters of race and ethnicity in the workforce can be challenging. I would like to know what topics of conversation should be avoided at all costs with Latino coworkers and other topics that would be welcomed. For example, many adamantly advise the avoidance of the loaded question: “what ethnicity are you?” or “where are you from?” Do you agree with this commonly held belief? Have you ever been asked this question while at work? If so, how did you react?

    Thank-you in advance for considering my questions and I look forward to hearing you speak in the upcoming week.

  3. Since you are from Guatemala, I assume that Spanish was your first language. Often times, I find that I am flustered when trying to speak Spanish, which I fear causes me to come across as cold. How did you develop the skills to speak English fluently and become confident enough to become an interpreter? Thank You!

  4. I'm interested in how language affects business practices. For example, are there manners of speaking which are used in one language but not another? Is either language considered to be more formal than the other? And, if so, how does this affect the atmosphere in which business is conducted?
    -Alexandra Morgan

  5. At times when I am working with clients from Latin America, either in person or on the phone, I find it difficult to get across the message I desire to send due to either the language barrier or cultural differences. When all else fails, I smile a lot, which I know counts for something; however, I want to be more knowledgeable of effective ways to communicate my thoughts so my ideas are received better and I can better help the clients. What are some Spanish cultural and language protocol/lingo it is important to be aware of when in a business-type environment? Thank you ahead of time for your consideration and willingness to come in and talk to our class:-)

  6. I am pursuing a Global Business Culture certificate and I am interested in one day working with a company that has international ties to Latin America or Spain. What are some of the important cultural differences between Latin America and the United States that are important to know before doing business? Are their certain topics of conversation that would be appropriate in the US but not in Latin America or vice versa? What is the best way to become familiar with these differences?

    Thank you! I look forward to your visit.
    Katie T.

  7. Hi! I'm actually attending Georgetown in the fall, to pursue a master's in public policy. How did you like working for them? What specific type of research/consulting work did you do?

    Looking forward to meeting you!

  8. I'm interested in the differences in business etiquette between the US and Latin American countries. I studied abroad in Spain, and I noticed that there were some differences in social and business etiquette. How do the etiquette and business practices of the US differ from those in Latin America?

    Thanks! I'm looking forward to meeting you!


  9. Did you graduated with an international business degree? Also, how do you manage to keep switching from speaking spanish to english or from english to spanish? -Margareth Yan

  10. Hello!

    What was it like working in different countries? Did you enjoy working in one country in particular more so than in others? I'm interested in pursuing a career as a bilingual school social worker or therapist. How has being bilingual benefited you when trying to find jobs?


    Megan Knight

  11. Working in Latin American countries must have made you familiar with the distinct and possibly different business culture of those countries. I am interested in knowing if the business culture of latin american countries is significantly different to the business culture of the United States. If so, what are the differences and similarities amongst the two?


    Julio Costa

  12. Hi Ms. Malcom,

    I am interested in pursuing a career in central america, but I am not sure how to go about researching a good place to work or how to apply. How was your experience working in Guatemala and do you have any advice as far as finding a secure job in central america?

  13. Being involved in international business is hard enough for many people especially the cultural differences, but being a successful business woman can also be very difficult. Do you find that some cultures did not take you as seriously because you were a woman? And if so, how did you deal with this?

  14. Hello Ms. Malcolm,

    I am a Spanish major and also have completed the Global Business Culture certificate program here at the university. I will be graduating in May, and still am not sure which route I would like to take. How did you get started with your careers after college and which careers do you think would work best with these certifications?

  15. Hi Ms. Malcom,

    One of the aspects of international business that has always fascinated me is marketing. Was any of the research or strategic planning you did related to marketing certain products among different populations? And if so, what were some of the major differences of how certain food products were marketed in Latin America as opposed to the United States?

  16. Hello Ms. Malcom,

    Well I am a Spanish major and I had always though out getting an associates in Business in the future. I think that eventually I would like to own a business. In the business world what would you advice me to do? I am still lost on what i want to do in my life although I am a senior what would be an advice you would give me about how to chose my future? Hoe did you decide to end up doing what your are doing now and how did you decided on your career path?