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Lessons Learned from Carlos Santana: The First Nearshoring Innovator

nearshoring collaboration
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Shannon Cantor
ByPor Shannon Cantor

Shannon’s craving for knowledge inspired her studies in languages and literature, and has ultimately driven her into a career of research and writing. She has spent the past years immersed in conversations surrounding IT business strategy, creating content that synthesizes these concepts and enhances our understanding of them. She is a published academic author, content specialist, and--in her “free” time-- project manager in the non-profit sector.

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If you’re a leader in the technology sector, you’re a disciple of Carlos Santana. Whether or not you jam to classics like “Oye Cómo Va?” and “Black Magic Woman,” the guitar legend 50 years ago manifested what the tech field is just now promoting as its effective new strategy: nearshoring collaboration.

As we enter the age in which consumers demand both quality and immediate answers, companies must work hard to maintain a competitive edge. Experts agree that the best way to achieve this balance is through nearshoring, which strategically leverages international collaboration towards both efficiency and quality (Robbio, 2019). Nearshorers plant offices in the same or adjacent time zones, and thus facilitate an effective combination of closeness and diversity. Expansion moves along a longitudinal axis, allowing teams to efficiently work during the same hours. As a result, we have seen the rise of nearshore links among the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Haiti, and more. Teams share a foundational understanding of similar culture, language, and geographical proximity; yet they are also expansive enough to bring diverse perspectives that foster novelty (Barret, 2019).

Nearshorers are really, in this sense, walking in the already-paved footprints of the guitar guru, Carlos Santana. “Santana is a pioneer in synthesizing musical styles from different cultures,” writes The Jesuit University in Silicon Valley’s Markkila Center for Applied Ethics (2014). And it’s true: the music legend (himself born in Mexico and raised in the United States since teenage years) combines genres from Latin America, Africa, and the United States. He draws on relatively local resources, from nearby countries that offer the synergy of in-person collaborations; and yet he features specialized talent across cultures and languages, bursting with novelty from the productive diversity. Just like us in the tech world, his nearshoring collaboration fuses cultures, perspectives, styles, and expertise, in ground-breaking collaborations that ignite innovation.

Nearshoring Lessons from Carlos Santana, #1: Global Learning

Carlos Santana has cited a mixture of musical influences, geographically rooting in Cuba, Mexico, England, the United States, Africa, and Hungary (Mongo Santamaría, Javier Bátiz, The Beatles, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Gábor Szabó, respectively) (Carlos Santana, 2019). He understands that expertise grows richly in all corners of the globe, and has never been shy to tap into that source of knowledge and inspiration. Successful nearshore tech companies, likewise, don’t forget that talent, learning, and inspiration may be found on a world-wide scale.

Nearshoring Lessons from Carlos Santana, #2: Bringing it Home

Yet despite Santana’s global vision towards learning, his actual process of elaboration brought things closer to home. From the time of his earliest albums, he has featured a cohort of artists from various “nearshore” locations, marrying US rock-n-roll and blues with Latin American rhythm: Sergio “Gus” Rodriguez from Guadalajra, Mexico; Greg Rolie from Seattle, Washington; Mike Carabello from San Francisco; and José Octavio “Chepito” Areas Dávila from Nicaragua (Erlewine, 2019). He has also recorded alongside other solo artists from across the Americas, with smash hits featuring Gloria Esteban, Steven Tyler, Jerry Garcia, Juanes, Maná, Michael Jackson, Shakira, Romeo Santos, Lauryn Hill, Tina Turner, and many more (Elyachar, 2012). Throughout his career, his success has compounded with each of these features, and musicians across the Americas have quickly recognized him as one of the best guitarists for collaboration (The Big Interview, 2015). His cultural and linguistic understanding is clearly expansive; however, he hasn’t stretched it too far. His teams have always shared the base-line connectivity of relative geographical closeness in the Americas, facilitating their collaborations for continuous success.

Nearshoring relies on this same principal– allowing a similar cultural foundation to facilitate teamwork, which at once also features a diversity of perspectives. The ease of closeness promotes efficient work, finding sustainability in versatility and novel synergy (Robbio). Considering the success and longevity of Santana’s 5-decade career, it’s no wonder that tech companies see the value in emulating this strategy.

Nearshoring Collaboration Lessons from Carlos Santana, #3: Technology to Simulate In-person Presence

Successful teamwork relies on this closeness and understanding within the relationship dynamics. In his article on nearshoring strategy, Mike Barrett writes that success “comes down to the value of your human connections and the mutual commitment and trust instilled by both parties” (2019). The cultural similarity of nearshoring practice does help to facilitate this commonality; yet nothing is more effective than real-time and presential brainstorming (Robbio). However, whether you’re a guitar hero in high demand or a team of developers spanning the Americas, it can be all but impossible to work together as an in-person unit. The Santana-appointed solution? Create a digital team.

Carlos Santana pioneered a risky new tactic in the making of his 1999 album, Supernatural: recording remotely. Musicians in Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios laid down basic tracks, which were sent to Santana, who then layered on top of them with his own guitar. After, diverse teams worked virtually from across the States to mix and master the songs. The strategy leveraged what was at the time cutting-edge technology (in-home recording and USB file storage), to create a network simulation of in-person recording. Now, nearly 20 years later, nearshoring expert, Alex Robbio, corroborates this tactic, emphasizing the value of “high-quality microphones, cameras and messaging tools.” His purpose uses these gadgets to create vital team integration, albeit virtual, with the understanding that our digital age makes the world a smaller place.    

Corazón Nearshorado: Techy Hearts Follow Santana

We have Carlos Santana to thank for a plethora of musical inspiration– whether its Spanish-language Samba, US Southern Blues, West Coast Psychedelic, or Progressive Modern Rock. But the heralder of “universal tone” also has disseminated his global influence far beyond musical genres (Graff), and into the most unexpected of realms: the tech universe.  Globally learning, closely working, and continuously innovating through the teamwork: these are lessons that nearshoring strategy banners as lifeblood, but which Santana has already manifested across the “Shades of Time.”