Cox Leadership May2011

In May 2011 five groups of students traveled to Europe (Frankfurt, Bratislava and London), Asia (Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai), Southeast Asia (Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai), India (Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai) and Latin America (Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo) with the Global Leadership Program at the Cox School of Business.

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Corporate culture: McAfee’s journey to India

An update from Elizabeth, MBA and Master of Arts Management ’12, who traveled to India with the Cox Global Leadership Program:

Today’s visit was our most “corporate” so far, and it was a bit comforting to feel a little more at home. We drove outside Bangalore to a very fancy office park which includes McAfee, Yahoo, Infosys, etc. Once we arrived, everyone had to sign in and get badges, and we could not take any pictures.

We were greeted by the head of HR, who spoke very well about the challenges of employee retention in India. Attrition rates are relatively high at tech companies in India – some hover around 14% – and the usual tactics HR departments in the States might use (benefits, compensation packages, commitment contracts) are often not useful here in India. The country and the tech industry are simply growing so fast, and the opportunity to jump to another job with higher pay is too easy. For the most part they use a lot of the same methods, and are finding that slowly, over time, employees are building loyalty to the company and attrition is lowering.

We then heard from a few other directors, about the finance and accounting aspects, about McAfee’s journey into India and the organizational structure, and took a tour of two labs, one that monitors the internal workings, and one that searches out and studies viruses, some even before they are released. But before you think – like I did – that they hire former hackers like every movie shows us, they don’t. In fact, they have a strict policy that no employee can be hired with a past offence that’s on the books. How enforceable that is is probably up to question, but they certainly aren’t creating rag-tag teams of hackers and punk techies, which is obviously what I was picturing. They’re a team of incredibly intelligent computer workers able to back-track through, investigate, fight, and even predict major viruses in order to protect PCs. Here’s where I also smugly note that as a Mac user, I’ve never needed McAfee’s services….

We finished with a boxed lunch in the conference room with the HR director and a few of his colleagues, talking more about the challenges and unique opportunities present in the Indian community in terms of hiring and firing. We learned that generally the Indian community is very title-conscious, especially when it come time for marriage (the average age of the staff is late 20s, early 30s, just when most are settling down). Being able to cite promotions and changes in title is very important, but McAfee is fighting job title inflation by educating employees about the importance of lateral movement, and increased job responsibilities and pay, versus simply making another person a manager, resulting in an entire department of “managers.” The HR folks were a great bunch and were also pleased to hear we’d found Opus – apparently we really found the right spot!

The bus took us straight to the airport, where we had plenty of time, thank goodness, to get to our gate. This was good because poor Rebekah got stopped on her way through security again, and her smaller carry-on emptied. Luckily a Tibetan woman was also stopped and was translating for Rebekah as the guards searched over and over again. First it was her glasses case, then her contact case, then something else, then pill bottles. Finally it came down to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and they asked what it was for. Rebekah piped up, “Oh, for like, traveler’s diarrhea and upset stomach” which, upon translation, caused the guards to finally crack smiles and giggle. Then they left her to repack everything and head on her way. I should note that Rebekah is impressively traveling India for 2 weeks with only 2 carry-ons – no checked luggage.

We flew IndiGo airline, which is very nice and new-looking, down to the bob wigs the flight attendants all had to wear, but has the least amount of seat room I’ve ever seen on a mode of transportation. Poor Eric was literally wedged into his aisle seat, his knees forcing the seat in front of him forward so much that our guide, sitting in front of him, was leaning forward a bit! It was like an uninvited lumbar massage. Luckily the flight was short, and we arrived in HOT Delhi (92 degrees and humid at 8 p.m.), grabbed our bus to the hotel, and checked in. The hotel is just as nice as the previous one, though more Old Hollywood glamour than chic modern hotel. We ate at the café downstairs (food’s not as good as Bangalore) and called it a night. Tomorrow we bounce from Maruti Suzuki to Bharti-Walmart!

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