The aspiration of Joaquin Acosta is easy to relate to. A native son of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, he studied hard in school, received a master's degree in electrical engineering, learned to speak fluent, though accented, English, then went to work as a product engineer at one of the biggest and most reputable employers in the area—Motorola. Although he's a newly wed, he devotes about 50 hours a week, sometimes even 60 or 70, to his job. His wife doesn't like his long hours, he says, but he has to work them so that he'll be more qualified for the company's sponsored Ph.D. program at Arizona State University. Then he hopes to move back to Hermosillo upon graduation to work in a community he loves.
His story is a classic American dream, but that dream happens south of the U.S. border, where outsourcing centers are springing up at a speed that was once only seen in China and India. Geographical locations often play a significant role in an engineer's salary level. Traditional technology hubs such as the West Coast and New England continue to top the chart, the latest Design News salary survey has found, paying an annual average of $95,894.96 and $86,341.89 respectively. (See more survey results on page 73.) A new player that's worth noting is Mexico, which is offering an average yearly income of $33,000 to its engineers, who often work at manufacturing centers set up by U.S. companies, intensifying their U.S. counterparts' concern on outsourcing. According to data from the Mexican government, labor and total manufacturing costs in Mexico are less than half of what they are in the U.S. When shipping time, cultural and language differences, and the quality of labor are also considered, Mexico has become a favorable outsourcing hub to many U.S. companies. At the Motorola's Sonora center, where Acosta works, for example, the company already has a staff of 4,000. It is planning to expand the operation and transform it to become more compatible with the Motorola plants in China. Similar growing investments from U.S. companies has driven up wages in Mexico, Acosta says. In well-established manufacturing centers such as Chihuahua, he will be able to make twice as much—a hefty raise, though still a significantly lower sum than the average wage of an American engineer. But Acosta would not move to Chihuahua, he says, explaining that Hermosillo is home and he would not leave there. When asked if he feels like he's stealing American engineers' jobs, Acosto responded, "We're here because the [Motorola] headquarters wants us to be here. I see that we're working together to make this company the leader in the industry. We want to cooperate, like you would say in America, to see continuous growth." (See past coverage by Design News on Mexico as an emerging Silicon Valley at http://rbi.ims.ca/4394-537.)