Jorge Vega Iracelay is head of legal for Microsoft Mexico. He and his team of six handle all of Microsoft’s legal, corporate, and corporate social-responsibility matters in the region. Originally from Argentina, Vega Iracelay has been able to hone his unique skill set within the legal departments of a variety of technology companies worldwide. Vega Iracelay, who has been with Microsoft Mexico for nearly 10 years, chats with HE about his unique responsibilities, the environment in an emerging market, and his passion for developing high-performing teams.
Hispanic Executive: Having handled legal affairs for Microsoft internationally, what are some of the major differences you have noticed about conducting business in Mexico versus other parts of the world?
Jorge Vega Iracelay: You need to understand that in the business context, the culture is different. You must approach a customer with a different tone. I have found that an American customer is much more accustomed to being engaged in an aggressive way. In Mexico, the tone is subtler. And when dealing with the Mexican government, navigating changing economic conditions, and handling the currency, a delicate approach is required. It is a high-risk country in terms of corruption and bribes, so as representatives of Microsoft, we must follow certain protocols and make sure to operate transparently.
Can you describe the corporate-social responsibility component of your role?
At Microsoft, we believe that being a great company involves more than just selling great products and services. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is extremely passionate about giving back to the community. Part of my role is to adapt Microsoft’s global community programs for Mexico. My team and I are concentrating our efforts on how we can serve the community through technology—helping Mexican businesses and individual citizens move to the cloud and operate more efficiently in accomplishing their objectives.
We have focused our social responsibility efforts in helping the unemployed youth population in Mexico, which is double the percentage of unemployed adults. Many of them don’t have a chance to finish high school and go on to college, which prevents them from getting gainful employment. Microsoft developed the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative which includes 25 programs divided into four pillars: education, job training, entrepreneurship, and digital skills. More than 12 million Mexican youths benefit from the programs. Our objective is to close the gap for those who don’t have access to the training they need to be successful.
You lead the legal team in Mexico. Can you describe your management style?
I like to be close to my team. I have done a lot of research about leadership ideas and trends, and I recently read a very good article about what it means to be a leader that spoke to me—to be a successful leader, you have to be in tune with yourself. Only then can you focus on your team, colleagues, coworkers, and then any external needs. Prior to anything else, you have to be well connected to everything that’s happening in your own world in order to better serve your community.
More concretely, I like to work on employee development. It’s not always easy, but having witnessed team members really grow and develop in their careers has been incredibly gratifying. I’m interested in people, and I believe in education and strategy. You have to build a strong team, set goals and expectations, and then manage execution.
What does your typical day look like?
There is no such thing as a typical day for me. I sometimes like to start with a business breakfast because I am most energetic in the morning. At the office, I conduct meetings in the afternoon, often meetings with government officials. Mexico City is so spread out that it usually takes a good deal of time to go from one government ministry to another. On any given day, I try to prioritize connecting with my team and my other colleagues. I don’t do a lot of business lunches because it takes so long to get from place to place in the city. Some days, I’m working on presentations. I do a lot of presentations, speak at a lot of events. I teach a few days a week as well. Ed. note: Jorge is a visiting professor at Pan American University and a professor of law in personal data protection at Infotec.
How do you think your background in the legal departments of international tech companies prepared you for your current role?
Having worked previously in the telecom industry definitely helped prepare me for working in IT. The technology has evolved dramatically, so having to constantly adapt has helped prepare me for this.
I’ve gained certain skills working in tough economic environments and emerging markets, which has prepared me to deal with the Mexican market. Having worked in countries going through economic crises helped me develop an agility in responsiveness. Dealing with governments has helped me to better understand their unique needs, how they think, and what they’re trying to accomplish. And I have learned to very clearly explain my point of view. It’s great working for Microsoft because the company has a solid reputation for corporate responsibility.
What are your goals for the future?
I’m almost 53 years old, and think I have built a very high-performing team here in Mexico. From here, I would like to explore another market and another industry and continue to build great teams. I am passionate about technology, law, regulation, and working with talented people in emerging markets. I love those thought environments, and I love a good challenge.