Working at CIATEQ

Our work as Peace Corps volunteers is a critical element of our time in country.  Therefore, this month, I (that is, Juliet) want to provide some more details on the type of work I´m doing in Mexico.  The Peace Corps program here is different than in other countries, since experienced volunteers are sought to work at two Mexican agencies, either CONACYT (responsible for science and technology issues) or SEMARNAT (responsible for environmental issues), although the program will be expanding to other organizations soon.

For seven months, I’ve been working for one of the CONACYT Centers (CIATEQ, Spanish acronym for Center for Advanced Research and Technology) here in Querétaro.  My position is in the Planning Unit, which has a very capable staff, which directs marketing and promotion efforts throughout the agency.  The focus of my work is helping the three CONACYT Centers here, which have formed an Alliance (initially called LabTA), expand into the aviation industry.  I work closely with my counterpart, Karina, who has been extremely helpful in answering my questions and patient with my Spanish.

The three Centers just received the exciting news that their proposal to build a joint aeronautical laboratory to provide technology services to the industry has been approved by the Mexican government.  With the recent growth of the aeronautical cluster in Querétaro and its strong educational facilities (including an aeronautical university), the new Alliance is well-placed to provide laboratory services, testing facilities and technical support for the development of the local suppliers. More than 20 U.S. and foreign companies have built aviation manufacturing and assembly facilities here in Querétaro, including Bombardier.  Bombardier has announced it will build parts and completely assemble its Learjet 85 here, which has caused a lot of excitement in the local government and the CONACYT centers here. 

I´ve been helping the Centers develop a plan to promote their services to the Mexican aviation industry.  In late April, the Alliance participated in their first aviation trade show, AEROMART Montreal 2010.  In anticipation of this event, I helped create an information brochure and other promotional materials, which described the aeronautical services and technologies provided by the three Centers, and translated these materials into English.  The Alliance´s participation was very successful, resulting in a new cooperative arrangement with the National Research Council (NRC) Canada in Montreal. 

With their successful bid for the joint aeronautical laboratory, the three Centers plan to start meeting soon with the key aviation companies in Mexico to discuss their capabilities and seek out areas of potential cooperation.  In preparation for these meetings, I am creating fact sheets on these companies.  With the overall Mexican aviation industry numbering more than 200 companies, I have also researched the broader aspects of the industry and prepared a market study, which includes trends, forecasts, government supports for the sector, as well as market information on the companies located in the Querétaro region.

While I generally work at CIATEQ about 7½ hours a day, I don´t spend all of the time at my desk.  On occasion, I participate in one of the daily 20-minute exercise classes, which are provided free to the employees.  Also, I have attended some free courses on intellectual property rights and technology transfer – topics that both CONACYT and Peace Corps are actively promoting in Mexico — and teach one-hour English conversation classes a couple of times a week.  Recently, I attended a CIATEQ-hosted breakfast for local aviation companies to learn more about the newly-created National Space Agency in Mexico.

Finally, there have been several crowd-pleasing events here at CIATEQ as well.  Given Mexico´s strong interest in the World Cup, all of the Mexican soccer games have been shown in our auditorium during work hours (more about this in a later blog entry).  In addition, once a month, the Director General of CIATEQ speaks to the staff about his activities or new areas of focus for the organization.  After these sessions, we are all treated to fruit, tacos and cake to celebrate the employees´ birthdays for that month.  Around the Christmas holidays, there were a number of events where tamales, atole (a hot beverage usually made with corn and sometimes flavored with chocolate) and special pastries were served to celebrate the season.

CIATEQ is a great place to volunteer and everyone has been very friendly to me as I have worked to integrate myself into the organization.

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