Fernando Fischmann

A Leader’s Guide To A Borderless Future

24 March, 2016 / Articles

I think Malcom Gladwell lied, and his lies cost us a lot of time. Or worse, prevented us from ever starting something we care about.

He told us that in order to be a true master at something, we must dedicate 10,000 hours to that craft. But it’s a scam, and I think I found a hack. I mostly avoid hacks because shortcuts generally don’t work. But this one is a good one. I have tested it on myself and on others. It seems to work.

Here is what you do. Find two, three or four things that you love to do, then combine them into a career. Yes, if you want to be the best in the world as a singer, you probably have to dedicate around 10,000 hours. The Beatles, for example, played many of those hours in strip clubs in Germany way before they became famous. A lot of people don’t know that, but it’s true. But you don’t need to play 10,000 hours. There is an intersection that exists, and if you can find that intersection, you can become the best in the world in a far shorter amount of time.

Carlos Castañeda is a perfect example of how this works. Carlos was born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico. He loves four things. Education, technology, entrepreneurship and international relations. He has lived in the intersection of these things, and has made a global name for himself as a top leader.

Carlos works at the University of Chihuahua (UACH) as the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This checks his “education box.” Instead of becoming a complacent educator waiting for a pension, he incorporated his other passions, entrepreneurship and technology into his education role. Leveraging his position at the University of Chihuahua, he founded the “Generador 30,” an Innovation Center focused on entrepreneurship and technology in Mexico. This opened the eyes of hundreds and thousands of youth around the state of Chihuahua and the country of Mexico. Then Carlos thought bigger and tapped into his fourth passion, international relations. For as long as he can remember, he knew that even though we may look different, dress in different styles, and speak in various languages, our dreams are the same.

Carlos created a partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Chihuahua to bring innovation projects, educational workshops and exchange programs. The aim was to create a mutually beneficial relationship based on the strengths of each side. UACH is a leader in virtual reality. One of the teams in their Innovation Lab has built a virtual reality program that helps children with speech impediments. Through a simulated under-sea experience, kids get the opportunity to talk to fish. The gamification of this technology has resulted in children overcoming their speech impediments 33% faster than using traditional resources. One of the MIT teams are working on ways to track your carbon footprint and augmented reality breakthroughs. Through exchange programs where MIT professors and students meet those from UACH, they share best practices to show how these technologies are created, and to debunk the myth that these technologies are inaccessible due to price. Innovation is this collaboration’s middle name.

Carlos also fostered a partnership between UACH and another prestigious American institution, the University of California Berkeley. This collaboration brings Berkeley’s world-class entrepreneurship training program to the UACH students. This collaboration shares the best practices of Silicon Valley around starting a company, finding customers, conducting market research and pitching investors. Through a combination of in-person trainings and virtual meetings, UACH brings the methodologies of world-class organizations like Berkeley to their students. This program concludes with a week-long intensive learning of the Silicon Valley for the UACH students.

Carlos also started Campus Link, which is the largest bi-national event of Innovation in Mexico. In this two-day conference between Mexico and New Mexico, Carlos brings national leaders and international speakers to open the minds of students from all over Mexico about the opportunities that exist in innovation and entrepreneurship. He is launching another Campus Link event to the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti this summer. The goal is to address the racial divide and discrimination between these countries in an effort to use innovation as a unifying force.

I could go on and on about this leader. He heads the Computer Emergency Response Team for the State of Chihuahua. He leads the Cyber-Security Network from the northwest region, by the National Association of Universities and Educational Institutions (ANUIES), in Mexico. He created an alliance between UACH with National Geographic Learning. But there is a fifth passion I forgot to mention about Carlos. And it is perhaps the most important.


Six years ago, the United States government placed a high security alert which advised people to avoid certain parts of Mexico. Two of those places were Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. In fact, they black-listed American Universities from doing collaborations with these two cities. When Carlos met with leaders from Universities, he would have to fly to different parts of Mexico. He begged them to keep Chihuahua in mind for future collaborations. It will get better, he promised. He told them now, more than ever, the city needs an injection of innovation, a rush of creativity. He kept reminding these leaders that “Creativity takes courage,” and he would not rest until these opportunities for advancement existed.

Six years later, entrepreneurship is booming in both Chihuahua and Juarez. The universities that would not fly here just six years ago are now important partners. The UACH students in his program are working many jobs and finding creative ways to participate in this ecosystem, take control of their futures and fund their trips to Silicon Valley. Carlos is still not resting, and the progress that follows speaks for itself.

I asked Carlos about his ultimate goal with the work he is doing. He quickly replied, “I want everyone, both in this country and those outside of it, to know that anything is possible. The limits that have applied to us for so many years are slowly disappearing, and that is exciting.”

I was in Chihuahua last week and had the honor of interviewing Carlos in person. I felt his passion and genuine nature to serve. Years later, the blacklist has been lifted, and on the other side of the border, there is light.

Once the light shines in, it is impossible to contain.

 The scientist and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.




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