Interview with Paulo, CEO of Devexperts Portugal
In our second addition of dxSpotlight, we share our stories, challenges, and the things that truly matter to us. This month, we spoke to one of our leaders, Paulo Pina Pires the CEO of Devexperts Portugal. From Paris and London to Porto, Paulo has lived and breathed the financial industry since his early 20s. He shares with us some valuable insight into his life, career, and Devexperts as a whole.
Who is Paulo?
I am the kind of person that is always curious and eager to learn about people, new cultures, new technologies, and new ways of doing things. I like to learn, live, and see, but I am also more of a doer than just a watcher, which means that oftentimes I put myself out there. I like to live life, to create, to watch things grow, and see my results. I am a happy person. My friends also have told me that I always keep cool in tough situations. I used to play basketball and the last shot was always on me.
We know you have a variety of different backgrounds – from HR to sales and now the CEO of Devexperts Portugal. Could you tell us a little bit more about that and more importantly which “hat” is truly yours?
I learned something from a very important person – Robert Solow, who has an economic Nobel prize. I learned that what you do does not define you, but enriches you. The fact that you do not have to be stuck to one thing makes you richer as a person. I’ve done many things in life and I’ve enjoyed them all. If you ask me, “Are you a finance guy?” Yes, I am. “Are you an HR guy?” For sure I am. But what I truly am is the amalgamation of all those things. I am a mix of all these experiences and they make me a lot stronger than if I only had experience in one specific area.
What drives you when it comes to your work?
The people I work with. I like learning from people and working with teams that challenge me. I’ve told people that I work with to not be afraid to say something that I may not like. I like people to show me different perspectives and push me in different directions. You need to be challenged because even your thought process gets input from different areas and adapts. That’s how you keep your brain engaged – it’s like a muscle. If you stop exercising it, it loses power.
What do we do differently at Devexperts that sets us apart from competitors in the industry?
Two things – firstly, sometimes people underestimate the brainpower and capacity of what they have in-house. At Devexperts, we’ve gotten so used to that because it’s part of our DNA. The majority of people working here feel challenged by an intellectual and work standpoint. That’s a very rare thing to accomplish year after year. Usually, people leave companies because they feel bored. I’m never bored here.
Secondly, there’s a culture of excellence with a twist. People still challenge themselves and there’s still a bit of a start-up feel to Devexperts, but not in the hectic kind of way. There’s an authentic feel in the people and in the way they address issues. The company has personality and character. When most companies grow and evolve, they become process-oriented and what I call “grey corporate”. We’re not like that and I hope we never reach that point. Of course, when you grow, you must have processes and operational standards, but it’s good to feel like you still have that edge and that you’re young at heart.
Could you describe Devexperts’ culture in 3 words?
Challenging – It’s never at a standstill. It’s always on the move.
Adaptive – As a company you have to adapt to reality, clients, changes in technology, and everything else and we manage to do this continuously.
Young at heart.
What do you think the future holds for the Fintech industry? Will this future be affected by COVID and how?
Every sector will be affected to some extent because we are not in economic growth mode currently. COVID-19 accelerated the path of digitalization that most companies were already undertaking, which means that the world and especially financial markets are becoming even more electronic. This will definitely benefit good and strong fintech companies. Some of them probably may not survive, but that means that there will be more market share for the remaining ones. If you can get through this time and ensure the quality of the products, serve clients properly and create solutions that clients need, then you will not only survive but will grow in the coming two to three years.
Some companies will adapt and grow and others will not and may disappear. There’s a reason why big banks and finance conglomerates are taking interest in fintech – because of a buzz word people like to use recently which is “agility”. Agility is very important in moments like these. It’s completely different to steer a fast boat than it is a big freighter. You can see that in a moment like this. It takes a while to turn a freighter because it’s heavy and has a lot of processes. With a speed boat, you simply turn the wheel. And Devexperts is definitely the speed boat.
What’s your personal productivity hack?
I always prepare a schedule for the next week and think about the things that I must complete and the goals that I want to achieve. Another thing that helps me is after a long career, you are able to feel when you’re being productive and can push yourself further or when you are in regular work mode. When I recognize that, I have the possibility to push some of my mundane tasks to less productive days. And on days when I have a lot of energy, I go back to my notes, check out my wildest ideas and say “I am going to explore this today, it may turn into something”.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
I would tell my 20-year-old-self to take chances, even the ones I am afraid to take. That’s the right moment to take chances and learn about yourself. You’ll always be learning, but when you are 20 you feel like you still have nothing to lose because you are just starting your career. As you progress in your career you may feel stuck in one place, which is why I like to feel uncomfortable. Once you start feeling too comfortable, you are no longer pushing yourself. I like to think that anything can happen and that circumstances can change.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career growth thus far?
There were two defining moments. The first was early in my career when I was working for a stockbroker. I was working at the dealing table and my boss wanted me to do something that I didn’t agree with and thought that it was unethical for the company to do. He told me that if I didn’t do it, he would take me off the dealing table and I was forced to make a choice. I chose the core thing I believed in and was forced to leave the dealing table, so I started doing financial analysis. The first weeks were tough as I knew I was good at what I was doing and I felt it wasn’t fair, but I never regretted it. That defined me in terms of what I believed in. Sometimes you’re not really sure about what your attitude will be in a certain situation until you’re faced with a difficult choice. When I faced it, it reinforced the person I was.
The second moment was when I was working for a great company for many years and realized that the way things were headed, it would be difficult for me to progress the way I wanted to and the way I needed to develop myself. I wasn’t unhappy or anything, but the time had come to challenge myself more and switch gears, so I decided to leave. Although this decision was difficult both from a professional and personal standpoint, and everybody told me I was mad at the time, I never regretted it.
Read the previous edition of dxSpotlight “Design and Dancing. Alena Senina” here.