César's story: From developer to CEO
César's story: From developer to CEO
Could you tell us about your career journey?
I started my career as a software developer back in 1999. Before joining Sngular, I went through eight or nine companies in my first eight years. Why? I was jumping between projects and technologies, but I couldn't find a place where I wanted to stay longer.
In 2007, I joined Sngular as a Senior Software Developer. At that time I specialized in .Net architecture, and now I'm the CEO. A lot has happened in between. First, I started helping on projects with more needs or that were technically more complex. After a while, I left the .Net projects and started working on Java projects.
A few years later, we took on Cloud projects that involved technologies that were totally new to us. But someone had to get into it, so I stepped up. I dove into the projects and learned quickly. I also remember when I started to dabble in front-end, the first time we saw jQuery issues, and we started to think about frameworks a little more professionally. Today, all this sounds like ancient history. Then I moved to automatic testing projects, which let me start working on something that I never would have imagined. The world of testing was a surprise.
Then, I made a massive life change. My family and I decided to seize an opportunity and move to the United States. We were there for six years and my work was a little bit of everything. I started with Cloud DevOps again, and the truth is that I was lucky. I was involved in some exciting and demanding projects where I was able to learn a lot.
Later, we opened projects in another city, so we picked up and moved from the south to the north of the United States to a more English-speaking environment. There, I went back a bit to software architectural models and high-performance projects.
Honestly, I don’t know when I finally became the “Sngular guy.” I just kept taking on new responsibilities, helping teams with other projects define our technological solutions or, in many cases, helping get projects started and laying down roadmaps for others to build upon. And then a year ago, Sngular President José Luis offered me the CEO position.
But nothing has changed about the way I approach work. I’m still always learning and accepting that I will constantly face new challenges. We are all in a learning process, and maybe that isn’t what’s expected from a person in my position, but I don't know how to do things differently. It’s the way I face day-to-day challenges.
How has your ability to adapt helped you throughout your career?
I view life as a continuous process of adaptation. First, you adapt personally, when you get married, when you have children. Those are huge processes of transformation. In 2015, with a 10-month-old child, we decided to go to the south of the United States. Some people said we were crazy. Right now, I couldn't be happier with that decision because it complimented us as a family. It helped me a lot as a person and as a professional by extension.
For me this is the order: first, you adapt as a person and then you bring what you’ve learned to your professional life. You get used to change being normal, to being flung outside of your comfort zone. It can be hard to leave a place where you’re comfortable, where you have an environment that you know, and something happens to you that is a bit like learning a new language. In the beginning, English was a barrier. I had an intermediate level, and I was used to speaking English to a certain extent, but not at such a high level.
When I arrived, the first thing I found was companions eager to lend me a hand. You realize that you are not alone when you make that kind of journey. For me, the best thing is realizing that not everything is as you thought it would be. You get used to the fact that some things in your life are working in a certain way. Everyone goes into new situations with preconceived notions — ideas of how things should be. But being exposed to different ways of thinking, different ways of working, of living... opens your mind. And now that I’m back in Spain, I don't want to abandon the ways of doing things, of being, of dealing with family, and friends that I’ve picked up while abroad. People from different cultures can face professional challenges very differently, but it doesn't mean that it's a bad thing.
Instead, you can take the best of all the different worlds and become a stronger person and professional. And share what you’ve learned. It’s an opportunity to bring back principles that I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
How has Sngular helped you keep learning?
It has helped me keep learning because it had encouraged me to set challenges and has always let me mark my own path. When I talk to my colleagues, I say that we come here to blaze our own trails. In fact, I now often tell people: “don't ask me what you have to do," because I don't want to be the one to tell you your next task or how to deal with the things that are your responsibility.
I'm not here for that. I'm for helping everyone approach challenges in their own way. That's the way we've always done it at Sngular. When I moved into the CEO role, I asked, "What do you expect of a CEO?" and the answer I got was, "You tell me." That response left a big mark on me. You have to define your learning path and decide how you want to evolve.
You must be patient. We often want to do things faster than we can. But of course, I see what I am now and how I was 15 years ago, and there has been a huge amount of progress. Besides being 15 years older, so much has happened. I and those around me have evolved. Without a doubt, working alongside a lot of different people has an influence; it's a rush. You can learn from anyone you sit down to talk to. You get involved in projects that put you in front of a blackboard to create architectures or debug a solution. I think the most important things for continuous learning are to have an open heart, be willing to change, and never waste an opportunity to learn.
What do you do to encourage those around you to keep learning?
I recently had a conversation with a team from Spain, and I told them, "I hope you’ll forgive me, but I'm here to poke a little bit." In other words, I'm here to get you out of your comfort zone, to light a little fire. I ask people about the things they would change. So often, the task is to reinforce the team and propose different points of view; to reassure people that we have to experiment and it's okay if we fail. We all make mistakes every day.
I make many mistakes but that doesn't mean I stop trying. I try to offer that safety net. If it works, fine. If it doesn't work, we'll twist it, make some changes, and I'm sure we'll get version 2, 3, or 4 to work.
Standing still and doing the same old thing is simply not an option in this line of work. You get overtaken from all sides. That's why I focus my work on helping everyone evolve in their professional career, inspiring the team to keep moving and to never stop.
Why would you say to someone who was considering working at Sngular?
I would ask you to come and teach new things to those of us who are already here. When someone joins the company, we have to seize the opportunity to learn from that person who comes with the desire to share and learn from the person next to them. To challenge the norms, look a little further, and think about where you want to focus your career. I would say Sngular is an organization where everyone charts their own journey and has the opportunity to turn that vision into reality. I can speak in the first person, obviously, but I’ve seen a lot of other examples. I would say that you should not be afraid to try. You have to take risks. Here, we make space for each person. We try to have personalized plans. We are still people with names and surnames. It's in our DNA, and that's what we can bring to the table.