A seasoned leader in the realm of Technology and Product Development, Uriel’s career spans startups and large corporations with ambitious transformation goals, and he is renowned for his expertise in building and nurturing high-performing teams. He firmly champions the Lean product mindset as a core philosophy.
Throughout his professional journey, Uriel has spearheaded innovative digital solutions within industries that have experienced significant disruption, including e-commerce, urban mobility, and financial services. He is also an avid enthusiast of web3 technologies and dedicates his time to mentoring and guiding young startups and offering his expertise to fellow leaders with a digital focus.
Given the dynamic landscape of technology and business, the role of a CTO has been undergoing a significant transformation. Let’s take a look at his interview in the Dec 2023 edition of The Titans, on the evolving role of the CIO/CTO in a demand-driven economy:
What trends do you see shaping the future of it and the role of the CIO in the next 5-10 years?
The first generations of CIOs depended on large capital deployment and on achieving process efficiency to succeed, but they were slower at meeting customers’ needs. In the last 10 years, we lived a transition towards a demand driven economy through the massive penetration of smartphones and the commoditization of cloud computing and SaaS.
I believe that in the next 10 years, the same trend will accelerate, and we’ll keep incorporating technical layers that abstract complexity, like no-code / low-code tools, to enable more diverse talent to contribute to building digital products. The success of these teams will depend directly on their ability to learn fast from their users and to react seamlessly.
AI is the best technology we know today for learning fast, but it will only be effective if we understand how to connect it with the right goals. Blockchain technology will also accelerate a demand driven behaviour at scale in the financial space and in other industries that today are still Supply dominant. The future CIO will have the challenge of connecting all these elements, where the focus will be human centricity.
In your opinion, has there been an increase in the awareness of diversity and the positive role it plays in the workplace?
I believe that diversity has always been a fact, it exists in infinite dimensions because we’re all different in many ways. The challenge we face is inclusion in the workplace, looking at some of these dimensions at a time and overcoming our biases. In my opinion, related to the markets I’m familiar with, there has been an increase in awareness of gender balance in IT in the past years, which helped to create better conditions for many female professionals to develop successful careers in this field. As leaders, many of us accept the social responsibility of driving inclusion, but some ignore that having diverse talent in your company is key to driving business impact because it helps increase the learning speed of the team, improving decision-making, refining the understanding of customers.
Please describe your dream work environment and work culture?
My dream work environment is driven by a purpose that I can feel proud about, where we share a passion for our customers and where everyone has a genuine sense of ownership. This is a meritocratic place where learning and understanding are more important than knowing, where we measure what we need to improve and set clear goals accordingly. Here, we embrace uncertainty with grace and collective achievements overrule politics.
What is the most engaging or satisfying aspect of your job role?
I have the space and the empowerment to try to shape things like in my dream work environment. Edenred has operations in more than 45 countries, but we keep the startup feeling local. In the UAE, we build a product for people that live in the same cities we live in, but many of them have difficult conditions. It’s really rewarding to be able to create a positive impact for them and with such a diverse team.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job role?
I’ve seen great technical talent in my career, but the most successful teams I’ve worked with also have a combination of learning agility, knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do, and a sense of agency, the feeling that there’s almost nothing out of reach and that things depend on your actions. Most of the professionals in our field built their careers in hierarchical environments, where they were rewarded for doing what they were told to do. Changing these cultural aspects and aligning expectations around us during the process is the biggest challenge.
Has your organisation adopted agile development practices or other innovative methodologies to respond more flexibly to changing market conditions? If so, how has this impacted your it projects?
Our main way of assessing if we’re organizing our work the right way is by measuring how quickly each team is learning and driving impact on our objectives while minimising unintended consequences. We apply Objectives and Key Results as our interdisciplinary way of defining success and each team has the autonomy to define its own practices, as long as the mindset is agile. Many teams take elements from Lean, Kanban, Scrum and XP, but we can’t allow any process to become more important than the principles.
How do you plan to build your teams?
This will always depend on the context, but we have interdisciplinary squads of between 4 to 8 people each. Most of the squads focus on a product or on a part of a product that can impact business results by improving penetration, monetisation, or efficiency. Some squads are driven by specific quarterly missions, and others on Platform aspects that intend to simplify the improvement of tools, scalability, resilience, security, speed and efficiency for the rest of the team. We don’t have Project Managers or Product owners, we have Product Managers and we also try not to depend on manual testing for quality assurance.
Can you tell me about a time you lead a culturally diverse team?
I had the chance to work on 5 M&As in Latin America, where I faced my first cultural shocks around both company and country cultures. I also lived in 5 countries speaking different languages and every experience helped me overcome personal biases. I believe I became humble and curious about cultural diversity because of this. The most diverse team I’ve ever worked with is my current team at Edenred, where there are people from more than 10 nationalities and many different life stories. I learned every day about ways of communicating, about gestures, about the relation with authority and about the view on money and time, this is exciting for me and it’s a journey that I recommend facing with genuine curiosity.
Sustainability and environmental concerns have gained prominence. How is technology being leveraged in your organisation to reduce its environmental footprint and contribute to sustainability goals.
At Edenred, we have a comprehensive global sustainability and environmental program across all Business Units. Talking specifically about technology actions, one example I can give is our migration towards a platform-as-a-service approach in our Cloud infrastructure. Among other advantages, this provides a consistent and easy-to-manage way to use exactly the resources we need at each given time to run our applications and operations.
Define 2023 in 3 words.
‘Scaling the impact’