HR Vision Podcast #43 – The path to management and leadership ft. Luís Parada

This episode is quite special for our host. After all, it’s not everyday that you have the chance to interview an old friend!

With a background in Computer Sciences, Luís Parada worked in the high-demanding VFX industry and he’s now the Head of Engineering in one of the most prominent and growing companies in Portugal.

Because his career took a path towards managing teams and people, we went through the pains of getting there, how much of a role HR and HR Tech has in his day-to-day, and we went over some tips and data points that might help you manage people more efficiently.

A nice conversation that we hope you enjoy as much as we did.

More information about Luís:

Hey everyone, welcome to episode 43 of the HR Vision podcast. You know all episodes are special, but this one is personally special because I will talk to a very good friend of mine. So full disclosure, let me say hi to Luís Parava. Hey Luís, how are you doing my friend? How are you?

How's it going man? Everything's a pleasure. It's a pleasure to be here with you.

It's a pleasure to have you on. I know Luís for almost 17 years and he's one of the hardest working people that I know. He studied computer sciences, worked in the high demanding VFX industry, and is now the head of engineering in one of the most prominent and growing companies in Portugal. His career slowly but surely took the path to managing teams and people and that's what we will discuss today. Did I get it right?

Yeah, yeah. It's been a crazy ride so far.

Yeah alright, let's start there then give us a small introduction about you and your professional background.

So you said most of it. So I started computer science. I always wanted to go to 3D, but in Portugal you remember back then there was nothing on 3D. So I started going that direction. I ended up studying in the UK and then moved to the cinema and worked on some really cool movies like interstellar, Fast and Furious etc and then decided to move back to Portugal.

Worked oil and gas industry and 3D in a startup and. Left right job, I ended up on Farfetch and I started leading a team. And it just grew from there. So I started working, dabbling with management I think was back in 2011. Still a D-Neg. More leading teams into on the stints in oil and gas industry. In 2014 I think grew and then farfetched. That's all I've been doing is just leading teams and then the team grew to an area grew to the main and that's what we're doing.

That's interesting and how many people are you managing these days, you know, and well, yeah, can you give me a feeling of like what? Did you get any struggles you know, like studying, managing people from you?

So one of the things. The first thing is D-Neg was amazing. In the UK it was amazing because I had to interact with everyone and it's a very multicultural. The company which allowed me to create connections really fast. Which is cool here. What we've done is I started when I joined Farfetch. So I think we were a team of five so it's a standard team. So four to five developers and elite we grew that to what we call a cluster. So it's a cluster of teams and I think we went all the way to 16. Eventually I got invited to take over another area which I did last year and so far that area we started 17.

This year, and we're going to end up with. I just checked. I think it was 36 or 37, so we grew substantially this year and that required a lot of coordination with talent acquisition that required a lot of strategic strategic path to how we want to grow, how we want to expand the area because it's three. So the area I'm on, it's essentially 3 very distinct verticals, different contexts. And they don't interact with each other in the sense of, if I hire for this team is going to be in this team, so we need a very strategic way of growing. And that was something that we've done at the beginning of the year with talent acquisition.

Then we just went through the year. Alright, and as a manager, how challenging was it? You know to get to, you know from 5 people to 16 to now the 30 something did you? What are do you think like the common struggle? I guess it's for everybody. It's different, but for you, yeah, what do you thought? You know things that you learned through the process? Right, I think when when you move from lead to manager. So areas will probably be listening to this eventually. It's very tricky to delegate. It's a very tricky thing because it's your team and when you move to manager you basically start managing leads and you delegate what was so close to you.

You need to be able to let go. I know that was extremely hard for me, it was at the same time that my my daughter Beatrice was born. So actually these things ended up, so I had to go in and license and so everything ended up OK, but I remember it was very, very difficult at the beginning to let go.

When I came back. Guess what, everything was OK because everything was prepared for me to let go and I think everyone that goes through this path goes through the initial process of how do I let go of something that I'm on 24 hours a day, right? Once you go through that hurdle. I think everything is easier. You then get used to delegating more and more and you start. This was how I was thought you started looking at a different time spans in terms of strategic vision.

So for example a lead looks at the team and looks at like 3 to six months. A manager looks six months to a year, head one to three years and then you see and that's the main differences then. OK, interesting all right. Let me ask you, what do you think are the three main things? If you have more, if you have less, it doesn't matte.

What do you think are the three main things you try to do everyday to manage people efficiently?

Open door policy. I'm always available. Now with remote I know we'll cover remote later, but back in the office, so I'm always available for my team and they they all know if it's something urgent, even if I'm in a meeting, I'll get out of the meeting. I'll get to them. Second one, transparency. Transparency is a tricky thing because everyone wants transparency until they have transparency and then they don't want transparency anymore.

But I do believe that transparency leads to accountability and we're all grown-ups and this essential for teams to be high. Performance is OK, I'll give you all the information and you act like grown-ups and you digest this information and you understand that this a business and we all do the best. What's best for business? And the third one is I try to get out of the way. We hire amazing people. And if I'm in the way I'm in the way of them doing what they do best. So that's I think these three. It's a good start. Perfectly insightful, I think all right now. Let's move a bit to your connection as a manager or as a lead or as a head. Now, how much of a role as HR in your management style do you work closely? I know that you work with talent acquisition, but you probably work with other parts of HR. How is that relationship so?

I think HR at Farfetch. I work mainly with two different narratives. I work with talents and I have a very close connection with talent so. Just as an introduction for all of this HR section. They are not part of my structure. But in every diagram I place, they're always there because we can't do anything without them, right? They're part of the team, so this one thing I really want to to pass on because so many people create a barrier between what's, what's the team and what's HR. And no, we're working alongside right. and it's essential for growth and for happiness.

So there are two main areas in HR that I work with, talent acquisition and business. Partners so Town acquisition is pretty self-explanatory. We defined a plan and we go through the hiring process, hiring strategy and then there are different layers with Intel deposition. Business partners is something that we have a far fetched. I know other companies in Portugal have that they're basically. I've explained. Someone within the people team, the HR that help us. What kind of figure out figure out the needs that you might have in the future in terms of people or like evaluating performance? Those kind of it's helping it's. It's helping us evaluate performance. It's helping us making sure that the teams are at at optimum level.

For example, if someone's not happy they will talk to their business partner. If you want someone's going to do, let's say an internal move, we actually we put everyone in the same room so talented. Position business partners from both areas, so they're basically in charge of a big area within tech. And if you have any issues you you go talk to them. One of the things that we do as head of an area is we have a very close proximity with business partners because they. They help us in, you know, every day-to-day business decisions in the teams.

Yeah and can you run us through like the process? It's HR one of the first functions that you connect when you need new people. I guess yes, but what I would like to know is. Do you define? Do you define kind of the roles that you're gonna need in the future as you see the company growing, or as you see you're functioning a function growing? Or is that a joint collaboration with HR, I would say.

Yeah, I would say it's a multi tiered process so. Let's say that I identify a need in my team. I need a senior developer, let's say something yes, and then I'm going to talk so. First need to say that I need a senior developer. We go through the budget; it either gets approved or not approved. If it gets approved then we talked with talented position and we then get a phasing. So when can we hire and we go through all this process alongside HR? I don't think business partners are not involved in this, it's mostly talent acquisition who's whoever is in charge of budget and finance. Usually, how it goes. So yeah.

Because HR is such a broad section, right? So it depends on what you decide. So if you consider finance HR, then yes, finance is heavily in the hiring process, right? So it depends. Depends on how you want to catalog that.

The teams like you have indeed. HR is part of the day of almost a day-to-day the day. Yeah, things that you do and you find that to be important and for them to have the tools to support you. The knowledge to support you in your day-to-day, Talent acquisition efforts or measuring happiness. People levels. For example. Yeah, it's essential. Like one thing that it's extremely important is that for them to know our teams. It's really tough for them because. A lot of times we look at our own structure. We look at our own belly right and a lot of belly button, always saying first.

But in their case their structure is massive because for us is 35-50 people and they're 200 and they the idea is for them to know what what works in one team. What doesn't in another and then tries to make everything work for the structure that we have.

Yeah, it's not an easy job. I would say yeah, I agree with you. Let me go over to something that you mentioned before, like the happiness of people's happiness levels, production levels. I know that you did some work. We've talked before about this. You did some work, or you're doing some work in trying to acquire some data on this. So what are the main data points that you use to measure people's happiness and production levels?

So this was a challenge I got from my manager a couple of years ago trying to predict how happy the teams were or it's not so much all happy the teams are but try to predict and happiness. And at the time said, OK, we're doing retrospectives. So every two weeks we do a session, say how did the two weeks go? So I'll just put a survey there and that's how I started. So putting frowny face neutral face and happy face in the retrospective, a survey, everything was anonymous.

So we were still in the office. And the idea is, once you leave, you just do a mark where you're at. You don't need; no questions will be asked. You don't need to explain anything. And it started like this in a very innocent way, yeah? I started collecting data, collecting data, collecting data nine months after I had really interesting data. Because I had nine months of data of every two weeks and I was able to identify certain trends.

I was able to identify alongside the leads that one time we started pushing the teams a little bit too far. We were in sales season and wanted deliveries and we started pushing a little bit too far and the happiness level dropped and we said. OK, let's stop right there and let's adjust and as soon as we adjust it, we managed to. Get those happiness levels back up and still deliver it. That's the most interesting thing. It's sometimes. It's not so much that you won't deliver because you're not pushing, it's just you need to change the way that you're talking to the team, and that was extremely effective at the time.

Since then, I don't no longer work with teams, and I'm not in in retrospectives. I work with leads, individual contributors, and I started this year because I missed my happiness levels. I started doing the same challenge with my individual contributors and leads and I changed the format a little bit. So instead of being 1/2 and three. Happy from me and neutral on a retro is a 5 level because it's individual.

You can be a little bit more precise. You have 5 levels and I asked them like on one-on-ones. Sometimes I'm passing in the coffee happiness level, go and you know all of a sudden the idea is. To catch them off-guard because it's more. Honest. You know? And sometimes they hate me for this. But yeah, I do like my metrics and it's really interesting because we already and then I share the results with them every now and then I say: "Look this how we're at and we can see some people are always in the four and five always happy other people are always in the two and three other people are three and four, and that's the baseline.

So the first thing is you need to identify a baseline for that person and then you identify the differences. And how do you call it? The changes from the baseline. And that's why you need to. What you need to worry about, it's the change. It's not that the person is constantly in the three or in the four in the five. If they're constantly in the two, worry. If they're, a one. Yeah, worry. But if they're in the three, four, or five, it's an OK happy old, super happy. It's fine. It's then the changes that you need to to start worrying.

I have one case where. They're always in a four, and they have a one in one week and I always remember that one. They said I had a horrible day that this happened. Screw it one and we always laugh about that because we know what happened that day and this was like four months ago. But these little trends. Help not just me but but the person as well. Understand how they're viewing the team, how they're viewing their work, and because at the end of the day, I'm going to be very honest at the end of the day, there are a ton of jobs out there for not happy. What the hell are we doing here? So we need to be happy there. Essentially.

You also asked about production levels. Yeah, production levels are a little bit more tricky because if you have a team that is working in sprints. Scrum, like yeah, that's fairly easy to understand if you so teams. I would say it takes around seven weeks to get to a normal level and then you say: from that point on you know that the teams expected to deliver XY&Z, but it takes like 7 to 8 weeks of work without any people leaving people joining you.

And then you can predict and then you can have production levels. When you start moving to a more Kanban or Scrum ban, which is a mixture or even free flow, for the reason that the team wants to work like that. I prefer to work with road map and objectives. So we define we work with KR. And we we try to work in with a rolling road map approach. So meaning we can define a road map for six months or a year for the team. The month, so from now to a month from now it should be locked. I'm going to underline always should because things happen. The idea is to adjust accordingly, so should be locked within a month and then you can adjust a little bit for two months. And then you get more and more flexible.

It's as time goes by, but this way the team always knows what's the end goal and how they're going to grow and what they're going to work on, what the priorities are? And that's really really essential for the team. And then you deliver on that. You create your OKRs those that road maps gonna fulfill those OKRs and you create the objectives and it's you know it's trickles down.

Yeah good question. Do you relate those two data points? The happiness levels to the production levels? Have you seen trends? For example? You know when the happiness levels tends to go down you also see an effect on the production levels. Do you actually mix those? Those data points.

That's an excellent question. At this time that I'm working with, so individual happiness levels, it's trickier because it's very connected to the individual and there are a ton of factors that can happen so someone can be can have low happiness levels and it's because of external factors,or it's because they have too much work and they still deliver, but they're just unhappy.

It's easier when we're working with the team because A-Team thinks tend to even out, and there you see it there you you understand when you have unhappiness levels. What you so the level goes down was like 2. You might still get the delivery today, they're unhappy, but they're delivering. The problem is, and I've never let this spread, so I'm not able to answer you, because if things go down, I always try to act within a sprint or two. You're fast enough. If you don't over time today to deliver tomorrow, they might still deliver, then that a little bit less and a little bit less and less.

And then there's they're doing interviews for someone else.

Yeah, it's I feel like what you start getting because it is a team is people start complaining to each other within the team. And then there's kind of a joint feeling of unhappiness growing and people start not caring that might be. Actually, I think it's very smart of you to not let this keep going, you know and act act right away because you you might have kind of trend?

You said something that's extremely interesting. This something that we see is, let's say team of five. It's very rare that you get everyone unhappy all of a sudden. That's very rare. It needs to happen. Hell needs to break loose for that to happen, right? What happens is you get one person that goes to and then unhappy, and then the second one and then the second one and then things just just fall down. But it always starts slowly and that's again. Identify your baseline, for example. I remember back in the day there were in one of our teams. Because at that time I was analyzing cluster data, so I think it was three teams and I was analyzing everything aggregate, but I knew that there was one person that was. Consistently either neutral or unhappy, and I knew that that we were working with that person. It was easy to identify, obviously. And that was the trend. We knew that we had this, that and the problem is once that spreads. Yes, and once that grows and it's, it's a snowball effect and this something that needs to be stopped as soon as possible for your sake as well, because you don't want to be leading a team that is unhappy, it's extremely stressful.

So yeah, it was tough at first to say "OK, maybe I'm not doing the best job in the world. Maybe I need to change the way that I'm doing things", but if you open up and you let them talk to you because. A lot of the times people don't say things, perhaps I don't know because they they feel that they're going to be repercussions at performance reviews don't even get me started with performance reviews and feedbacks.

That will stay here for another hour, but the thing is, if you create a channel for them to talk or send a message anonymously, it's easier for you to adjust and just take that message there. They're saying something to you. Listening is important.

Alright, a couple more things here. I would like to know what role does technology plays and HR related technology, specifically in your day-to-day job. You're ready. Let's not dive too much into it in performance management and setting goals and feedback and all that. But do you have a relation relationship or do you use HR technology in your day-to-day or?

Hey Jerry, late that technology so we have a main software at Farfetch that we use for almost all HR tasks. I use it on a daily basis from approving holidays, requesting holidays, seeing performance reviews, pay slips. Most of it is there even though, for example the hiring. We have all of our ideas there doing performance reviews. We do reviews there. Our basis all in that software. We also use another one for OKR management.

So it's different. It's separate. It's kind of software. It's the functionality. The tool that you mentioned before doesn't have that information. I don't know. It could be a number of things. It could be an add-on that is too expensive. It could be that the other one we have a better deal. I don't have the information to to answer that. Yeah, so use a separate one for OKR management that.

Inevitably we use it for our performance review. There is no connection, but we do manual connection. So we are very tech 1st and I would say that so in my 4 1/2 year journey at Farfetch I we've used a couple of softwares and we landed on these ones. I think we're going to keep these ones because I think they're quite stable at the moment. Obviously it's software we all know that software has issues.

But people sometimes have even more issues...

Humans tend to have more issues.

Yes, than software. We all find reasons to complain. It doesn't matter which software it is. We always say, oh, this too slow. This to this and this to that. We takes 3 clicks to get there and yeah but yes we are very tech first company on that matter without you don't need to complain a lot about it.

But are there any short? Any shortcomings that you see? In the HR technology that you use, stuff that you would you would think could improve on these platforms? Speed is 1, but you mean speed of use. Speed of using the...

Yeah, I think the tool itself it could be and it might be unfair for the tool and that's why I'm not also not mentioning the name because I don't want to be unfair to the tool and it could be that the structure is too big. Right, we have a very intricate structure and that's might not work well with the software itself. I think the software is extremely all around. It covers most of the areas that we work on. But yeah, speed wise, especially in the hiring part.

So one thing that always I always feel like, you know, killing myself when I go there is a understanding how many ideas I have for my team. It's a screen that takes one minute, 2 minutes to load and it's a lot of time when once you're used to you know milliseconds, a screen that takes even 30 seconds, maybe 30 seconds. This means 2 minutes. I don't know, but it's it takes an eternity and I know that because we want to do things very, very fast. That would help. One of the things that they've done, or at least that we have now again.

I want to make a difference then what is the software and what is our implementation of the software is we have connection with Slack right now, so. I get for example holiday approvals. It pops up in a slack app and I just approve it from Slack, which is extremely fast and extremely efficient. That's good.

Actually, we have another third software. I just remembered, for hiring. We have a third one, so yes. But one for OKRs, one for all rounds in one specific for interview process, job posting and all that.

OK all right. Yeah got it got. We mentioned before: remote work. You touched that at some point on you know the you know remote work is here to say, or at least, yeah, hybrid work. Let's call it. What do you think is the main challenge that it presents when you're managing teams?

It's a different paradigm. If you started like this. It's a normal day-to-day. You're used to this. You come from working as an individual contributor, and you then move to a management position and this what you're used to. If you're an oldie like us old, I used to be....

Oldie, my god!

Yeah, I'm bald, it's all OK. I used to be in the office, you know I used to talk to people. It's great connections and this one of the things that when we got home. This was in March 2020. It hit me very strongly. It's missing the people missing the connections. But it went away very, very fast. I created some some mechanisms to make sure that I could still interact with people, and from that point on I was the biggest fan of remote.

As time went by and the office opened, I think I've landed in a sweet spot which is mostly remote, a little bit higher. So what I tend to do right now is I go to the office once a week on Fridays. Yeah, and I always open up a slot there, so I reserve a slot for for teams. If you want to go for coffee. If you want to chat, you know, I think it's from two to four on Fridays.

I'm fully available for the teams, it's time reserved for them. But being that that little bit in the office. To me makes a big difference and one of the reasons for this something that happened a couple of weeks ago, which was someone that we got. He came from South America, and he asked his lead. So when is Parada in the office, I want to meet Parada and the answer was Parada is rarely at the office.

It's like OK and that hit me like a brick, because it's like there's this person that wants to meet me and I'm not there. So I need to adjust and that's when I adjust and that's when I started going once a week in the office as a manager. If you have the possibility of creating that of giving people the opportunity to be with you, it doesn't need to be every week like be every two weeks.

Obviously. Remote works. Remote, I think remote works fine.

I think we saw that.

Yeah yeah I love remote. Like I set up this office here and it was a storage for guitars. And I made we made this out of nothing because of COVID. And because of coming to work remote. But if you have the possibility of still creating a little bit of that personal connection to it, I think it makes that sweet touch at the end that helps, specially if you're if you start getting away from the teams because. If you are everyday in a work stream with the teams you create connection every day, you're there with them every day you go to the dailies you're there with them every day. What happens to me is I'm like 3 levels from the team, so I'm not in dailies and they see me every once in a while and there's nothing worse than like, oh, there's this person that comes up and it appears every now and then like you know, out of the blue and that's what I want to fight.

I was discussing this on LinkedIn the other day. Ghost leaders. That's the example that someone gave me, was ghost leaders. The idea that you have a leader there is a ghost never, is never there, it's never around.

So it shouldn't be the case?

It shouldn't be the case. And that's what I try to find. And what is the landscape of the team in terms of remote work. You have people fully remote? Do you give that opportunity to people in the team is everybody finding the same way? The same things that you're finding? You know that it's important to go there once in awhile or once a week twice a week just to make those connections right?

So the company, the idea of the company is I don't. This not in place still, so we're still giving freedom for people to decide how they want to work, but the idea, I think is a 60-40. So going to 40% at the office. That's the idea. It's still yet to be implemented. In terms of the teams. I see a difference. It's different for every team. So because we have people. A little bit far away from Porto, otherwise extremely far away. And for the people that are close to Porto, they are there at the office every week, even if it's once a week. I see them recurrently, but you you start to see teams be there like full teams full day of like on Fridays you have full teams there for example this Friday we're going to get the entire team of observability there and you get people from Braga from Kovalev.

It's from everywhere. Right, yeah, obviously this needs to be prepared because someone from Kavya is not gonna do a like a two hour drive and then go home. So we need to work like this, but we've all been seeing the advantages of going to the office every now and then of being all together and sometimes of just getting everyone in the room and just, you know brainstorming some ideas of what we want to do and to me apart from the connection that you make with one-on-one.

Remote still can't beat everyone in an office with a whiteboard. I know we have a ton of tools. I know that we should. We should be able to do that. I know it doesn't to me. My experience is that it doesn't even come close. I think it's going to be very interesting to analyze the data in terms of happiness levels, the engagement of the team having the two to compare fully, remote for the best.

Couple of years and now that people are meeting at the office more often, no. I'm sure you're gathering data for that now I'm gathering some data. I think the main difference here is strengthening the culture. One thing I notice is. Teams that were strong in terms of culture got stronger because they go to the office because they go for a drink at the end of the day because they you know they they laugh and they go for a coffee and they do this not and. What I found is. It doesn't need an official team building where you take an entire day off and go here or there or what's it called the vacation, how there's a new term for this, where people go on holiday as a team you know, and so it's a cool thing.

You don't need to go to that extreme you can just be with your team and just go for drinks at the end of the day and just connect and get to know each other. Because this one of the things I've noticed. Especially with remote and I know there are a lot of ways of thinking in terms of leadership. And I might be absolutely wrong here, but it's fine. It's my way of thinking here. Yeah, of course. I don't believe that you should go into a job and do like mercenary work. You go do your work, you code and you go home.

If you don't create connections, we're doing more than 8 hours here. So we split today in 3/8 hours, sleeping in hours with your family and then 8 hours there. If you, if you're doing like non emotional zero, you know robotic. Yeah, what were you doing so we need to enjoy that. Especially now with the market, the way that it is, we need to enjoy what we're doing. So yeah, that's where hybrid I think helped. Helped us here.

All right. That's a good way to almost be done with this conversation. Just a quick question. I would like to I would like you to leave us with three things. That you think because I know that you're very active on LinkedIn with your with your content you're very. You have a a newsletter called Leaders Mindset and all that. I would like you to leave us with three things that people can start doing or learning today to start improving how they manage people.

Go all right. And your own time efficiently. This one of the biggest things I see new leaders. They don't. They don't know how to manage time, how to manage productivity, even what ends up is they are extremely stressed because their calendars can be fully booked. They start working overtime. The teams start noticing that they're extremely stressed so they don't want to burden the manager with. Oh OK, I have a problem. Screw it. I'll wait, you know. And if you manage your time efficiently. It's gonna pass on to the team and the team's gonna be more comfortable in talking to you. So this #1.

#2 is review your decision making process. One of the things being of being a leader, you need to make decisions and decisions are sometimes very sucky to do, but it needs to be done. You need to remove ambiguity, so rethink how you do this. Rethink how you gather data, how you store data that will help you decide. This will be important.

#3, and I think it's extremely important, is care about your team. Again, it goes back to the thing I was saying before. I don't believe in the 9 to 5 robotic. I'm just. Here to do my job, I think that we need to create a Community here, create a culture and caring is the first thing you need to not only manage someone so approving their holidays and making sure that they do their tasks, but you need to know what they want with their career, what they want with their lives and this way you guide them through that. Want to in three?

I think that would be. Perfect, I think that's it. Thank you yeah yeah, thank you. Yeah this this was fine. We normally have these conversations for people listening. We have these conversations while sharing a glass of wine or something or having dinner a lot of times I hope to see you in Christmas my friend. Thank you so much for. For for being here for all the knowledge shared, I hope it was. Yeah, I hope you enjoyed it.

Yeah I did. Thank you so much for having me man.

No problem at all for everyone out there listening. Thank you and we'll see you next time.

HR Vision Podcast Episode 43 ft. Luís Parada

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