Rubén Vilar



Your favorite content and why

To keep me up to date I Medium articles (I have a subscription to daily articles) and see Youtube videos (channels like GOTO conferences and CodelyTV). They have talks about a lot of different topics.

I do not read a lot of books but for sure I recommend two that changed my mind:

  • Rework (David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried). How to run a business with a good Work-Life Balance. How to be efficient and productive.
  • Accelerate (Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim ). Building high performing teams.

Your favorite working app

This year I’m working with Notion because we are a small multidisciplinary team launching a startup and I love it.

And to say something less generic and more technical, let’s say Launchdarkly. It is a feature flag management tool with a lot of integrations. The things you can do with it and a little imagination are awesome. In Colvin for example, we used it in so many different ways with great results. Rapid experimentation, server AB tests, configuration management, etc.

Your reference leader, why and what you learnt

I don’t have famous references because to admire someone I have to know him or her personally.

If I have to say someone I would say my friend and Manu Arjó. I worked with him at Groupalia and Colvin, now he’s the CEO of be.green. I’ve always thought that he leaves a mark on each person who works with him, personally and professionally speaking. That makes the difference for me. I hope the people around me will think the same in the future.

The #1 skill a tech leader needs to succeed

In my opinion, soft skills are the most important ones. For sure passion is key, but I will say empathy. If you have empathy with your team, bosses, providers, investors and colleagues, you are going to be successful. It might sound easy but is something that you have to work on every single day. In just one moment you forget about it, you can hurt or destroy the trust and the relationship and you have to start over again.

What you like most of being a CTO?

Two things. People and solving problems, and the way they are related. I really like to build solutions for customers. And I love coaching and mentoring, helping my team to solve their problems and achieve their goals, as I said, personally and professionally speaking.

Which is the biggest challenge you have faced as a leader?

When I joined Groupalia the team was the result of a merger of two rival companies where they worked in a completely different way. They were frustrated and uncomfortable with the situation. I only had the opportunity to work there for 6 months because then the company was sold but I am so proud of my work making the team work well together with a good culture and processes.

What is the takeaway from that experience?

Processes and methodology is nothing without culture and communication. They had processes defined, working with SCRUM and some ongoing projects, but there was no team culture or communications within the people. So the performance was horrible.

We changed some things and we broke the processes and we started working with some chaos but we improved the culture and communication. Processes came later in a quite natural way.

It was the biggest learning of my career.

The one single tip for aspiring CTOs

Never differentiate between “us” (tech and product teams) and “the business”. I don’t really understand neither share that kind of vision. Everybody in the company is “business” and everybody in the company should be “product” as well. 

Making this kind of division will hurt the culture. People need to have the same vision and goals.

What’s the most important thing when you build a team and a project from nothing?

Well, two things, regarding the people I would say “hire slow and fire fast”. When you are building a team you can’t allow yourself to have the wrong people on it. If the company is growing fast it can be so risky to fire someone but you will have to make that kind of hard decision. Doubting for months will hurt you, your team and the whole company.

And talking about management, always need to have a plan but never follow it. When you are building something new you are learning, a lot! So if you start a plan and finish it without changing it, it will mean that you haven’t learned. So don’t worry about changing plans often, that means you are learning.

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