The Brazilian tech company CI&T is familiar with robust growth. For the past 15 years, the company has doubled in size every three years. And despite the coronavirus pandemic and the unpredictable fluctuations in the Brazilian real, the firm is confident business will expand by about 20% this year. However, at a time where predictions are proving hard to maintain, César Gon, CI&T’s Founder and CEO, says that the only certainty for 2020 is uncertainty.
Gon talked with Nearshore Americas about company 2020 projections, disruptions ahead, and the essence of their company and Brazil’s tech environment.
“In a year of uncertainties, our only certainty is that parameters will change radically in the next months in an absolutely unpredictable way. We are preparing for that scenario,” Gon said when asked about how the company can benefit from the depreciation of the Brazilian real, which has reached an all-time low.
“I think this is very unpredictable for the market as a whole. It always has positive and negative effects. I think that we have a structure that guarantees us business model quality, regardless of the exchange rates,” he added.
Despite 2020’s challenges, CI&T is well-capitalized and appears to poised to manage the rocky path likely to develop in the next several months. Last August, the company announced a partnership with the private equity firm Advent International, as part of its strategy to continue its international expansion outside of Brazil.
The Business of Digital Transformation
CI&T works with big companies from all over the world in different technologies and services that lead to digital transformation. Here, the challenge is always working to modernize legacy environments.
“We rarely work in greenfield. We work with companies that have old technologies, like a ball and chain on their ankle. That’s our day to day,” Gon said.
Their services range from data analytics and advanced analytics to machine learning and other solutions. But Gon considers that the main challenge for CI&T, as it offers companies a framework for digital transformation, is creating productive cultural alignment with the senior leadership at the client organization.
“The main barrier for the transition of a big traditional company, successful in the 20th century to the 21st century, is not technology; it is the hierarchical leadership model. Our work is to redesign that model, to transform it in what we call lean-digital, collaborative leadership, capable of orchestrating multifunctional teams who can work in a different tune,” Gon said.
Gon thinks that most of the obstacles around cultural stem from senior leadership at big corporations, particularly the CEO. “We no longer need a controlling boss, but rather a proposal-oriented boss, who can translate ideas into teams. We no longer need a know-it-all, but rather someone who directs the company to a much more aggressive learning process,” he said.
In this regard, Gon believes that big companies still have a lot to do to leave the 20th century way of thinking behind. In the 20th century, there was an allowance to make ‘some’ mistakes in one’s career. Now, we live in a world where we need to be experimental all the time. “You need to make a lot of mistakes, make small mistakes and make big hits,” Gon said.
The shortage of talent is always a certainty for tech companies. César Gon says that in his 25 years in the industry, he cannot remember a single moment in which talent availability was not a critical issue. However, he thinks that Brazil is well-positioned in talent, mainly due to its robust domestic market.
In CI&T’s case, Gon considers that talent attraction and retention has been one of the company’s key operational pillars. It’s attraction and retention strategy is focused on continuous training, cultural affinity, and prioritizing careers within the company.
“This is a very interesting value proposition for this type of human capital. You have an environment designed for learning. All of our hiring, promotion, and learning processes are designed considering long career paths. CI&T goes in the opposite direction than the tech industry on this issue,” Gon said.
Currently, CI&T has over 2,500 employees worldwide, with 50% of its operations in North America and Europe, 44% in Brazil, and 6% in Japan and China.