Beyond Predictable #1 – Bruno Dias, Engineering Manager

VTEX January 28, 2021
Beyond Predictable #1 – Bruno Dias, Engineering Manager

There is a certain fascination for the future. Most people tend to live their lives trying to foresee it or even control the ways it can be experienced. The truth is that after a year of so many uncertainties, we realized that we have no control over anything beyond our actions, our integrity, and our commitment. 

Here at VTEX, we choose to look at the future in a different way. By understanding that we can’t predict it, we open ourselves to the possibility of creating something beyond what’s imaginable. A future that, although uncertain, can be extraordinary.

This new perspective into the future has been part of our culture. One of the VTEXers that have been looking to the future as a possibility of exploring new paths is Bruno Dias, our team’s Software Engineering Manager.

Bruno is a Software Engineer who graduated from the Federal University of Paraiba. His previous experience includes working as an assistant professor and leading research and development projects until he joined VTEX back in 2018. Here, he has already worked on several fronts within the Engineering and Product teams and today he is helping us scale our engineering teams globally as a Software Engineering Manager.

We recently talked to Bruno about his career and the new possibilities for his future in a conversation led by George Brindeiro, our Head of Education & Documentation. You can hear more about this extraordinary chat in the first episode of our podcast Beyond Predictable, a conversation about the future, here at VTEX.

Here you can find the main insights from this conversation:

  • Building a team from scratch requires autonomy and taking risks. Professionals need to feel that they are building an important part of the organization and this only happens when you give them power over strategic parts of your structure.
  • Having a mindset of zero attachment to the way things have been built allows you to look at challenges from a new perspective, revealing paths you hadn’t thought of before. When you have zero attachment, you can look at possibilities beyond predictable.
  • Don’t be afraid to take on different challenges and test other career possibilities. The knowledge and lessons learned you can gain by taking a non-linear path can make you a distinguished professional.
  • Focus your career not on reaching a certain position or role, but on what really motivates you to give your best. Ask yourself: What do I want to build? What problems make me want to get up in the morning to solve them? When you find these answers within yourself, it is life-changing.
  • High-performing talent is not limited to big tech cities. There is qualified talent in other regions. Knowing how to find and take advantage of all the potential of this talent can increase the diversity and technical quality of your teams.

If you prefer, you can also read the complete transcription of the conversation below. 

Do you want to know more about how VTEXers are building an extraordinary future? Stay tuned for our next episodes!   

[George Brindeiro] Welcome, Bruno!

[Bruno Dias] Thanks for having me, George! It is an honor to be the first one in such an amazing initiative.

[George Brindeiro] Bruno, when did you join VTEX, and which teams have you already worked on here? 

[Bruno Dias] I can say I discovered VTEX through some of the students who worked here before me. Back in 2017, in one of my visits to Rio de Janeiro, I was introduced to our Co-CEO Geraldo by Marcos Candeia, who was a Software Engineer here and had worked with me before he joined VTEX. After a 30 minute talk, I thought that Geraldo was a brilliant guy and I already knew that I wanted to build something along with him. 

In this conversation, we talked a lot about how the Northeastern part of Brazil was building talented professionals ready for the tech industry, and shortly after Geraldo contacted me with an invite to build a new team, an initiative to strengthen our partnerships with universities and to attract undergraduate students to leverage one of our products, VTEX IO. This project eventually became the Store Framework, our solution for creating ready-to-use stores for our customers.

And this was a very funny experience. I had been working with university partnerships for over 4 years. I knew that I wanted a different challenge at that time, something that would develop my technical skills as an engineer, but as soon as Geraldo gave me the challenge of leveraging the Northeast region in the tech industry this was something that really struck me, and that’s how I joined VTEX in early 2018. 

In the beginning, this proposal was a one-year agreement. I would be responsible for structuring this partnership, building a relationship with universities, and then move to some other challenge that would make more sense to me. We started the project in April and launched it in October. And it was a great success! 

First Scholarship Class of VTEX Lab in Campina Grande, Brazil.

We closed a big deal with Grupo Boticário and right after that Geraldo came with another idea to set up an Engineering and Product Hub in the Northeast region. They wanted me to implement this Hub along with Candeia. 

It was one of the biggest challenges of my career. I didn’t know how to set up an office. Nobody goes to university to learn how to build teams and create an office from scratch. So, I had to study the market, look at how other tech companies had done this, and at the end of 2018 we presented a pitch to launch this Hub. We suggested opening it in Joao Pessoa, which, along with Recife, was consolidating itself as a Tech Talent Hub. 

Bruno Dias, Ana Luiza Motta, and our Co-CEO Geraldo Thomaz at the launch of our Joao Pessoa Tech Hub

One thing I always emphasized within VTEX was our potential to promote autonomy and team empowerment, and I told Geraldo that this project could only succeed if we established an important area of our platform there. We suggested migrating the Payments team, which Candeia already had a huge knowledge about. Geraldo and the team approved our pitch and at the beginning of 2019 we started executing the creation of this Hub. 

By mid-2019, I had a big turning point in my career. I started working in a new team joining the Payments team and changed my role from Software Engineer to Product Manager. And I was still leading the University Partnerships project until I could find someone to replace me. Thankfully, Ana Luiza accepted the challenge to keep the project going and growing. I made this move because I felt that I needed to explore the product perspective. And at VTEX, it was a role that was still under development, so the communication with the engineering teams was confusing. 

So I moved to this role to facilitate the bridging between the Product and Engineering areas. It was a very pleasant experience. I developed a better understanding of the importance of listening to our customers and having a broader perspective of our business. But I still missed looking at our architecture, developing our engineers, modeling, and designing solutions, which were basically the responsibilities of an Engineering Manager at VTEX. 

So I decided to make the switch to that role. My wish was to scale not only our Engineering Hub in Joao Pessoa but our Engineering Team as a whole. I got involved in improving our hiring processes, evaluating candidates, decreasing our hiring SLAs, this is something that really motivates me.  

Today, as an Engineering Manager, I have been working to scale our engineering globally, leading some initiatives for the European market, such as the launch of our Hub in Lisbon, which should happen soon.

[George Brindeiro] With all those experiences you must have a pretty great context about VTEX. How do you think your career has evolved since joining us?

[Bruno Dias] I never really imagined myself doing half of the things I already did at VTEX or having half of the impact and deliveries that I managed to have. And I think all this experience made me reflect on the learnings and evolution of my career.

Having the opportunity to focus on organizational challenges was one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had during the last three years. And when I say this, I mean not only understanding our challenges but being able to contribute to solving them by looking at how other companies did it and reflecting on what would and would not make sense to our context. 

I also think that acting as a Product Manager made me have a more attentive look at our customers. This has taught me to be a much better engineer. Today I can design solutions in a much more holistic way, placing our customer at the center. 

Another important thing was being able to pay more attention to our talent and help them grow in their careers. Since I joined the Payments team, I was able to mentor several engineers, encourage them to be protagonists and face even bigger challenges. I think this is something I will always be proud of!

[George Brindeiro] And how would you describe the evolution of VTEX itself during these years?

[Bruno Dias] VTEX is always changing. Evolution is a constant process for us. All the steps we have taken so far have always been focused on how to improve and scale, and this is due to having zero attachment to what has already been done. I think this is a big part of our culture. When you have this mindset, you allow yourself to test hypotheses beyond what’s predictable. Even after 3 years, one thing that still motivates me at VTEX is this openness to constant change. 

One of the things that I feel has evolved the most since I joined was the speed with which we have acquired maturity. For example, a year and a half ago the area of Product Management didn’t even exist here. This discipline was still very incipient. Today, we have a whole PM structure with PMs dedicated to the strategic vision of our product’s future. It was a very radical evolution. If someone from a year and a half ago traveled through time and saw the evolution we have achieved today, they would ask themselves “How was this even possible?” And I think this is indeed due to our openness to change. 

It’s kind of cliché to say that, but we are always looking at how to build the best version of ourselves. VTEX is constantly evolving and molding itself into the future that we declared to be a reference for global commerce.

[George Brindeiro] Bruno, and how do you think VTEX’s culture has allowed you to succeed in these different experiences?

[Bruno Dias] I think these two points I mentioned – being open to change and promoting autonomy – are the two things I value the most in our culture. I’ll never forget my first feedback, in my first two or three months at VTEX, Anderson and Guilherme came to me and said: “Bruno, you need to express your opinions more. Sometimes you agree or convince yourself too easily, but are you really convinced that’s the best solution?” 

And that was something that hit me hard. I really tend to be more flexible when I’m not confident and that was something that I really tried to improve here, always seeking to express myself more, to expose myself to failure. I think you learn much faster by exposing yourself. 

[George Brindeiro] What advice would you give to someone who is looking for new ways of reshaping their lives at this moment?

[Bruno Dias] I think the biggest advice I would give is to free yourself from the concepts you have in terms of what role or position you want to achieve. Many people pay a lot of attention to that. At the end of the day, what really matters is: What motivates you? What kind of problem makes you want to get up in the morning because you want to solve it? Is it to evolve and be a brilliant engineer in problem modeling? So, focus on that.

Another thing is not to look at the company searching for these answers. You have to look at yourself and define where you want to go and the things you want to build. Then, align these goals with your leaders. Verbalize the future you want to build and the people who are supporting you will be able to give you opportunities much more directed to this future.

[George Brindeiro] Here at VTEX we have chosen to look at the future by not simply following what’s predicted, but creating the future we want to experience. How have you been looking at your own future and the next steps of your career?

[Bruno Dias] I think everything I have done inside VTEX so far has given me the means to embrace this challenge of structuring our Product and Engineering teams in Lisbon, to embrace the challenge of scaling up a team of over 300 people, as Anderson always told me that we need to build it. I think, today, only our Rio office has this volume of talent. 

Looking at my future, I love the possibility of generating a bigger impact in our organizational structure, to keep looking on how to scale the whole organization contributing to the way we structure, execute, and evolve our Engineering and Product teams.

I think structuring the Lisbon team, with the size and proportion that VTEX wants, inevitably puts me on that path of creating a very strategic part of our infrastructure. That’s what I’ve been looking at when I think about my future here — how to help the Engineering and Product teams to achieve the challenges we’ve declared for 2024.

[George Brindeiro] Tell us, what is the future you want to build?

[Bruno Dias] Directly, the future that I want to build is one where I look at our Product and Engineering structures and see that I had a great impact on it; that I made the work of our Engineers, Designers, and Product Managers more simple; that I contributed greatly for that future to exist. I want to continue helping VTEX grow our engineering team to be a global reference as a talent pool. 

VTEXers at our Tech Hub in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.

Indirectly, I’d like to keep pushing the Northeast region to become a reference in the Brazilian tech industry. Ana Luiza will lead that initiative now, but I want to support it as much as I can. In the future I want the other tech companies to look at VTEX and ask themselves: “What happened here? What has VTEX done that nobody did before?”

I want to look at our initiatives in the Northeast region and see 200, 300 people building a big, strategic part of our solutions. And then, these tech companies will ask themselves: “Why did I go to Mexico first and not to the Northeast? Why did I open an office in Europe but didn’t look to this pool of talent here? What was this opportunity that I passed on?”.

[George Brindeiro] Wonderful, thank you so much for this talk Bruno. It was a pleasure to know more about the incredible journey you have been building here at VTEX. I’m sure your future with us will be indeed extraordinary!

[Bruno Dias] Thanks again for having me, George! 

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