Carlos Fraga: TIMwe Operations Manager Mexico & Central America
1. Could you share with me the major insights of your professional career? (Accomplishments)
I completed my degree in Physics from the Universidad de Lisboa and my main goal was to do R&D in a major engineering company. At the beginning I was slightly leaned towards telecommunications due to my love for Optics. So I took a job in R&D at Siemens working for their Core Telecommunications Optical products business unit (they developed the backbone network used by the TELCOMs).
It didn´t take me long to understand that R&D was not my thing and after 7 months I was promoted to sub-project leader responsible for a small team and project. To make a long story short, I went from project management to business unit leader and stayed at Siemens for roughly 5 years. This is I started to think that I should educate myself regarding General Business Management as this was where I was headed. So I ended up doing my MBA degree at “The Lisbon MBA” which is the top MBA in Portugal and ranked something around 60 worldwide. Afterwards I took a job at Accenture upon an invitation from a friend where I was responsible for a team placed inside the main mobile carrier in Portugal and was responsible for proper Project Implementation but mainly managing the relationship with C-Level resources in the carrier and mapping the company to understand the business opportunities for Accenture.
This is when TIMWE comes up in my life and makes me a very interesting proposal. They told me: “Do you want to set up our worldwide Project Management methodology and implement it in our major offices?” Well as you can imagine this was a very interesting project that I couldn’t simply refuse!
So I ended up taking the position at TIMWE that led me to define the company´s Project Management methodology and implement it first in México. One thing led to the other and I got the invitation from the Mexican General Manager to stay and help him explore México´s potential as a market and as a region within TIMWE. Since I love México and I really find it to have a huge potential I took the position and am working as Operations Director for México and Central America for 19 months now.
2. What is TIMwe?
TIMWE is a mobile marketing company with global presence. The company was founded in Portugal 10 years ago.
3. What´s your position and how do you define it? (Role in the company)
I am currently playing the role of Operations Director for TIMWE México and Central America. As Operations Director my role is to define the optimal processes to take fully advantage of TIMWE´s business opportunities and industry context and ensure correct implementation and enforcement of these optimal methodologies and working processes. At the end of the day the General Manager trusts me to run day-to-day company operations when it comes to marketing and IT activities.
On the other side I play a very important role as a senior management in Account relationship management with major accounts. These type of accounts require a closer intervention from senior management for two main reasons:
- Ensure proper project definition and follow-up on the implementation to guarantee required quality
- Nurture customer relationship as we are usually dealing with C-Level profiles from our clients.
Regarding my role in TIMWE´s global scenario, I believe that the fact that I am one of the most senior Operations Director world wide and have been able to get an excellent grip on the company´s footprint and business environment makes me a very respected person that is usually requested for strategic tasks such as:
- Hiring top positions in other regions, namely IT and Marketing management related positions
- Big / complex project planning and definition (usually involving more than one country)
- Product innovation consulting
- Cleaning up tasks – usually I get a phone call when some other office is experiencing problems regarding lack of processes or human resources exiting and restructuring / processes reorganization is required.
4. What makes you go to work every day?
.: The possibility to make things happen, really happen
I consider myself to be an action person. I love the rush and pressure of being in the “frontline”. The first I do when I wake up is check my e-mail and see where my early day attention will be.
The second thing I love in my job is the fact that I am part of top management and I am responsible for taking major decisions that have direct, measurable, impact in the business and day-to-day numbers.
The third thing I love in my job is the internal international recognition that I have which results in the fact that people consult me for major projects or require my intervention in initial project definition.
Last but not least, I am able to work very closely with people and learn every day from everyone and from the way I interact with them. I am not closed in a corner office and I walk side by side with the troops becoming one more in the team.
Everything together makes me get off bed every day and go to work. I like to experience the rush alongside with my team and experience the impact of the decision taking on day-to-day business.
“Living on the edge”
5. What has been the biggest challenge you´ve faced in TIMwe?
Stabilize the Mexican office
I have faced many incredible challenges in TIMWE since I joined the team more than two years ago. But honestly the biggest challenge has been coming to México and helping out on structuring operations and defining a good base for growth. I joined TIMWE mainly to define a common work methodology for project management, ticket management, general procedures, in order that the entire company could work and talk the same language. This way documentation and procedures worldwide would be the same and information could flow easily. This project brought me to México and I ended up staying here because at this time the current Operations Manager took the decision to leave the company. So my task was to ensure a stable transition period, hire and train a new Operations Manager and define a follow-up plan to ensure that everything went well in the region according to the new working methods. The problem was that workload in the region was enormous and I could not find the proper timing to perform this plan due to business urgency. So the decision was that I would become Operations Manager for México for 1 year and calmly implement the company plan for succession. What I mainly found was an office struggling with its organization and project management but mainly with lack of motivation as they had last all confidence in previous operations manager and lack of business knowledge. So my main challenges were to learn Spanish as I did not spoke it properly and finding a way to reinstate people´s morale and increase business knowledge – knowing what they were doing meant business wise.
My actions were based mainly on the following vectors:
- I gave recognition to the people that deserved, and I promote the best / most experienced IT member to be my right arm.
- I recognized that I had a lot to learn and listened much, much, more than I talked.
- I protected my team from internal disagreements with a balanced judgment, even if sometimes I thought they were not exactly right to make them understand that now someone was there for them.
- I promoted individual talks with all the team members and some in pairs.
- I promoted training as never seen in the region to increase technical skills.
As you can see most of the actions were informal and directed to bringing up the spirit and confidence of the team and not so much on the technical side.
I am really proud of the work we were able to do together and the stability that this brought to the company allowing it to grow and we went from around 15 to 50 in little more than one year.
The main indicator that we are doing something right is the staff rotation in the IT team has been ZERO since we have been working together.
6. On what do you base your decision-making?
This is a very interesting question that has led me to innumerous discussions with my friends and peers. I strongly believe that there are no wrong decisions at the moment that one takes them. Decisions are taken in a certain point in time with the available information at the moment and context need, whereas pressured by time of market driven. So at the moment one takes a decision I always assume that he / she took the best one he believed in. Then, time will tell whether it was the best one or not but with a lot more available information and ESPECIALLY the outcomes of that decision.
So I base my decisions exactly in analyzing three vectors:
- TIME – Do I have to take a quick decision? Why? What is my acceptable deadline?
- BUSINESS IMPACT – What will be the business / industry impact of the various possibilities?
- HUMAN RESOURCES / CRM IMPACT – How will this decision affect my direct colleagues, clients and the company – human / client resource management wise?
But above all I make myself the quick question of: “What will happen if I don´t take this decision?” I often try to find if are we losing money, are human resources leaving the company, will we suffer penalizations.
I know that these are a lot of questions and information but they are of quick answer. Additionally I have a trick, which is that since I do not believe in wrong decisions at the moment that they are taken I will never be wrong. So I gather as much information as I can, make use of my experience and gut feeling, but do not go crazy if something is missing as I prefer to take a decision due to urgency or need and then afterwards adjust it or correct if necessary.
Simply put I am not obsessed with the perfect decision!
7. What is your growth strategy aimed at market leadership?
TIMWE is a very aggressive company with a quick response. And this is exactly as I am. Like they say in México, I prefer to say I am sorry than to ask permission.
Additionally, the company invested in rapidly achieving global span and this brings enormous advantages from office synergies and know-how.
8. What is the key to get your message across successfully?
One must always remember that when communicating something that is always someone at the other end and that our goal is to get the message across.
I once heard that – “the truth is one version of the facts” – and this is completely true. Two persons might see the same event side by side and have different opinions about what just happened. So we must have this in mind when we define communication strategies of any source or engage in some sort communication, public speaking, dialogue with friends, business communication.
When defining a communication strategy I always run the following process:
- What do I want to communicate? I clearly define the content and my objectives.
- Who is my target? I try to put myself in their shoes and answer questions like:
- Do they understand me? Language wise speaking.
- Are they interested in what I have to say?
- Will this be useful for them and make their life´s better (even if just a little bit)?
- How can I clearly get my message across?
The third point is fundamental. Try to leave as less room for guessing as possible and always look for feedback whether by asking so or reading the audience. I always try to have supporting material that is relevant and helps me in passing the message; I always try to put myself in my audience´s shoes and find out how can I adapt and speak more of their “language”; I always make myself the tough questions before so I avoid surprises.
At the end of the day we have to take decisions and there will never be a perfect world where we know exactly how to communicate perfectly. But mainly I keep in mind that we are all different and have different interpretations of the same thing.
So, if I try to know my audience and present the message as clearly as I believe I can, I will do fine. If not, there is always Q&A!!
9. What role does Mobile Marketing play today?
Mobile marketing is an enormous challenge now a day. The goal is how to deliver value to the end-user without invading their space. People really want companies to reach out to them, but only so far.
The possibilities are endless!! Especially on location based services.
10. What advantage does the new media have in contrast to traditional media? (Opportunities)
Cost reduction; direct targeting, creativeness and ability to innovate quickly.
But, a wrong step, communication can destroy a company. Customer service needs to be even more delicate.
11. What is the difference between the communication in Mexico and other countries?
México has a tech savvy type of user. People like to follow trends on mobile devices and web. For this reason it is only a small step behind more developed countries. Also Internet penetration is growing rapidly so the corner stone is being launched.