5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO

The latest piece featuring Softvision CEO Andres Angelani by Rabbi Yitzi Weiner from Thrive Global

Thrive Global had an exclusive interview with Softvision CEO Andres Angelani

I had the privilege of interviewing Andres Angelani, the CEO of Softvision, the design and technology company that helps global brands create better, more meaningful digital experiences for their customers, employees, and stakeholders. Agnelani makes it a priority to maintain the startup spirit of the company by fostering a culture of continuous discovery, where design, technology, process, and talent blend to drive digital innovation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

I was born and raised in a small agricultural town in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. My family ran a provincial Italian charcuterie operation with a good reputation and high-quality products, which I was meant to take over. I always wanted to be a concert pianist but didn’t have the money or support from my family. Instead, I became a junior programmer at an IT firm in Buenos Aires and started climbing the ladder.

In 2004, I left Argentina with my wife and my 1-year- old daughter to work at a software development startup in the UK. I scaled the software development operation until it was good enough to have Google as a major client. Then, in 2008, I moved my family — now with two kids — from London to California to grow the gaming division of the company. I also added airlines, like Southwest, and created the foundational methodology called “Agile Pods” (about which I co-authored a book in 2016, “The Never Ending Digital Journey”). Our family collection of foreign passports expanded: we had two more kids, and they obtained three citizenships as we lived in different places.

A couple of years after my fourth kid was born, I went public for the first time with my former company in 2014 and eventually helped consolidate it as the company with the highest valuation multiple in the space. Three years later, I had the opportunity to take all these great experiences to a new level in a way that would make an impact across customers, processes, talent and, above all else, vision. So, I became CEO of Softvision in 2017.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I lead a 2,500-person company, so we deal with cultural diversity every day. What was interesting — and funny — was how I was received in the different studios around the world when I became CEO. India received my family with flowers and a pretty ceremony; they treated us like some kind of royalty. Romania was charming and seductive, showing off their engineering prowess and engaging in fun activities with me to break the ice; Canada, on the other hand, was like “who’s this dude?” but at the same time pretty laid back. In the U.S., I seemed to represent a threat in some places and in others a god-send. There were moments when I had cultural expectations (an Italian by heritage, born and raised in Argentina) versus what I actually experienced. Those moments made me very curious about how people think, what drives them, and how to connect.

So what does your company do?

Softvision develops products that help global brands create better, more meaningful digital experiences for their customers, employees, and stakeholders through design and technology. We have creative and engineering talent all over the world that blend into cross-functional teams to help our clients to constantly improve. For example, we helped Groupon shift to a mobile-first experience and award-winning app; we built and managed the global eCommerce experience of Estee Lauder; and we helped
Lululemon create a digital presence across mobile, web, and in-store.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are digital savvy. From product design to engineering and QA automation, the team not only creates and improves digital products, but also advises the customer on the best approach to a superior experience. We have excellent delivery capability for consumer products and complex, scalable digital platforms.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are now?
My wife, Laura, has been my anchor. We started this adventure together when we were very young, moving a lot in the early years, and raising four kids. Laura and the kids have been my support system, helping me through all of it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe in nurturing talent through education as a sustainable, scalable approach that creates goodness in the world. In the era of AI and automation, the world needs more human intelligence. At Softvision, we have created “guilds” — thriving communities of talent that extend outside of the company and reach out to train, mentor, and coach the young. Through these guilds, we connect people and talent globally, incentivize local and cultural diversity throughout our studios, and nurture our people so they can reach their full potential.

We don’t have talent factories that train in mass quantities like the big traditional IT players do, and we don’t kill individuality through standardization. Instead, we leverage diversity, exposing young people to different emerging technologies, new design trends, agile mindsets, and the workplace — teaching, grooming, and exposing them to a whole array of customers, products, projects, and brands around the world. And in many cases, we give them the opportunity to travel and live in other geographies.

 

  1. Stay positive and get good quality sleep. In my 20s, I rarely slept. But now, in my 40s, it’s a different experience. Without a good night’s sleep, my creativity flatlines. I’m not the same guy. I learned that you can’t let a
    bad day, a bad month, or a bad quarter win. Things happen, and they will continue to happen as you grow your business. Make sleep a priority.
  2. Inspire meritocracy with passion, and don’t let internal politics corrupt purpose. Success is a function of how great and how motivated your team is. I started out playing “hero.” But once your team is in the hundreds — or thousands — you can’t fix everything, and must rely entirely and wholly on the team around you. To build a great culture and a great company, you need great colleagues—colleagues who can run faster than you, think differently (or better) than you, speak their minds, are engaged with the same purpose and vision, and who bring diversity and innovation.
  3. It’s always personal. We work in a connected world, but underneath our automation, standards, and systems of scale, we are all human beings. People value human experiences, and when we lower that level of quality in the relationship, we suffer. Every time I was careless or distracted, I ended up losing good people and, in some instances, customers. Whomever coined the phrase “it’s business, not personal” is dead wrong.
  4. Speed isn’t the only thing that matters. In this connected, technology-enabled world, convenience has a secondary effect: acceleration. Everyone is expected to perform faster, reduce friction, anticipate needs, and have an eye for the future. Softvision follows this process. But not all people run at the same rate or play at the same depth. I’ve found that it’s very important to build teams in which speed doesn’t trump quality or evolution.
  5. Stay focused. Focus on simple, strong and connected products or service portfolios rather than too many opportunistic, short-term initiatives that look good on paper but don’t fit your long-term vision.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Warren Buffett, because he’s real. Not only is he one of the smartest (if not the smartest) financier in history, but he is also a guy who inspires trust, has good core values, and thinks long term in a sector that mostly worries about short-term gains and doesn’t prioritize sustainability and value creation.

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