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Friday Five #2 – Rui Oliveira

Posted on July 10, 2024

“We have a fantastic group of talented and congenial people who are completely open to change and are very flexible. 

In our Friday Five, we ask five questions to our special guest. The Silver Lining? There isn’t one. We range from a look behind the business scenes to insights into our guest’s personality. From MobieTrain employees to beloved customers or inspiring topic experts, anything goes. Sometimes sweet as pie, sometimes razor-sharp, always with the aim of learning from each other.

Today’s Guest: Rui Oliveira

Rui Oliveira is our fantastic Engineering Team Lead at MobieTrain. 

The Portuguese beacon of peace tells us more about how fairness is the cornerstone of all he does. He shares his immense pride in his engineering team, inspiringly explains how he learned to take a step back sometimes, and gives his opinion about AI and MobieTrain’s roadmap. And how did Toto Wolff and Formula 1 come up? Find out!

Rui Oliveira MobieTrain

1. What defines you as a person?

We started the conversation with this short but challenging question. Rui quickly responded: “I think fairness is what really defines me. I always try to be and act fair in, both in personal and professional situations.”

“Fairness to me means feeling comfortable with your decisions and actions because you can justify them to anyone at any time without feeling guilty or bad. You did what seemed fair at that moment with the information you had.”

Within MobieTrain, we see you as the father of the engineering team. Does fairness define you as a team lead as well?

“It does, and I hope my colleagues feel the same way. Although I try to, it’s not always possible to talk to everyone and reach a unanimous decision. However, I make decisions that are as fair as possible and do so in close cooperation with the team. I try to make everyone feel comfortable with what we decide, even knowing it’s not always possible.”

“Fairness to me means feeling comfortable with your decisions and actions because you can justify them to anyone at any time without feeling guilty or bad.”

2. We tend to see you as the definition of calmness. What’s your secret to staying peaceful all the time? 

If you look up the words calm and peaceful in the dictionary, Rui Oliveira could be the short definition next to them. And that puts a smile on Rui’s face: “It’s something that I’ve been trying to do my whole life. Doctors say it’s not good for me to be so calm, haha. Because it’s not the truth: compare me with a duck. On top of the water, everything looks calm and peaceful, but under the water, things are moving like crazy. That’s how I often feel.”

What do you do to keep that duck balanced?

“Well, I try to avoid panic mode. As a team lead, you cannot panic, because the team depends on and relies on you.”

“What has become very important for me, is realising that I don’t have to react immediately. I’ve learned to accept that and take a step back sometimes. That doesn’t mean that I’m escaping from the situation or not working on or thinking about a solution. It means I’m literally walking away from everything for a little while, going outside and thinking about what’s really going on. It works wonders.”

If we would register for a Mindfulness with Rui class, what would you advise?

“We’re always so focused on keeping the whole race going all the time, completing our daily tasks: now this, now that, now this again… that we don’t spend or create enough time to think clearly.”

“This is what I do: every hour, I take 10 minutes to leave my desk or meeting room. I’m creating mental space to permit myself to think more strategically and have a better overview.”

“These pauses help me realign with what’s important. When you return, you’re way more focused on what you need to do and the things that make a difference, instead of trying to respond to everything immediately.”

Rui Oliveira Team Lead

3. We know that you’re really into finding ways to become better as a team leader, but is there someone you look up to, who inspires you?

“I’m a huge Formula 1 fan. In terms of leadership, I like and try to follow Toto Wolff, the team leader of Mercedes. Netflix watchers might know him from the Drive To Survive series. Formula 1 is a very challenging (sports) environment with lots of aspects to cope with.”

“What intrigues me is that everything Wolff’s team does, all the time and work they’ve put in, comes together in a short period of 2 hours. That’s very interesting, because there’s so much pressure, and in the end, Toto is responsible.”

What makes Toto Wolff stand out for you?

“I believe that he has the ability to say the right things at the right time. Outsiders might think that he’s only managing the team on the racetrack, but it’s so much more than that. There’s also the business side of the team with drivers, contracts, suppliers, sponsorships … that need to be managed. He always seems to have the right words at the right time for the right people.” 

“And sometimes these aren’t the words that you would expect. It’s not like saying good job, but completely the opposite. His words can be harsh, but he knows exactly what to say to provoke a positive outcome. He finds the perfect balance between not sugar-coating things and challenging people in a certain way.” 

“On the other hand, he’s not that typical rebellion (as far as we can judge). He understands when he needs to be kinder and more supportive because he realizes he needs all those people to make the whole thing work. It’s the balance that does it.”

“What I like about Toto Wolff’s approach, is that he says the right things at the right time. His words can be harsh, but he’s supportive as well, knowing exactly what to say to provoke a positive outcome.

4. Back to your team. What are you most proud of as the engineering team lead?

“I think we have a fantastic group of talented and congenial people that can quickly adapt. We change how we work almost every month in order to improve, and that’s something that’s very inside every team member’s DNA. They are completely open to that and not afraid of all of those changes. I’m very proud of that flexibility.”

Every month, that does sound like a lot though. What types of change are we talking about?

“It can be everything. Really, it touches on lots of aspects. The retrospective we do about our work as a whole team is very crucial. We’ll always find flaws because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s about finding a small change or better solution as a team to improve our approach and performance next time.”

“If I need to summarise our engineering team’s goal and approach, I’ll say it’s flexibility that boosts constant improvement.”

Engineering Team MobieTrain

5. Your team is a part of MobieTrain’s technical heroes. What on the MobieTrain roadmap makes Calm Rui excited?

I’m very excited about what we’re starting to do with AI. We’re still exploring, so at this point, it’s not clear yet where we will exactly go or where we will land, but that makes it interesting. I think it’s also completely logical if you see how fast AI is learning and how fast things are changing. I think we have a good momentum now and I’m enjoying the ride with my team and the company. We’re doing some great things.”

One thing I see happening really fast and that I like a lot, is the AI Content Generator, which will transform the information of our clients automatically into gamified training tracks in 30+ languages. This will make us so different from other competitors and solutions.”

“What I experience a lot when talking with less tech-savvy people about AI is that they don’t think about the fact that with AI it’s more or less the first time we’re witnessing a computer behaving like a human. People were used to the idea that computers are very precise machines that do exactly what they’re told to do. It’s not the case anymore. AI sometimes messes up and makes mistakes too.”

People are not familiar with that idea yet: they don’t expect mistakes from a computer. But humans work on AI and AI learns from humans and their mistakes, so it makes complete sense that it becomes a bit more human as well, as it analyzes our behaviour. That’s also why it’s so powerful.” 

The one-million-dollar question: will AI replace our jobs?

“AI won’t replace our jobs, but it will be a great assistant. AI can help by showing the right information at the right time to the right person. We’ll be able to help people in a quicker and more efficient way, but it will never replace the human touch. There will always be the need to be creative or, for example, to double-check things. Because, as we said, AI is human in a certain way, and humans are not perfect – as far as I know.”

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