much. Chats: An Interview with Cláudia Cabral

Apr 26, 2024

We want to take you behind the scenes and introduce you to all the friendly faces and bright minds here at much. Consulting – and we’re back another Consultant interview! We have invited several members of our team for a series of interviews, where we dive into their thoughts on working in consultancy, on working at much., and much more!

As there’s no better way to do this than through their own words, we have invited Cláudia Cabral to sit down with us for a chat.

Claúdia is a Senior ERP Consultant in our E-Commerce team and has been with much. since August 2023. She’s cemented her place as not only a consulting expert but also as a go-to person for good conversations and solid advice. We sat down to talk about her career, from a decade in consulting, to managing people, and more. Here’s what Cláudia had to say:

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

“I don’t think I have ever had anything well-defined, but it’s always been science. I never thought of myself as someone with the stomach to be a doctor or a nurse… so it was always going to be something to do with biology, chemistry, physics. When I was a kid, I didn’t think of computer science much, it was really out of my spectrum. So yeah – it was either science or arts! I used my weekends to do dance competitions, I designed sets for theater groups in school… in that sense, team leading was always my thing. I was a team leader in the arts and managing projects in science (laughs). Though as a career, I was encouraged more towards the science side of things.”

How and why did you choose consultancy, or IT consulting?

“My first major was Cell Biology & Biotechnology. Once I finished it, I started working with a scholarship at the university. I did it for a year and I kind of saw that the reality of being a scientist was not for me. A lot of my friends and colleagues went out of Portugal to pursue this but I never wanted that for myself. And so I thought – there are other things that I like, that I’m good at. It was always managing people. I also liked business, how companies worked and were run. 

So during my Masters, I studied Business and was really interested in aspects like logistics, supply chain management, team management, and stuff like that. And consultancy kind of fits into that. ERP consultancy was mixing IT – which I already liked – with the management side of it. I could look into a business and devise solutions to help people’s lives with the systems that they use on a daily basis. It’s more rewarding for me than working in an aspect of management that is not so customer-facing, which is my main strength. So yeah, this is how I fit into consulting –  for the past 10 since I left my Masters, this is what I’ve been doing.”

Cláudia is part of our much. team in Portugal. We sat down at our Lisbon office near Marquês de Pombal  for a chat on her life & work.

If you could go back to a young Cláudia who has just started her career, what would you tell her?

“I don’t think I’m that afraid to fail, but I used to be. I was always so worried about delivering things that weren’t up to par. I learnt that it’s better to communicate and set expectations, which I didn’t know in the beginning. Today I’d rather say that there’s still work to be done, that there’s improvements to be made, but still showcase an overall picture. It shows that you’re aware of what you’re presenting, that nobody is perfect but you’re also opening the door for criticism to be expected and constructive. 

And do not be afraid of criticism – the way that people give feedback to you is much more of a mirror of who they are than of who you are, so never let yourself get too affected. You need to hear the message, of course, you’re being given feedback for a reason. But people should communicate in a way that gets the best out of you, and of course, should never be aggressive – it’s the workplace! Even with hard or negative feedback, there’s always ways to communicate that. Listen to feedback but don’t take it too hard, take it with a grain of salt, your managers are people too (laughs).

Also, just enjoy projects when they are in the good phases! Sometimes when we look back, we think of implementation hell, when go-lives go bad, when customers are complaining, when we’re trying to solve the impossible… There’s parts of the job that will always be stressful, so enjoy the ones that are not!”

There’s parts of the job that will always be stressful, so enjoy the ones that are not!

What advice would you give to someone who’s started managing a team or leading people in consulting?

“I always try to never forget where I came from, what it’s like to be a Junior. You need to be empathic enough to understand that Juniors are a bit scared to fail but want to do their best. And you have to incentivize them to never lose that want to progress and do well. I always try to give feedback right away, feedback privately when things go wrong, acknowledge and praise them in public, motivate them to work together with other juniors and build that team spirit – not only with people from their specific project but from other areas as well. I incentivize them not to search only for my knowledge, but ask other people – make them be the ones to ask for knowledge, because that leads to other more senior people knowing that this is part of their job, that they’re interested and responsible for that knowledge. That’s what builds a team. 

I try to always support them and create an open environment so that they know they can come to me anytime, not just on our scheduled meetings and one-on-ones. I let my juniors know that supporting them is my job – there’s nothing that they can’t come to me with. I’m not here to dictate what you need to do, I’m here to help you and distribute tasks – we are a team. I am not above anyone, I’m just another needed component for the team to work as a whole. Never leave anyone hanging without a response, that’s something else. A week later is not good enough for a manager – at least acknowledge the person and get back to them as soon as possible.”

What surprised you the most upon joining much.?

“The quality of the Juniors – they’re doing a really good job at recruiting people. The young people that are being hired are very high quality. I think we need to nurture them because there’s a lot of high potential. What surprised me the most was the team. In other companies, there’s always some people that are just there for the sake of being there. I don’t think we have that, everyone has a purpose they fulfill.”

Which one of our values resonates with you the most?

“What I say I’d value the most is Openness and Inclusiveness. These are the basis for everything else, because you won’t have excitement or task ownership if there’s no openness or inclusiveness. The no BS should be a given of course, but the results and the ownership will come if the first two are there. I would even say openness is the one. Inclusiveness should be something that we nurture from the moment we hire people, to get different perspectives, different ways of looking at problems, diversity… But if anyone is afraid or unsure of whether to speak, if the culture is anything other than “we want to hear your voice”, everything else fails.”

Where do you see the ERP & IT Consulting industry in 5-10 years and what are some crucial skills to be successful?

I would say that there are a lot of processes in ERP and consulting that will be substituted by AI. There are a lot of AI tools available for us to use, to improve our speed and delivery. I do think that there’s a good part of it that will never be able to be substituted. There’s the whole customer communication aspect, problem solving… it can be supported by AI but that all needs to be complemented with information from humans. 

The challenge is that the specificities of each business are so different – I’ve never implemented the same ERP twice. There’s always things that are so specific to each customer, and that’s where they will always need our help. Communication between humans, to understand what the other wants, will be our core competence in the future. AI can help a lot, but you also need people specialized in using that AI, and people to get exactly what they need out of the customer – and it’s not AI that will figure that out.”

Communication between humans – to understand what the other wants – will be our core competence in the future.

One last question, what was the biggest success you have achieved?

“My biggest success is being a happy person, for sure. I am someone who is happy with her life, which I think is no minor achievement in our society today. It’s something that’s not permanent, that you still have to work on… but I’m excited for my future. 

Work wise, I’d say that reaching a level where I can do for others what has been done to me. Like giving support, teaching, that’s the best about being a manager. I would say reaching the manager goal is a success and hopefully in the future there will be something else, I don’t think I’m done – I think I want to reach higher. But I always have this mindset of how funny it is that I get to help others like I was helped in the past – and that’s kind of cool.”

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