much. Chats: An Interview with Duarte Viana

Jun 7, 2024

We have invited several team members within our Consulting department for a session of chats. 

For our latest interview we invited Duarte Viana, our P&C Team Lead in Portugal, to share his story with much. in his own words! 

Duarte is a core member of much. – quite literally, as he was one of the original employees to join much. Portugal from the very beginning. He is the go-to person for any support our Lisbon team members may need and is always down for a fierce ping-pong match! 

In this interview, he tells us what it was like to start much. Portugal from scratch, the challenges and rewards of People & Culture, and his dedication to empowering people to believe in themselves.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

That’s a difficult question… When I was really a kid? A ninja (laughs) but of course that was not possible. But I think it was always something to do with people and creativity, that is what I did best. So I always wanted to pursue Marketing, and that’s also why I did a Masters in Marketing after a Bachelors in Human Resource Management. My first job was actually as a Marketing trainee, which was really fun, but it was mainly trade marketing. So you can imagine that the creativity in campaigns and all of that… of course, work wise it wasn’t that. Then they offered me a job in Human Resources, and I discovered that passion while working in people management.

How did you end up at much.? You were one of the founding people of much. Portugal – what was that beginning like?

That’s a really fun fact, actually, because before much. I only worked in big multinationals. I always thought that my path was basically paving these big multinationals, and grinding, and climbing the ranks. But then I realised that was not for me in two ways. First, you’re only a cog in the machine and it’s really hard for management to see your efforts and to bring light to your own ideas and improvements. Secondly, it’s the work culture. Business wise, even if they try to be informal, there’s a ton of processes, a ton of guidelines, many of them don’t even make sense, meetings on top of meetings with no real purpose… I was a bit fed up with all of that corporate BS, and that’s basically how I found much.! 

I traded big multinationals for a company that was just starting out in Portugal. It was me and another guy, without furniture. And I was so fed up that I looked at this and was like, yeah this sounds about right. Professionally, it was the best choice I could have made, because I’m loving every day here. It’s really cool to see how much we’ve accomplished in two years in Portugal: from a house that we transformed into an office, we built all the furniture, I started recruiting and training people. In the beginning all the people had to go to Munich because we didn’t seem like a real company! We were like three people in a house, so they went to Munich to see that it was an actual, real company (laughs).

Today we don’t have that mandatory onboarding in Munich anymore because we already have a true office in Portugal. Especially with the new office we just inaugurated, it’s a real accomplishment and it’s crazy to see how in two years we grew from two people to over thirty people… It’s amazing to see what I did, of course together with management and every employee that we have. It’s really rewarding to see this growth – I see much. as my work baby.

Duarte is one of the first members of much. Portugal. He sat down for a chat in our new Lisbon office, near Campo Pequeno

It’s a massive success, but it must have come with some challenges. What were your greatest wins and struggles in this journey?

Biggest challenge I would say…There’s one in almost every phase. The first phase I’d say is the growth stage, when no one knew much. in Portugal. So to try and find talent and to convince people to join us, it was a challenge. As we grow more and more, the biggest challenge has become scaling up. So constructing a lot of processes, a lot of guidelines, a lot of change management internally – that’s basically the current challenge. So, every phase has a challenge but we are overcoming more and more, day by day.

In terms of successes, I don’t know, I think I have quite a few. Basically I’d say the growth of the Portugal office in general. In two years, if we count with our global contractors, I managed to make the Lisbon office almost equal to the headquarters in Munich. And then, the processes in Portugal as we didn’t have anything. We are fully compliant, we have a lot of partnerships, we implemented a lot of compensations and benefits. But the main success is going to work every day and seeing people happy and contributing to the success of much. So above all, I’d say the growth and happiness of the people who work at much.

The main success is going to work every day and seeing people happy and contributing to the success of much. So above all, I’d say the growth and happiness of the people who work at much.

In your area, there’s a lot of career guidance. What was the best advice you have received and given?

It’s the same! I think I replicate a lot of the career advice that I was given. The first one when I was still working as a Marketing trainee was to ask a lot of questions. Do not be afraid to speak up and ask questions, whether you are being onboarded or you’re a junior, a mid-level, a senior, a lead… That’s the only way you can actually learn, so ask questions and be curious. The second one is more towards Human Resources or even People Management, but more and more I see that you should hire people for their soft skills. Hard skills can be taught, and it’s way more difficult to teach someone to be a good person than to teach them Python or project management skills.

What are the much. values & overall company culture aspects that resonate with you the most?

I would say my personal favourite value, that was and still is No BS. Like I previously explained, a lot of big companies like that corporate BS that doesn’t add any value. Working in a company that actually does things because they see value in it, because they think it’s the best way to do it and not because others are doing it… Yeah, it’s nice to work on that value and also see people thrive on it. The second one is openness. Not only the fact that we have a very international team – which is really great – but we also have people with very different mindsets not only when it comes to culture but also academic background, political and religious beliefs. And this openness allows people to be themselves. If they’re encouraged to be themselves, people will be way more motivated and perform much better. 

In terms of non-nominal values, I’d say that the idea that our founders Mike and Simon had, to combine a startup environment with the professionalism of consulting worked really well. In the scale-up phase, we still have our startup spirit and we continue to follow this path. Sometimes when companies are scaling up, they lose that kind of spirit and initial thoughts. We have maintained that since the start. I don’t see any cultural difference in the two years I’ve been here and if I talk with our OGs, our original five employees, they will say the same. And that’s pretty impressive.

How do you juggle your work and your personal well-being?

We have a true hybrid and flexible workplace, so I’m free to choose which days I’m at the office or at home. Some days, I may have a medical or personal appointment in the morning so I’m off that morning and work more in the afternoon or evenly distribute it in the next few days. That offers a real flexibility to work when you need to work, to deliver when you need to deliver, and if you have more time you can always tend to your personal affairs. So we have the liberty to basically juggle both things.

How do you support your team in achieving their goals?

I’d say it’s empowerment – and it’s even a value of much., on the ownership part. You need to believe in people, make them believe in themselves, and of course support and guide them. You are only going to support and guide them in an initial phase because once they perform and see that they can do it themselves, they will continue to do things themselves while getting better and better. So I would say empowerment is the most important tool and strategy that managers can use, always with the support and guidance associated.

You need to believe in people, make them believe in themselves, and of course support and guide them.

What’s a long term ambition that you personally have?

I’d say to continue on this path of management and leadership. I always had this ambition even before coming to much., and much. offered me that possibility and dream. So I want to improve myself as a manager in terms of people management skills, and also focus more on strategic matters and topics. I feel I’m on a good path towards this so yeah, I want to maintain this path to manage people, to see them grow and succeed.

If you could go back to a younger Duarte who’s just starting out his career, what would you tell him?

Enjoy the ride (laughs). I wouldn’t change anything. And I also believe in fate a little bit. So every decision I made, everything you do puts you where you are today. I’m happy and accomplished in where I am today. I wouldn’t change anything, not even the failures because they also shape and transform you. I would like to return to being younger – because I’m still young! – and enjoy it.

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