We sit down with Farlei Kothe, Stefanini’s new EMEA CEO, to speak about digital transformation, starting a business at 20 years-old and his plans for Stefanini’s evolution.
When did you start your journey with Stefanini?
I joined Stefanini in 2009 as the manager of an Application Development Center (ADC) in Brazil. I was the head of a new team, and I was responsible for building it from scratch. After three years, it became Stefanini’s biggest ADC team in Brazil.
In 2013, I became Regional Director, which meant I was responsible for ADCs in Curitiba, Florianopolis, Brasilia, Juiz de Fora and Rio de Janeiro. In 2017, I moved to Europe and was in charge of application and digital services in EMEA.
Has Stefanini changed a great deal in that time?
We have seen a huge amount of change over the last 10 years. For one thing, we have grown from an organization of 6,000 people to 24,000, with stakeholders in more than 40 countries. But our business model has changed a great deal as well.
When I first joined Stefanini, we operated as a traditional IT supplier. Nowadays, digital transformation is posing a whole range of different challenges for us to face. It’s about user experience, speed and flexibility. A digital mindset is mandatory to operate in today’s market.
How do you plan to approach these challenges, in your new role as CEO EMEA?
My first priority will be to ensure that the entire management team is engaged and ready to tackle these new challenges. The teams that they lead are responsible for the value that we deliver to our customers, so I want to see that they are communicating effectively, building strong relationships and delivering the training that our people need to excel.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2019?
First and foremost, I want to expand and improve our existing digital offering. We are reviewing our entire portfolio of services and changing our approach to be more agile, deploy simpler processes and bring more efficiency to the end solution.
We’ve already started launching new offerings in the financial services, retail and manufacturing sectors, all of which see our own solutions integrated into the clients’ existing digital infrastructure, as we begin to take a more consultative role.
Ultimately, we want to achieve an equal balance between digital and traditional services, in order to be seen by the market as digital advisors.
Is your background in business management?
I actually have a very technical background. I studied System Analysis at university and for many years, I was involved with programming. I always wanted to learn more than the areas that I was covering at university though, so I sought out various extra courses and challenges that would help me to learn about other technologies.
So, did you aspire to manage a business?
I know a lot of IT professionals that chose to start their own business after many years of working and building their experience in other companies. I actually did quite the opposite, starting my first company when I was 20 years old. By the time I had graduated from university, I already had 20 employees. So, I suppose you could say that I had an entrepreneurial nature from quite an early age.
Moving from what was still a fairly technical role to Stefanini, where I would have a purely management-focused position, was a difficult decision, though. The digital landscape changes so quickly that once you’ve made transition, you can’t go back.
What brought you to Stefanini?
I was in my early thirties when I first came to work for Stefanini. To leave my own company and the great partners that I had worked with for so many years was an incredibly difficult decision, but I had spent over ten years in smaller businesses and had decided I wanted to experience life in a large company.
I wanted to work with bigger teams, to test myself with bigger challenges and to work on international projects. It was certainly a challenge – I even went to Canada for some months to study English. But ultimately, that was what I wanted. I felt a need to challenge myself with something bigger; to see if I could handle it.
What’s next for the industry?
We are living in the age of digital transformation. Digital is proving to be such a major disruptor because it is increasingly linked with human behavior. People are spending more time online than ever before; buying, selling, connecting with friends and family. The industry is changing so quickly that it sometimes feels as though every day, we’re faced with something that just yesterday, we might never have imagined possible.
The challenge for companies like ours is to seize this moment. Speed is essential to our survival; now more than ever. At Stefanini, we have been aware of this need for some years, but now, we are pushing everybody in the company to understand and learn its importance.
Our biggest challenge will be to maintain this momentum, while at the same time, looking ahead and preparing to provide the best support for our customers in this new, digital age.