Decode: A Multidisciplinary Team At The Intersection Of Design And Technology

Written by Decode's CEO João Reis Fernandes on August 9th, 2021.

We talked to Decode's CEO João Reis Fernandes about Decode is a multidisciplinary team at the intersection of design and technology. They are on a mission to explore, create meaning and provoke emotions.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?

Aside from the fact that we are in a pandemic crisis, we are doing great. We have been working mainly remote since March 2020 and having all the necessary precautions when going somewhere, especially since we have a small baby, so for us its especially important to be safe while trying to maintain some social life and the possible normality.'s CEO João Reis Fernandes

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I have a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Coimbra, with a minor in Neurosciences. Despite having a very technical academic formation, I started my professional experience as a Business Developer, since I decided early that my career would be richer if I was able to deal directly with the client and with the management aspects of a company. I love to deal with people and to communicate and transmit my ideas, and I was fortunate to work in great companies since the beginning of my career, that allowed me to develop the necessary skills to keep growing professionally and personally.

I started to work in the IT market in 2010. Between 2011 and the end of 2012 I worked in the Renewable Energy sector. In the beginning of 2013, I came back to IT, having worked in different positions and different responsibilities (always business related). In 2019 I decided to put in practice all the knowledge and ideas that I had gathered, made a business case and took the idea of a new company to the CEO of the group where my company at the time was a part of. Long story short, that ended with the creation of Decode, the company that I presently manage. It has been a great experience and I would not trade it for anything.

How does your company innovate?

We are a Portuguese company that belongs to a multinational group comprising 21 brands, with more than 6000 employees and presence in 10 countries.

We position ourselves as specialists in Digital Consulting, working as an extension of our partners' technical teams at a technological level, ensuring quality support for projects, with a view to boosting growth.

In our structure, there is a Solutions & Innovation area, where the Turnkey, Products and Platforms and Academies teams are inserted.

Looking specifically at the P&I team, it focuses mainly on the R&D aspect and aims to ensure the continuous development of our teams, as well as the construction of platforms that enhance the company's growth and address its strategic investments.

Technology has been evolving at a very fast pace since the appearance of the mainframe computers in early 50s. Since then, we have passed through distributed computing, cloud computing and fast evolving to ambient computing. We have Big Data systems, IoT, Social Networks, Mobility, AI, AR, etc.

At this pace, we felt the need to not only keep up with the trends, but also to try and apply these technologies and innovation accelerators in different contexts, in order to improve existing systems or creating new ways to do things.

Besides from creating an area that addresses this, we also invested in training and certifying our professionals through our Training Center, giving them access to online courses and platforms of their choosing.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

The pandemic has affected every sector, either directly or indirectly. However, the IT market has been one of the areas that have been growing, since that, to stay updated and connected both internally and externally, companies and governments nowadays need to be increasingly digitally innovative and develop new business models and practices. Even non-technical areas by nature felt the need to have multiplatform solutions, with highly intuitive and user-friendly interfaces (as today the market is very demanding in relation to the entire digital experience).

At the same time, we have been witnessing that the demand for solutions or tools that speed up data collection and processing has been increasing. Nowadays in many companies, every business decision is backed up by a business intelligence system, with many of them investing in real time data collection and some of them even using AI to obtain better data reports.

Since we specialize in Digital Transformation, with special focus in Data Strategy and Digital Experiences, we have been able to navigate and to grow in these difficult times. Also, since the beginning we were apologists of the remote working and our internal processes and tools that we use were chosen with that in sight. That helped us to adapt when we had to be confined at our homes and unable to physically be with each other in an office.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Yes, especially in the beginning, around March 2020, when everything was unknown and most of the businesses virtually stopped, and every deal and project were put on hold. At that moment there was a lot of tension and we had to make some difficult decisions in order to be able to keep working in the next months, especially since we didn’t have any real information at the time, so we had to prepare for the worst case scenario and keep and maintain a very strict policy regarding expenses.

I believe that we learned that we need to be prepared for changes and not take things for granted. To maintain a sustainable growth and to cherish every positive moment of our daily life as a company and as a team.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis and stress?

One of the concerns when choosing a tool is if its accessible from anywhere and anytime. This makes even more sense in these days. Despite having expertise in both open source and proprietary systems, we use a lot of Microsoft tools, namely Office 365, MS Teams for our online meetings and Sharepoint Online as our file repository. These are the basics, and then each area has the liberty to work with the tools they see fit. For example, our Solutions and Digital Experiences areas use Discord to centralize communication, GitHub for version control of the projects code, Azure DevOps to distribute tasks for the several team members, Miro for User Research, Figma for the design part and Zeplin for the design handover.

We must keep in mind that we need to keep growing and hire new team members, some of them recent graduates with no professional experience. So, in terms of onboarding processes and management methodologies, that was a concern that we had to address and to adapt to the new reality. We develop platforms to be able to make online onboarding processes, adopted tools to digitally sign documents, etc.

Also, as the pandemic progressed and people were isolating more and more, we noticed an increase in people’s anxiety and stress levels. Since mental health has always been a concern for us, we hired a Happiness Manager, whose main goal is to address the wellbeing of every individual of the company and to develop strategies that help us to deal with this new reality and keep more in touch with each other, despite being in different places and (in some cases) in different time zones. This was a great decision for us, and we have seen the improvements since then.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

We are a services-oriented company, so every IT consultancy company and software house that works with turnkey projects can be seen as a competitor.

However, our policy always has been of cooperation and maintaining a healthy relationship with every company that exists in our sector, whether being a competitor or not. We understand our strengths and we focus mainly on the quality side of everything we do.

We have a strong belief that the people make the company, so for us, to keep the team motivated and provide them with everything they need to grow and thrive in their day to day is something that for us is a differentiating factor.

Also, since the market is always changing with new trends and new ways to do something appearing almost on a daily basis, to have the necessary flexibility to adapt is something that we need to keep, and that will always help us to be in the game.

Your final thoughts?

We cannot speak about the current times without addressing the Coronavirus pandemic and its consequences in the whole world. The devastating effect throughout the world is well documented, so I’ll try to keep things as positive as possible and address what I believe to be some silver linings in it.

In terms of becoming more digital and paperless, companies everywhere were obliged to make decisions that ended in giant leaps in their processes and technology adoptions. Furthermore, nowadays we see business everywhere that have decided to maintain a remote working model or are considering in adapting a hybrid model after the pandemic. Ultimately, I believe that we are in a good path to keep improving our work life balance.

We will most definitely feel the economic effects of having most of the economy stopped or diminished during 2020 and 2021, so it’s our leaders' role to develop policies that will help and minimize the consequences in general. Unfortunately, we all understand that nothing can bring back all that we have lost but I am a believer that we should all do something to help, and if we all did something to help, maybe things would bounce back a lot faster. To give example, we decided to create a program in 2020, called Decode ON, where we are helping small businesses in transitioning to the web, by creating websites and e-commerce’s for them. We are doing it completely free of charge because we understand that most of these businesses would not be able to divert any investment to these areas and some would even stop their activity without an online presence.

We can all do our part and ultimately, we as individuals will have to keep confident that everything is going to be alright. For me, that’s the most important.

Decode's website and how people can contact Decode?

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