Carlos Diaz-Calvi currently serves as the North American Director of Process Architecture for Rentokil-Terminix, having recently joined the company. Prior to this role, he held significant positions at Accenture as the Director of Delivery Management Talent Community and at Avanade as an Advisory Director. With 25 years of experience as a Portfolio Director, Carlos Diaz-Calvi has overseen regional and global-scale programs for Fortune 100 clients, including Shell, Halliburton, Chevron, Bridgewater Associates, and Toyota. His career spans over two and half decades, filled with noteworthy milestones, but it had a humble beginning in Argentina.
Hailing from Corrientes, Northern Argentina, Carlos Diaz-Calvi pursued a degree in Information Management while working as the “IT guy” at a government forest service. His passion for higher education and adventurous spirit led him to purchase a one-way ticket to Europe. There, Carlos Diaz-Calvi secured a job that would support his pursuit of further education at a European university. Following this he worked for various companies in different European countries, including Ireland, Spain, and the Netherlands, before eventually relocating to the US.
Through various continents, diverse countries, and a range of job roles, one constant persisted: his unwavering dedication to continuous learning. In the U.S., Carlos Diaz-Calvi furthered his education at Harvard ES. Later he mastered new technologies and embraced continuous improvement methodologies such as Kaizen, OKRs, and 6S. Recently, Carlos Diaz-Calvi has ventured into the world of artificial intelligence, exploring LLMS, Langchain, and embeddings to harness cutting-edge tools.
Beyond his tech career, Carlos Diaz-Calvi is also an accomplished author, having written and published 12 novels, some of which have received multiple awards, making him well-known in Argentina and Spain. He has been a featured speaker at renowned conferences worldwide, focusing on Program Management and Continuous Improvement.
All these aspects combine to create a dynamic technology executive who is dedicated to career growth, continuous learning, and unafraid of taking risks. We are delighted to present the fascinating and inspiring career journey of Carlos Diaz-Calvi – a story to read and draw inspiration from.
Describe your career progression from the start to where you are and what pivotal decisions, moves you made, circumstances, and other facts that facilitated your growth.
The trajectory of my career can be distilled down to circumstances, hard-earned lessons, seizing opportunities, and the ability to adapt. My foray into the professional world commenced in Corrientes, North Argentina, as I pursued a degree in Information Management. Determined to excel academically while also seeking out ventures that fueled my passion, I simultaneously held a junior position as the “IT guy” at a government forest service. This role presented an invaluable opportunity: several weeks of intensive, paid training in Chile, delving into satellite imagery software and GIS, all with the aim of forest fire prevention. At just 20, I found myself leading a team of 30 experienced firemen abroad, managing their behaviors, finances, training, and day-to-day while the assignment lasted. This experience abroad was transformative – I relished the challenges and experiences that each day brought.
Upon my return, and faced with the reality that my newfound skills might not be put to use in Argentina, I embarked on a bold journey. Using a modest inheritance, I purchased a one-way ticket to Europe. My initial plan? To backpack extensively and eventually land a job that would finance my pursuit of higher education at a European university. As fate would have it, while traveling on a tight budget, I crossed paths with an Irishman at an Italian hostel. He encouraged me to explore opportunities in Dublin, he insisted my skillsets and English were good enough.
Taking his advice to heart, I soon found myself in Dublin. Although my journey was initially marred by a brief Garda detention as I did not have a return ticket, my spirits remained undeterred. In a short span, I was interviewing with tech behemoths like Apple, Microsoft, and Google, ultimately securing a role as Senior Developer for MTH, a German stockbroking firm operating from Ireland.
I embraced the vibrancy of the Celtic Tiger era, spending a fruitful 5 years in Ireland before transitioning to Spain. I initially worked with Mitsubishi in Barcelona, as an IT architect and later joined Microsoft and Accenture in Madrid. My responsibilities ranged from managing the team developing the Mission Control System for bomber planes to pioneering a mobile app for the Spanish Government’s Finance Cabinet.
After a 5-year stint in Spain, the Netherlands beckoned. I established and helmed a Center of Excellence for Business Process Automation, collaborating with diverse teams from India, the UK, and the USA, catering to Shell (an algo-dutch giant) for 7 years.
Subsequently, my journey took me to Houston, USA, where I led 30-40-person teams and departments for Chevron and Halliburton, embracing scaled agility (SAFE) or pushing the boundaries of real-time data communications. Another career highlight was joining the world’s largest hedge fund in Connecticut as the Service Delivery Manager. This role had me reporting directly to industry stalwarts like Ray Dalio, or Jon Rubinstein, the co-creator of the iPod with Steve Jobs. My frequent commutes from Houston to New York, and then driving to Connecticut, were made possible by the unwavering support of my wife, who took on the lion’s share of our domestic responsibilities.
Returning to Texas, my focus shifted to enhancing PMO standards for a number of Fortune 100s and spearheading significant projects, such as a $20 million infrastructure recovery (Russian ransomware) for a leading American insurance firm. I also consulted for Toyota and delved into transformative workforce solutions for other clientele.
Amidst these professional endeavors, I pursued further education at Harvard ES, authored and published 12 novels, multiple awards for some of them – the thing I’m known most in Argentina and Spain. Furthermore, I began delivering lectures in Argentina and the USA, shedding light on Kaizen, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, and OKRs.
While I must tread cautiously due to NDAs, I can share that I currently spearhead the Business Process Management, Enterprise Architecture, and Continuous Improvement initiatives for a global industry leader. Sigma methodologies, and leading a dynamic team, all with an aim to institute systematic and repeatable successes.
In essence, every juncture, decision, and encounter throughout my journey has been instrumental, and I remain committed to evolving, learning, and leading.
What are the key skills and qualifications that aspiring tech executives in the tech industry should focus on developing to enhance their career prospects?
In an era where the digital tapestry of our world is being continuously re-woven, there lies a profound responsibility and opportunity for today’s tech leaders. The emergence of AI has not only redefined what’s possible but has also reshaped the criteria for success in the tech industry.
Certainly, the foundational principles remain timeless. Adaptability, for instance, is not merely a desirable trait but an imperative in these transformative times. Change, in its relentless surge, remains one of the unwavering constants. The ability to stay agile, to pivot when needed, and to embrace change is akin to navigating the shifting sands of the tech landscape. More than ever, there’s a need for humility. Today’s breakthroughs might be tomorrow’s antiquities, and what we once held as irrefutable truth may be overturned by newer insights.
While AI and Machine Learning may seem like daunting behemoths to the uninitiated, they are rapidly becoming the heartbeat of our digital age. As tech leaders, we owe it to ourselves, our teams, and our stakeholders to stay informed. Dive deep into the realms of Large Language models, and vector databases, and broaden your horizons by examining the leaps and bounds other sectors are making in areas like machine learning, automation, and electrification. These aren’t just buzzwords—they are the lifeblood of modern innovation.
However, amidst this whirlwind of technological advancements, there’s an underlying principle that remains paramount: the art of continuous learning. It’s not just about acquiring knowledge but understanding the profound importance of unlearning and relearning. The pace of change won’t relent, and neither should our pursuit of knowledge.
To all aspiring tech executives, your journey will be one punctuated by innovation, disruptions, and reinventions. Embrace it with an open heart and a malleable mind. Remember, in a world where algorithms and codes are constantly rewritten, so too should be our approach to leadership and learning.
What are some key milestones or achievements that tech executives should aim for at various stages of their career to demonstrate their growth and readiness for higher-level roles?
Drawing from my background as a creative writer, I often find parallels between our human journey and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, especially when reflecting on the trajectory of tech executives. As our needs evolve over time, so do the milestones in a tech leader’s career.
In simple terms, every path has its hurdles, akin to rites of passage. The truth is, that failures often teach us more than successes. It’s essential to stumble early, learn from those mishaps, and wear those lessons as badges of honor.
Using Maslow’s framework, at the foundational level, much like our basic physiological needs, tech executives must first master their craft. This doesn’t only mean understanding the technical nitty-gritty; it’s about innovating, problem-solving, and adapting in a dynamic environment. It’s about experiencing failures, and setbacks, and understanding that these don’t spell the end but are part of the learning curve.
Building on this is the importance of Cross-functional Collaboration. Just as safety and belonging are crucial in Maslow’s hierarchy, in the tech world, it’s essential to grasp the bigger picture and collaborate across departments. Here, leaders learn to bridge capabilities, delegate, trust unfamiliar teammates, and recognize that striving for perfection can sometimes be counterproductive.
Ascending further, the emphasis is on Visionary Initiatives. Leaders must spearhead significant projects, proving they’re trailblazers, not just followers. This stage is about imparting a sense of purpose to teams and clarifying the bigger “why” behind initiatives.
As we approach the pyramid’s peak, we find Mentorship and legacy Building. Here, the emphasis shifts from individual achievements to uplifting the community. Genuine leaders focus on nurturing the next generation, ensuring their legacy is about fostering leaders, not just completing projects.
At the very top, akin to Maslow’s self-actualization, is the realm of continuous learning and thought Leadership. The quest for knowledge is endless, and leaders must share their wisdom and insights, whether through thought-provoking articles or guiding discussions at key events. It’s about reflecting on past battles, victories, and defeats, and sharing those tales, ensuring that the wisdom of one’s journey illuminates the paths of others.
How important is it for tech executives to actively seek out mentorship or coaching opportunities to advance their careers? What benefits can they derive from such relationships?
I’m fortunate to have many Argentinian friends who are leaders in technology and entrepreneurship. As Argentinians, we’re known for our directness, often pointing out when we believe someone is mistaken. Sometimes, just sharing a traditional Argentine drink, mate, with friends can spark a transformative thought or idea. We are relentless and insistent when we feel a friend is on the wrong path, and we always are ready to give unsolicited advice – mostly right though.
While I’ve benefited from professional mentorship within my company for years—a practice I strongly advocate for, whether it’s termed a “buddy program” or “mentorship”—it’s clear that the value of mentorship is frequently underestimated. Its importance resonates with the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, highlighting the pursuit of self-actualization and achieving our utmost potential.
Mentors have traversed the path that many young executives are just beginning. They have faced challenging projects, dealt with demanding stakeholders, and navigated the intricate dynamics of corporate politics. These seasoned professionals understand the emotions and challenges that come with feeling underappreciated, underutilized, or unheard. They’ve faced situations where they had to compromise on their ideals because they couldn’t persuade the board or convey their vision effectively.
By seeking mentorship, tech executives can tap into this reservoir of experience. They can gain insights into handling complex situations, making strategic decisions, and leading with empathy and vision. Moreover, mentors can provide a safe space for reflection, feedback, and growth, allowing executives to refine their strategies, enhance their leadership skills, and avoid potential pitfalls.
In essence, mentorship is not just about career advancement; it’s about personal growth, understanding oneself better, and making informed decisions that benefit both the individual and the organization. Leveraging the wisdom and experience of those who have already walked the path can be the difference between a good leader and a great one. So, it’s not just about using them; it’s about learning, growing, and evolving with their guidance.
In your experience, what role does professional networking play in the career progression of tech executives? How can tech executives effectively build and leverage their networks?
Networking is not just about attending events. It’s about building genuine relationships and understanding the value of people in your network.
Having spent 18 years at Accenture/Microsoft, leading teams, divisions, CoEs, and PMOs for virtually all Fortune 100 companies, I’ve come to realize the profound impact of maintaining and nurturing professional relationships. While I deeply appreciated working with my peers and had positive experiences, I admittedly did not prioritize following up with them, especially on platforms like LinkedIn. Just as friendships require active intention and care, so do professional relationships. It’s akin to tending to a garden; for flowers to bloom, they need consistent watering and attention.
My oversight in this area became evident when I transitioned from my role and faced challenges in securing my next job. Many of my peers, who had positive working experiences with me, were unaware of my situation. This lack of communication and connection was a significant lesson for me. It’s not enough to merely feel appreciation or care; one must actively express it and reach out. By actively listening to the experiences of our peers, we can gain insights that prepare us for similar challenges.
Networking is about giving, not just receiving. It’s about adding value to others. Is not a one-way street. It’s about mutual growth, support, and learning. By genuinely caring for others, reaching out, and being proactive, we not only strengthen our professional ties but also enrich our personal growth and understanding of the industry.
I’ve come to recognize that networking is an invaluable asset. When leveraged correctly, it can pave the way for new opportunities, cultivate partnerships, and profoundly shape one’s career path. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise; push yourself to attend that executive dinner, even if you’re not in the mood.
Are there any specific certifications, advanced degrees, or executive education programs that can significantly enhance the career prospects of tech executives in the tech industry? Which ones would you recommend?
I believe it’s essential to be constantly vigilant, looking for gaps where our assumptions might be off-mark. Just like you, I recognize the importance of staying updated, which is why many try to keep up with certifications like Azure, PMP, or PRINCE2. However, it’s a challenge to grapple with one’s self-consciousness, especially when encountering repackaged lessons presented under new guises. That said, beyond programs like the Harvard ES, there are invaluable courses offered by institutions such as MIT Sloan – these are the ones I’m considering now, personally. These programs, like the Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation, and Technology, are tailored for colleagues aiming to stay ahead in management insights and technological innovations. It’s a journey of continuous learning, and while certifications are beneficial, it’s always wise to align them with individual career aspirations and seek insights from industry peers.
Can you share any examples of notable tech executives who have successfully transitioned from one role (e.g., CIO) to another (e.g., CEO) within the same organization or industry? What factors contributed to their success?
In my observations of leadership transitions in the tech industry, I’ve come across both success stories and instances that didn’t go as planned. As I worked 17-18 years within Microsoft, I noticed – like anyone else – that Bill Gates’ close involvement during Steve Ballmer’s tenure might have inadvertently hindered the company’s growth potential. However, when Satya Nadella took the helm with more autonomy, he did an outstanding job, showcasing the importance of giving leaders the freedom to execute their vision.
Through these stories and more, I’ve noticed there are a couple of factors that play a significant role in the success of such transitions: I will try to use examples, Firstly, a clear vision is paramount. Leaders must not only have a distinct vision for the company but also the ability to communicate it effectively. The vision also helps to align the whole company on what we will do and what we will not do (a clear example was insisting on a Windows phone for too long).
Also, adaptability is a factor (you heard me many times talking about change and how should be a constant). The tech landscape is ever-evolving, and leaders must be agile enough to navigate these changes, adapting their strategies and approaches as needed.
A supportive environment is the third factor. The significance of having a board and team that backs the leader’s decisions and provides the necessary resources cannot be overstated.
The fourth factor is continuous learning. Lastly, building strong relationships is crucial.
I worked for Jon Rubinstein in Bridgewater. He was the “podfather” of Steve Jobs and there was a VP of hardware engineering, he oversaw the engineering teams responsible for several Apple products, including the original iMac and the iPod. His leadership and technical expertise were instrumental in the success of these products, but in Bridgewater, he was appointed as co-chief executive officer. His role at Bridgewater was part of the firm’s strategic transition plan, aiming to bring tech industry expertise to the financial world. Using the factors listed above I noticed the environment was totally different for Jon, the transition was not smooth and well thought out as I think Jon was coming out of retirement and I think Ray Dalio was too involved in every decision (same as with the Gates-Balmer era).
How important is it for tech executives to cultivate a personal brand and establish thought leadership within the industry? What are some effective ways for tech executives to showcase their expertise and gain visibility?
Throughout much of my career, I held the belief that actions spoke louder than words. This remains true, but times have evolved. In today’s rapid-paced, social media-dominated world, the importance of personal branding for tech leaders cannot be overstated. It’s not merely about self-promotion but carving out a unique identity that sets you apart in the industry. Such an identity can unlock greater visibility, recognition, and opportunities. However, striking the right balance is crucial as seen in the LinkedinLunatics subreddit, over-promotion can border on arrogance. Your message to the world should be transparent, anchored in genuine convictions, and not just about standing out but being authentic.
Initiating the journey of personal branding early can streamline your ascent to the pinnacle of self-fulfillment, reminiscent of the zenith in Maslow’s hierarchy – self-actualization. In a landscape where many triumphs are concealed by NDAs or are sensitive, a personal brand becomes a beacon to share your expertise and experiences. While actions will always be foundational, mastering the art of personal branding in the tech realm is transformative, offering unparalleled advantages when approached with sincerity and skill.
I personally keep my personal page, https://www.diazcalvi.com/home, and a LinkedIn page https://www.linkedin.com/in/diazcalvi/, but I like what you do also giving a platform for leaders to get their message out to the world and colleagues.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring tech executives who are looking to accelerate their career progression and make a lasting impact in the tech industry?
For aspiring tech executives aiming to fast-track their career progression and leave a lasting imprint in the tech industry, it’s essential to embrace a growth mindset and continuously seek knowledge. This can be achieved by attending workshops, reading books, engaging in online courses, staying updated with the latest tech trends, or following pages like yours. Building and maintaining a robust professional network can open doors to numerous opportunities and provide invaluable insights from industry peers. Mentorship plays a pivotal role; seeking guidance from seasoned professionals and offering mentorship to the next generation can be immensely rewarding and beneficial.
Gaining diverse experience across various roles and industries not only broadens one’s perspective but also equips them with a multifaceted skill set. Soft skills, especially communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence, are paramount. A tech leader should be adept at explaining complex concepts and building strong relationships with colleagues and clients. Strategic thinking, paired with effective execution, allows leaders to envision the bigger picture and deliver tangible value. Fostering a sense of community within the organization, promoting collaboration, and encouraging continuous learning can mitigate challenges and drive growth. Sales skills are often overlooked but are crucial; tech leaders should be persuasive and capable of selling visionary ideas to their peers and superiors. Active listening and empathy towards both customers and team members ensure that IT solutions resonate and advice is tailored. Lastly, a commitment to accessibility, inclusion, and business acumen will set tech leaders apart, enabling them to inspire innovation, mitigate risks, and translate technological advancements into tangible business outcomes.
I know that is a lot to unpack but my advice -following OKRs premises – is to make a list of 10 skills you would like to follow up the next 12 months and add a little thing/workshop/training/mentor to them, and repeat every year. For example, 2024. Get a mentor, for two times-a-week sessions. Go to a sales workshop with your team. Do 3-4 gemba walks and visit the field workers, technicians, and service people and spend a whole day or two with them. Hear them out. Foster a continuous improvement environment with company training, or build a BPM/Process mindset by asking all managers to attend a BPM/Enterprise Architecture or Kaizen workshop.
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