CTO Sessions: Edgardo Savoy, TransferGo

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? “CTOs are the CEOs of the future.”

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TransferGo

Name: Edgardo Savoy

Company: TransferGo

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: February 2020

Location: London

Bringing over 25 years of product and technology experience to TransferGo, Edgardo Savoy has held senior positions at Paddy Power and Lastminute.com, and has led large scale global technology and product teams whilst working in South America, Europe and the UK.

What was your first job? I started as a Software Developer for a Microsoft Partner in Buenos Aires. I was effectively a consultant, and my job involved implementing a lot of brand-new Microsoft technologies in companies from different industries. I learned lots in those 8 years from leading technical teams to project management.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? I taught myself to code when I was 14 years old, drawn in by the idea that you can program a logic sequence, and see it working. However, as a kid I wanted to design race cars, after growing up and watching racing with my dad. But I started working for Microsoft during the summer when I was 16, and I loved it, so decided to leave the race cars behind.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I studied Business and Technology in Buenos Aires, and then did an MBA, so I would benefit from a blend of both deep technology and business learning Following these, I still had the learning bug, so attended executive programmes at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, specialising in fields like behavioural economics, negotiation and finance and strategy.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Not massive detours but I have evolved from a pure technologist to a blend of product and technology. Over the last ten years, I’ve run both product and engineering teams because the most interesting part of technology, for me, is its application and delivery on customer value. Being able to do both is what makes me the happiest.

What type of CTO are you? First and foremost, I’m a customer-centric CTO, which means that unless I can see the difference technology is making to our customers and their experience, I find it difficult to get excited by a project.  

As far as my team goes, I love decentralised systems, so I try to lead my teams like one. The clearer people are on what we do and why, the better decisions they make for themselves.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I think the application of 5G (and beyond) combined with AI in land-transportation is exciting. Vehicles are developing at such a pace that humans cannot keep up. For instance, the speed and efficiency at which a vehicle can travel 500 miles is not dependent upon the technology it rests upon, but the human operating it. There will no doubt be more changes ahead, be it in infrastructure or roads, but it’s exciting to see what the next five years hold in store for us.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I believe people misinterpret or crucially misunderstand, what machine learning is, how it works and how it can help support a business. This often leads to gross oversell and underwhelming results.  

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? I joined TransferGo in February, and the team has been through a lot of change since then. Travel has not been easy, so I’ve worked with the rest of the leadership team to ensure we can all continue to connect remotely.  In all, this remote communication project has worked well, which reflects just how hard my team has worked during these uncertain times. I’m proud of them.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two?  Customer experience has to win over everything. Operational efficiency is just engineering to deliver that experience in a sustainable way. If you don’t start with the customer experience, you’re optimising for the organisation which isn’t the way to grow.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Our customers need to move and use money to help their families, which is a very important job in their lives. My team is relentlessly focused on finding new ways to simplify that task.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? Honestly, I think the starting point has to be the customer; everything else can flow from there. Whether that it is  unit economics  or technology use, alignment will come as a balance between short term and long-term gains. I tend to favour tactical technology decisions for things that are not a competitive advantage or when we need to learn something because as a CTO in charge of a roadmap, I need speed. Long term technology investments should be made in areas where there is growth and you’re building something that makes you different from your competitors.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Not really. A mismatch between those two is normally a sign of misunderstanding of what customers care about.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy focuses on aligning the tech team and the wider business. In doing so, the business and its various teams become a single unit, moving as one to achieve business goals. Creating that internal alignment also allows for an open dialogue across the business which not only helps to ensure teams are in-sync, but it means projects do not grind to a halt at the sign of a first obstacle. At its core, a good tech strategy is about finding the right balance

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? CTOs are the CEOs of the future.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I’m proud of being able to adapt to changing business circumstances, taking in new opportunities to learn and trial technologies without the fear of failure that can sometimes hold technologists back.  

In terms of delivery, my team in Paddy Power built the technology that paved the way for a £5bn merger which I loved being a part of. However, I genuinely believe that my role and remit at TransferGo will lead to something even bigger and better. I’m excited for what the future holds.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I have enjoyed every step of  my career journey, including the ups and downs. Looking back, it can be easy to say that I wish I had not made certain mistakes or ignored my own hype around technology launches and development, but without those times, I wouldn’t be the CTO I am now.  

What are you reading now? I recently read Invisible Women which is about gender bias in everything from product to policy design. It is both scary and sad, but it is full of important facts about gender inequality.

Most people don't know that I… Worked in McDonalds for a short while with my brother one summer. We did it to see what it was like. I spent a lot of time questioning the rules they had for things which certainly did not help my short career there. Through that experience I learned that I cannot do things I hold no belief in or understand (easily, at least).

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family. I have two young daughters and they have changed my life. And I love cooking too.

Ask me to do anything but… Go camping. No doubt as a dad I’ll have to start viewing camping as a holiday option, as opposed to what you do at a music festival. But I enjoy sleeping on a real bed too much…