Miguel Corte Real, Head of Communication and New Business at Penguin Formula tells us about the unique software house innovation at its core.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Miguel Corte Real: The best we can. I believe it’s harder for adults because since we are more aware of what’s happening. But it’s more damaging for the kids on a level we can’t anticipate… They adapt well but it is an adaptation not desirable at all. Anyway, we try to avoid thinking too much about the subject.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Penguin Formula.
Miguel Corte Real: I worked all my life in the advertisement field. Because of it, selling is something that comes naturally to me. I began establishing companies in 2002 and I realized that managing can be very creative and rewarding. I had many startups that I created and sold after a while, just to have fun. These are like a restaurant or a brand of olive oil that I exported to China. In 2014 I got tired because times were too difficult and politics are an enemy to small companies. I sold or shut down everything I got and started to work as a business consultant and that’s how I discovered Penguin Formula. After 2 months of collaboration with Rudolf Vriens, our CEO, he invited me to work full-time. From the first moment, I related with his vision and saw he thinks way ahead of most of the people. Also, the company has a good team and products. I’m really grateful for the opportunity because we are in a fantastic moment. Technology is, as Rudolf often reminds us – the best way to change things for the better.
How does Penguin Formula innovate?
Miguel Corte Real: I believe our greatest differential is that we connect something that people want to offer with something other people need, sometimes even before they realize they need it (that’s why I say Rudolf thinks ahead). Our work is split into two major areas: Placement and Products. In both cases, we have clients in different countries. Placement is a very stable business area since the beginning and is well managed by Dario Gaspar, with the experts like Fabio Calhau, CIO. That allowed Rudolf to place a lot of resources in the development of some great products, like Snaptest, EMS, or Piaf, an amazing AI solution. Since last year we are growing very fast in that area and we have already reached several countries. Right now, Penguin Formula is an exciting place to be.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Miguel Corte Real: Well, the truth is that it affected us both negatively and positively. The fact that everybody is in the home office really reduces the social quality of the work. Most of the great ideas we have come from social interaction. Not even have to be direct interaction. Sometimes we catch a conversation between colleagues and that take us to a different place, a different point of view. The collective work dynamic also helps productivity. In that sense, it’s affecting us like most of the companies, in ways that we will only realize in the future. It’s particularly damaging for companies that rely on creativity. On the other hand, one of our developments is called Snaptest and is the perfect tool to boost the testing and vaccination challenge. We launched it in cooperation with the Portuguese Red Cross and helped so much in the logistics process. At all levels that were quickly implemented in several countries both in public and private sectors. In that sense, the coronavirus is helping Penguin Formula to grow at an impressive level….Besides, Snaptest allows our team to have a sense of being a part of the solution, which is very rewarding.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Miguel Corte Real: All the time! I think the most difficult choice is not getting on board with the general madness that is happening. In this case, I’m speaking of myself, more than of Penguin, even though I’m sure this is a general feeling. We have to avoid this constant bombing of misinformation 24/7 that makes people stop thinking for themselves. The lessons are yet to be learned. People think, some with happiness, that this brought a new world or a new way of living but I don’t share this optimism. I think coronavirus just exposed something that is slowly happening in most societies. It’s absolutely necessary that people re-learn how to have a disagreement and also learn how to be critical and not so full of rules and certainties.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Miguel Corte Real: I’m Taoist and therefore things for me are not good or bad. Everything is good and bad, just depending on what you can do with it. I admit that I’m not wise enough to deal with anxiety and for that reason, I simply avoid it, mostly keeping myself occupied. I always use stress to increase my productivity as most people who work in advertisements. At penguin, we don’t allow a stressful environment, at least not at the level where it would be harmful. People are too occupied and with a purpose. The sense of purpose is a great emotional problem solver.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Miguel Corte Real: I don’t want to look too cocky about this but if we have competitors we do not think about them. Our solutions are unique and the clients that are in our scope don’t have a clear alternative to what we offer. We think our main competitor is mainly ignorance. And also a certain level of corruption. I’m not starting this, it would be the reason for a double-page article, but if you look, for instance, in Holland, where there was a system bought for almost a billion euros and doesn’t work without consequence whatsoever either to who made it or to who bought it we cannot avoid wondering if something is happening too mysterious to be understandable. We don’t have this ability, our systems work and we put a lot of effort into this. Ignorance is a problem too. Sometimes we hear that “our system already does that” and later we find out that it was something that doesn’t have anything to do with our solution. We even hear “we have a CRM” and it’s just a spreadsheet with names and telephone numbers.
Your final thoughts?
Miguel Corte Real: Tech companies are proving that they can change the world in a way and a speed never seen before in history. In some cases terribly, and that is also the truth. But nothing will stop this and the solution to most things that are wrong lies in new developments. In companies that connect curiosity, creativity, and a profound sense of responsibility. Rudolf should be the person to speak about this since I’m learning a lot just like everybody at Penguin. And believe me, he would have a lot to say about this.