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‘I Would Love To See The CTO And VPE Role Separation Disappearing’-CTO Ebury

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VICTOR TUSON PALAU is the Chief Technology Officer of Ebury leading its global, fully-remote tech team. Palau is responsible for Ebury’s innovative tech offering which underpins its market-leading global transaction platform aiming to simplify international trade. He was previously SVP of Engineering within Ebury before moving up to CTO. Before that Palau held the same position in Canonical, the publisher of Ubuntu and also led the engineering team at Symbian working on mobile OS.He spoke with IDG Connect.

IDG CONNECT: What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future?

 VICTOR TUSON PALAU: I would love to see the CTO and VPE role separation disappearing. The industry must wake up to the fact that people, culture, and organisation shape software – not individuals on their Ivory Towers.

IC: What was your first job?

VTP:  I had several part time jobs while studying at university, but my first full time job was as a network engineer for the first IP-based telephony switches at Nortel Networks.

IC: Did you always want to work in IT?

VTP:  In a way, yes, because I love solving problems. Not necessarily using technology, but it often helps speed up the process!

I’ve always been interested in technology, especially networking technologies.

IC: What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they?

VTP: I studied Network Engineering in Barcelona. Since then I’ve gained several qualifications, the latest coming as a Kubernetes Administrator (CKA).

IC: Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss.

VTP:  My background is in operating systems after working at Nokia/Symbian on mobile OS before moving to lead commercial engineering at Ubuntu/Canonical.

I joined Ebury over 3 years ago as VP of Engineering working closely with our previous CTO, Toby Young, before moving up to CTO last year.

IC: What type of CTO are you?

VTP: A good question because I think everyone does it slightly differently. I am as much focused on technology as I am building and improving the team.

I truly believe that systems are shaped by organisational culture and the people that form teams. I definitely don’t subscribe to the mantra that a CTO can be effective by focusing purely on the tech.

IC: Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of?

VTP: I am hugely excited about Extended Berkley Packet Filter (eBPF). It’s a Linux Kernel feature that allows safe monitoring and interaction of real-time actions. It has the potential to change how we monitor and secure networks on a vast scale.

IC: Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why?

VTP: We don’t need to talk about NFTs… but on a serious note I think Blockchain is overhyped.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it has lots of potential beyond cryptocurrencies, but not everything is better with Blockchain.

There is a tendency in tech start-ups to accumulate buzzwords to drive investment – it reminds me of the IoT hype of the last 5 years. However, a simpler, cheaper solution is often available.

IC: What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of?

VTP: Remote working. We were already partially remote before the pandemic, but during 2021 we closed all of Ebury’s technology offices and went fully remote.

I had previously worked remotely so I was fully aware of the pros and cons this can bring an organisation. At Ebury, it has not only allowed us to find the best talent wherever it is, but also to offer a better work-life balance for our team which is important to me.

The pandemic made it almost impossible to do regular face-to-face catch ups and this took a toll on the team, but we have restarted this in 2022 with our own “huddle” space in Malaga where teammates from around the world can get together and collaborate.

IC: 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?

VTP: We’ve been digital since our inception over 10 years ago, but we can always improve. For example, we are currently transforming our client onboarding and reassessment processes, pushing to achieve a fully digital experience.

While this has a heavy weighting on operational efficiency, ultimately smoother and faster processes lead to a better user experience. Simplifying and speeding up the customer acquisition process will also drive revenue growth.

It is important to measure the rate at which you are paying up technical debt and the rate at which you are delivering value. You soon see that these two metrics are heavily correlated.

IC: What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment?

VTP: The ability to use Ebury services anywhere in the world, at any time. This includes accessing your Ebury account on the go, being able to pay locally in many countries as fast as possible and collecting money in as many currencies as possible.

This also means supporting our customers to programmatically connect to our systems easily, especially for those that might not have software development capability internally.

IC: How do you align your technology use to meet business goals?

VTP: Ensuring everyone in the team understands what Ebury stands for and what we offer customers. It’s important to have a clear vision of the business’ objectives to distinguish between what’s a distraction and what brings value.

IC: Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy?

VTP:  I work closely with our product team to ensure these are two sides of the same coin. A cutting-edge technology strategy has to translate into new products and services – it can’t be developed in a vacuum.

Too often technology departments do rebuilds or replatforming on the latest technology without understanding how that links to increased value for the customer. The CTO’s responsibility is to ensure the technology strategy underpins the product strategy, even when this solely relies on technology innovation.

IC: What makes an effective tech strategy?

VTP: An effective tech strategy delivers value to customers and shareholders faster and sustainably over the next 5 years.

To produce an effective strategy, I first get a strong understanding of how the industry is evolving – for Ebury, this means spotting emerging business trends – then I draw together a set of architectural principles, technologies and transformations into a strategy to support this journey.

IC: What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future?

VTP:  I would love to see the CTO and VPE role separation disappearing. The industry must wake up to the fact that people, culture, and organisation shape software – not individuals on their Ivory Towers.

IC: What has been your greatest career achievement?

VTP:  It’s still to come. But becoming CTO at Ebury definitely ranks highly on the list.

IC: Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently?

VTP:  I would have done my own start-up when I was in my 20s. Not for fame and fortune, but because I learned so much doing it in my 30s that I wish I had done it earlier.

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