Name: Oscar Salvador Morillo Victoria
Current position: Chief Technical Officer (CTO)
Bio: Oscar serves as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Sanos Group GmbH, a Berlin-based company operating in the health tech sector. The company’s primary objective is to assist customers in achieving sustainable smoking cessation without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. They achieve this through the utilization of a smart e-vaporizer and behavioural training methods. Oscar possesses a solid foundation in computer science, specializing in artificial intelligence (AI).
Outside of his professional endeavours, Oscar nurtures several personal interests. He finds great joy in engaging in sports activities, spending quality time with his children, and indulging in the occasional karaoke session. Furthermore, he places significant value on both personal and professional development, consistently striving to grow and improve in all aspects of his life.
Hi Oscar. Can you tell us about your life before leadership – what kind of roles and projects did you work on?
Before assuming a leadership role, my professional journey took me through various roles and projects in the field of computer science. I had the opportunity to work in diverse settings, encompassing both research and industrial environments. I have worked in both private and non-profit sectors, contributing to a wide range of industries such as health, e-commerce, HR, advertisement, and technology. My experience has been multifaceted, involving both software development and machine learning, allowing me to gain insights from different perspectives.
The projects I have been involved in are quite diverse. They have included tasks such as 3D reconstruction of 2D medical images for surgical planning, sales forecasting, predicting user intent for advertisement purposes, developing AI-powered search for talent acquisition, employing machine learning for photo-editing tools, and facilitating lead generation processes. Each project has presented unique challenges and opportunities for growth, expanding my expertise across various domains within the computer science field.
How did your first leadership position come about, and was it intentional on your part?
In my previous company, I was entrusted with the responsibility of building and leading the data science team, as well as driving the ideation and development of AI-based products. During that time, a new CTO, who had over 20 years of management experience, joined our organisation.
Following our successful exit, my manager acknowledged my contributions to the AI-based products and attributed their achievements to me. This recognition played a significant role in opening doors for me when the company was acquired, as I was given the opportunity to build and lead data science teams in other portfolio companies of our investor.
Unfortunately, this exceptional manager eventually departed from the company. However, a year or two later, I received a call that this manager had recommended me for the role of CTO at Sanos Group. Despite my contentment with my previous role and the positive work culture I experienced with my managers and team, I recognised this as an extraordinary opportunity for personal and professional growth. Thus, I made the decision to seize this chance and embark on a new journey at Sanos Group.
Reflecting on my experiences, I am deeply grateful to this manager for exemplifying what true leadership means. I gleaned invaluable lessons from their guidance and consider them a remarkable role model in my career development.
How did you manage the transition? What came easily/what was difficult?
The transition into my leadership role presented both challenges and opportunities for growth. Initially, it was a formidable process, as there was no definitive guide outlining my responsibilities, priorities, or areas of focus. Moreover, leading mobile and hardware development teams was uncharted territory for me. However, I approached this situation with a proactive mindset, learning through hands-on experience and adapting as needed.
To enhance my management skills, I actively pursued knowledge from diverse sources, including books, blogs, and other valuable resources. I also sought guidance and insights from seasoned CTOs through meaningful conversations. Surrounding myself with individuals who possessed more experience allowed me to learn from their expertise and elevate my own capabilities.
From my past experiences, I knew the importance of making informed decisions, as they greatly influence a company’s success. I deeply appreciate the value of gathering relevant information and considering multiple perspectives before making crucial choices. This approach was of great help.
One aspect that came naturally to me was designing and programming systems, a task I have always found enjoyable in my previous roles. In my current position, I have fully embraced my role as an enabler, shaping the technical vision and ensuring the attainment of our goals.
Although the transition initially presented challenges, I have wholeheartedly embraced them as opportunities for personal and professional development. Leveraging my experiences and learning from others, I have successfully overcome any obstacles that have arisen so far.
What was your biggest failure in that first leadership role?
Reflecting on my first leadership role, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single definitive failure. My journey initially progressed without any major setbacks. However, as I became more settled, I started to experiment and iterate a lot. Through this mindset, I had the opportunity to try new approaches, make mistakes, and ultimately learn from them. This continuous learning process became an integral part of my growth as a leader, and I am grateful for the support and encouragement of my co-founders, who valued the importance of quick iteration leading to eventual success.
If I were to highlight a significant failure, it would revolve around the initial challenges I faced with hardware development. The samples we received either did not meet the agreed specifications, lacked requested features, or exhibited regressions.
Furthermore, there were instances where components were substituted without notification. These difficulties persisted for over six months, causing frustration and delays. Eventually, I made the decision to take the lead in the hardware development process and quality assurance.
By assuming this responsibility, I successfully reduced the iteration cycle from three months to just one day and implemented processes to ensure good quality. This experience taught me valuable lessons.
Firstly, it underscored the importance of identifying bottlenecks swiftly and making informed decisions to address them. Secondly, I recognised the need to optimise processes to minimise cycle times. Lastly, I sharpened my negotiation skills when dealing with vendors, ensuring clear communication and minimising the risk of message loss.
Overall, this failure in hardware development served as a catalyst for my growth as a leader, teaching me valuable lessons that have influenced my decision-making processes and ability to navigate challenging situations effectively.
What made you keep doing it?
What motivates me to continue in my leadership role are several key factors. Firstly, I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative process of communicating with my peers to find innovative solutions. This exchange of ideas and perspectives often led to the development of great solutions that surpassed individual contributions.
Secondly, I find immense satisfaction in the process of strategising and optimising resources to achieve optimal outcomes. Navigating through uncertain situations, making decisions with limited information, and gathering additional insights to design effective mitigation strategies are all aspects of leadership that intrigue me. I thrive on the challenge of managing risks and taking calculated steps towards success.
Additionally, I find fulfilment in working within an environment that fostered growth and encouraged continuous improvement. Embracing challenges and viewing failures as opportunities for personal and professional development became an integral part of my mindset. Each setback presented a chance to learn, adapt, and enhance my skills, propelling me forward in my leadership journey.
Overall, the combination of engaging in collaborative problem-solving, strategising for optimal outcomes, and embracing challenges while valuing growth and resilience fuel my passion for continuing in my leadership role. These aspects allow me to thrive and derive satisfaction from the dynamic nature of leadership.
Tell us a fun fact that nobody knows about you.
During my teenage years, I had a strong aspiration to become a singer. In fact, I even received acceptance to participate in a singing competition that resembled “The Voice” at the time. However, after careful consideration, I ultimately chose not to pursue it. It’s a fun and unexpected glimpse into a different passion I had at that stage of my life.
What are the three key skills you think every lead needs?
There are three key skills that I believe every leader should possess:
1. Effective Communication: Strong communication skills are essential for leaders. They need to articulate their vision, goals, and expectations clearly to their team members. Additionally, effective leaders actively listen to their team, understand diverse perspectives, and provide constructive feedback to encourage optimal performance and collaboration.
2. Emotional Intelligence: Leaders with emotional intelligence can establish trust, foster strong relationships, and navigate challenging situations with empathy and resilience. Understanding and managing their own emotions, as well as empathizing with others, allows leaders to connect authentically, motivate their team, and create a positive and inclusive work environment.
3. Decision-Making and Problem-Solving: Leaders must possess strong decision-making and problem-solving abilities. They should be adept at analysing complex situations, gathering relevant information, evaluating various options, and making well-informed decisions. Effective leaders are comfortable with taking calculated risks, adapting to ambiguity and uncertainty, and proactively addressing challenges to achieve desired outcomes.
By honing these three key skills—effective communication, emotional intelligence, and decision-making/problem-solving—leaders can inspire and empower their teams, foster a positive work culture, and drive successful outcomes in their organisations.
What have you learned about acquiring and retaining talent?
Acquiring and retaining talent has proven to be one of the most challenging aspects of my role. When it comes to hiring, I’ve learned that as a leader, you essentially become a sales manager tasked with selling your company or team to potential candidates.
One important lesson I’ve learned is that particularly for startups without a well-established employer brand, lengthy recruitment processes can be detrimental. Candidates often lose interest or accept other offers before even reaching the second interview. Therefore, it’s crucial to streamline and expedite the recruitment process to effectively acquire top talent. The challenge here is then to learn how to assess effectively the expected value/performance of a candidate.
In terms of talent retention, I’ve found that creating a safe and inclusive environment where individuals can be their authentic selves is key. Understanding the unique needs and preferences of each team member is vital, and I strive to provide support accordingly. Recognising that not everyone will thrive under identical conditions, I aim to address and accommodate the individual needs of my team members. This personalised approach helps foster a sense of belonging, loyalty, and job satisfaction.
Overall, the acquisition and retention of talent require a proactive and adaptable approach. By understanding the importance of efficient recruitment processes and creating an inclusive work environment that values individuality, leaders can enhance their ability to attract and retain top talent within their organization.
How do you motivate your team and manage their stress levels?
Motivating my team and managing their stress levels is an important aspect of my leadership approach. Recognising that each team member has different motivations and preferences, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivation. Instead, I adapt my strategies based on individual needs and circumstances.
One effective way I have found to motivate team members is by clearly explaining the purpose and significance of their work. By helping them understand the “why” behind their tasks and how their contributions impact the overall business objectives, I can instil a sense of purpose and ownership. For example, I recently had a mobile frontend developer who was initially not too excited about assisting with the webshop development. However, after explaining the value of his contribution and the potential impact it would have, he became more motivated and excelled in the webshop project.
Building a trustful environment is also crucial for motivation and stress management. At Sanos Group, we prioritise open communication and transparency. We foster an atmosphere where both positive and negative feedback can be openly shared, knowing that even negative feedback presents an opportunity for improvement. Regular one-on-one meetings and ongoing collaboration allow me to check in with my team members, ensuring their well-being and addressing any stressors they may be experiencing.
Additionally, when I notice team members are feeling stressed, I take proactive measures to address it. This could involve delegating tasks more effectively, providing additional support or resources, or simply lending a listening ear. Creating a supportive and understanding work environment helps alleviate stress and promotes a healthier work-life balance.
How do you manage your own stress levels and productivity?
To manage my stress levels and boost productivity, I prioritise three key habits:
1. Regular Exercise: I engage in regular physical activity to relieve stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
2. Mindful Walks: Taking longer walks allows me to clear my mind, organise my thoughts, and generate fresh ideas.
3. Effective Prioritisation: As a CTO in a startup, I bear substantial responsibilities and often find myself juggling multiple tasks. I am keenly aware of the importance of allocating my limited resources wisely, prioritizing tasks based on their significance and urgency to focus on the most impactful activities.
Additionally, I understand the necessity of discerning which tasks to exclude and allocating the appropriate effort and time to each task I work on. This decision-making process revolves around skillfully assessing risks and making informed choices, acknowledging the limitations of available resources. Ultimately, it all boils down to effectively managing responsibilities, optimising resource allocation, and making informed decisions for successful outcomes.
How do you stay in sync with other parts of the business?
To stay in sync with other parts of the business, I employ the following practices:
1. Daily Standups: I participate in daily standup meetings with other managers to discuss ongoing projects, address any immediate concerns, and ensure alignment across departments.
2. Weekly Company Updates: We hold weekly company-wide updates to foster inter-department alignment. These meetings provide an opportunity to share important updates, milestones, and initiatives, keeping everyone informed and connected.
3. Regular Meetings with my Co-Founder and CPO: These meetings allow us to align on strategic priorities, address cross-functional challenges, and collaborate closely on key decisions.
CTO Craft Conference is BACK! We’re already planning the next London conference for 7-8 November. Remember, our first conference was a sell-out, so pre-register now to be the first to hear as soon as tickets go on sale.
If you’re not a member of the free CTO Craft Community, what are you waiting for? With over 10,000 global technology leader members, you’ll get exclusive access to Slack channels, conference insights and updates and other valuable content.
Subscribe to Tech Manager Weekly for a free weekly dose of tech culture, hiring, development, process and more.