‘My plan was to go to odontology school but I fell in love with computers’
Leandro Sales Holanda Pinto, director of engineering at MessageBird. Image: MessageBird

‘My plan was to go to odontology school but I fell in love with computers’

27 Nov 2019487 Views

Leandro Sales Holanda Pinto of MessageBird discusses his career journey, from a critical education decision to making time for surfing.

Leandro Sales Holanda Pinto is director of engineering at Amsterdam-based cloud communications company MessageBird, which recently announced plans to open a new hub in Dublin.

The engineer’s career journey hasn’t been without its twists and turns, however. From initially planning to become a dentist and trying to keep in touch with his passion for surfing along the way, he’s now in a position where he can “look back on his career with joy”.  

He told Siliconrepublic.com about the experiences that brought him to where he is today, and the lessons for success he has learned over the past few years. 

‘Even the challenging people around you can teach you something
– LEANDRO SALES HOLANDA PINTO

What first stirred your interest in a career in this area? 

When I was preparing to go to university, my initial plan was to go to odontology school. My parents are both dentists, so it seemed like a good idea.  

It was a close friend who suggested computer science because he knew I always loved math and physics. I’m glad to say I fell in love with computers during my studies and now prefer coding to teeth any day.  

What experiences led you to the role you now have? 

I have a PhD in information technology from Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Moving from Brazil to Europe opened my eyes to the opportunities around the world. After obtaining my PhD degree, I accepted a role in Amsterdam working for Booking.com. In my six years there, I saw the company go through incredible growth, which was an enormous learning experience in itself 

It was my learnings at Booking.com that attracted me to MessageBird, where I can put both my schooling and practical work experience together to make an even greater impact. 

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path, and how did you deal with them? 

When a company grows rapidly, changes in leadership are common as growing teams often have some trial and error before finding out exactly what works. When I was just starting my career and still learning how to be successful, I was lucky to have a strong peer group to support and guide me – they helped create stability in a dynamic environment.  

That support helped me not only make it through, but also to understand the challenges businesses face when growing. Now, when inevitable changes happen, I’m more prepared to be a source of stability and help others over the bumps, the same way others helped me.  

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed? 

I was fortunate to have many people from whom I learned over the last 15-plus years in my career. It would be difficult to choose only one, but what I can tell you is that even the challenging people around you can teach you something.  

In fact, if you take the time to understand the challenges they are trying to overcome, the challenging relationships typically teach you even more. 

What do you enjoy about your job? 

Start-up environments are rarely smooth sailing. You will most likely have a mix of senior leaders who have strong ideas of how teams should run all the way to employees straight out of college who are hungry to have an impact and make a difference.   

Finding ways to combine the passions of all is often the biggest challenge I face and the one I enjoy the most. It’s a bonus that I get to do it in an industry that I love. My job gives me the best of both worlds. 

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job? 

There are really three traits I try to bring to my job every day: empathy, a positive attitude and candour. 

To build a successful and well-functioning team, it’s important to create empathy within it. We all have our roles to do and the more we can understand the challenges we each have in achieving those goals, the more we can support one another.   

Part of being a successful leader is being straightforward with feedback. Feedback can be difficult for many, but candour can go a long way in building trust.  

Finally, I’m just a positive person and I believe there is a lot we can achieve when we work together. I try to bring a positive attitude to work every day. 

How did your current company support you on your career path, if at all? 

One of our values at MessageBird is to do what you love. Now, truth be told, if I was doing what I love, I’d be surfing a heck of a lot more than I do. But MessageBird has given me an opportunity to stretch into areas of the business outside my original scope and areas of expertise.  

I think having that opportunity has enabled me to understand more areas of the business. Stretching beyond my skillset has helped me grow and learn throughout my career. As soon as I have these kinds of opportunities, I am quick to jump on them. 

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one? 

Technology is an area with endless opportunities. My advice would be to work for a company whose mission and vision you believe in and also a place where you can make a difference.  

If you find that, many good things will follow and some day you will find yourself looking back on your career with joy. 

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