Empowering Our People: An Interview with Douglas Palacios

Empowering Our People: An Interview with Douglas Palacios

By Maral Salek

Every great business recognizes that their success relies on a focused mission, a strong management team, and satisfied customers. But what about business culture and empowering employees? Does your business invest time and energy in your employees’ personal and professional growth? Is this a priority at your business?

Often times, empowering employees is an overlooked aspect of business that turns out to be great for everyone! Employees respond positively when they are confident that a business values the personal and professional growth of team members. Studies find that time and again, when employees feel valued, they will be more productive and grow with the company.

Our leadership team at Blanc Labs foster a culture that promotes collaboration, open communication of new ideas, and building careers from opportunities they seek out. Blanc Labs’ CEO, Hamid Akbari, famously emphasizes to the team on a daily basis that, “Our success is in our people.” Prioritizing employees and empowering team members is a core value at Blanc Labs. We believe that the more we empower our people, the more they will grow and thrive. We have a number of examples where through empowerment, employees can achieve great results. One great example is Douglas Palacios.

Before Blanc Labs

Douglas is a Software Architect at Blanc Labs and has worked as a programmer for ten years. Back in Venezuela, he had a successful career with many learning opportunities and a good salary. However, the political instability in the country led Douglas and his family to start looking for new opportunities elsewhere. This was when he first heard about this Canadian company called Blanc Labs with offices in South America!

Blanc Labs

In December 2016, Douglas had his first interview with Blanc Labs. The interview was very “entertaining” he said:

“My interviewer assigned a task which I struggled with at first. Instead of ending the session, he gave me another chance to prove myself. He kept challenging me by asking more questions and kept pushing me to the next level. I was given the opportunity to tackle the task again. This time, I demonstrated my strengths and handled the task well! Shortly afterwards, I joined the team, and two months later I was in the Toronto office working with our client!”

Upon joining, Douglas was tasked with designing and delivering a key project for an important client. He worked diligently for a month and a half. To win the project, the team had to compete with industry giants. Two months later, we were celebrating the success with Douglas in our Toronto office. For the past two years, Douglas has been instrumental in the growth and success of our fast-growing organization.

Douglas shared what the last two years have been like: “At first glance, it’s like being thrown into the deep end. It may sound scary, but at the same time, it’s an excellent opportunity to grow and advance in your career. Especially when your leader has your back all the time and helps you swim rather than sink!”

The leadership team plays a large role ensuring team members have all the support they need to succeed. Leaders are eager to hear the ideas of their teams. They also encourage the team to take on more responsibility, be creative, get involved in decision-making and problem-solving, and deliver above-and-beyond results. This is what we mean by empowering our individuals.

Culture

“This is one of the best teams that I’ve ever worked with.”

Thanks to the culture at Blanc Labs which is built on respect, empowerment and teamwork, the office was a great place to grow. Douglas describes the team as constant learners and great team players. “It’s always about teamwork, and helping each other to get the work done with the best possible result, not about who’s getting the credit.” 

Diversity

Blanc Labs is a global, cross-cultural organization with offices in Toronto and Bogota. The diversity in both offices contributes to team productivity and creativity. As great as it sounds, the diversity also leads to some communication challenges.

Initially, when he began working at Blanc Labs, Douglas was concerned that he might not be able to articulate his ideas and proposals effectively given that English was not his first language.

“I was afraid that my Canadian coworkers wouldn’t understand me.” To his pleasant surprise, his colleagues not only understood his train of thought, but they also helped him communicate more effectively. “They never made language be seen as a barrier,” said Douglas.

Instead of a barrier, the team has turned this into an opportunity to learn a different language, and you can sometimes hear members at the Toronto office speaking Spanish together. 

Memorable Moments

In March 2017, Douglas travelled to Toronto for the first time. Before 2017, he had heard about Canada’s weather and its not-so-mild winters! He worried that Canadians would be as cold as the weather. To his surprise, he found the opposite:

“Everyone treated me as their friend. The funny thing was when I got there, I saw people from everywhere: India, China, Europe, Japan, and so on. Originally, I was supposed to stay for a month, but then I ended up staying for two months. It wasn’t easy as I had to leave my family and my two little girls behind, but the team in Toronto made it a lot easier. I remember for my birthday, some of them took me to a baseball game; it was my first time watching baseball!”

When the political situation in Venezuela worsened, Douglas and his family were invited to relocate to Toronto but decided to move to Bogota.

“Although I am used to warmer weather, I love Canada. I chose the Bogota location because the city is nice and more importantly, it’s closer to home.”

A few months ago, Douglas celebrated his second anniversary at Blanc Labs. The past two years have been quite a journey for all of us. Thanks to wonderful people like Douglas, it’s been a fantastic one.

“Our people are the ones who build our company, and people like Douglas build successful companies. Douglas always focuses on results and demonstrates start-to-finish ownership in his work. He puts the team first and helps us act as a team; genuinely cares for the success of our clients, and he truly wants to achieve the highest standards of excellence. Douglas is among those extraordinary people who constantly challenge themselves to learn, develop, and improve,” says Hamid Akbari, the CEO of Blanc Labs. “Someone who believes in the vision and mission instils the values and encourages his fellow team members to follow them — someone who’s not afraid of making sacrifices, stepping up and working hard.”

It's All About Our People

In 2015, Columbia Business School’s Shiva Rajgopal and his team interviewed 1400 CEOs and CFOs and discovered that “15 per cent indicated their company had paid sufficient attention to its culture. A nearly unanimous majority — 90 per cent — indicated a strong belief that the quality of a company’s culture is inextricably linked with its financial success as well as its perceived “value” in the world.” The study also found that office culture that promoted an engaged team also contributed to higher levels of employee retention, higher productivity, and higher performance overall.

Businesses already recognize the importance of culture, but they will need to dedicate more time and resources in building it. We see the benefits of a great culture here at Blanc Labs. Our employees are motivated to work hard, and they help each other achieve their best. They grow in ways that extend past their professional careers, and it positively affects their personal lives as well. An undeniable truth we have seen at Blanc Labs and would recommend for any business is to prioritize your company’s people! Your business grows when your employees grow. Empower your employees and you and your business will also find and keep excellent talent like Douglas!