Developer Productivity

How a CTO Finds Flow

Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador Luis Weir sets directions, understands digital natives, networks, and avoids exhaustion. 

By Alexa Weber-Morales

March/April 2019

As a globe-traveling software executive, London-based Luis Augusto Weir has seen service-oriented architectures (SOAs) evolve from complexity to ubiquity. The old SOA model has been reborn via several approaches to middleware and APIs—and he’s happy to be part of the booming API economy.

Weir has penned several books on middleware, including the forthcoming Enterprise API Management (Packt Publishing, July 2019), thanks to his experience with building SOA, middleware, and API solutions for Fortune 500 companies. And he started young, building one of the country’s first social media websites in his native Venezuela as well as starting a small development firm before he finished university. How does he stay so productive while keeping current with changing technology?

Set the Direction

“I’m the CTO, so I manage everyone but I don’t manage anyone,” laughs Weir. As chief technology officer for Capgemini’s Oracle Practice Cloud Solutions team, “I have four projects going on right now, so I’m indirectly managing several people.” His role is to set the technology direction, defining where his practice should invest, based on market understanding and then engaging the technology team leads to ensure that staff is trained and enabled. He does this by getting his hands dirty, so to speak.

“I think the era of software architects who just do PowerPoint is gone. I use it to sell a concept or an idea and to draw diagrams,” Weir says. But the main way to inspire is by example, he believes. “More and more I see CTOs who are like me. A good example is Lucas Jellema @lucasjellema, CTO of Amis, who is even more hands-on than I am.”

Understand Digital Natives

Getting hands-on is also key to managing the next generation of developers, according to Weir. “What we get from university is young talent who want to get inspired and play with cool tech. They are digital-born; they’ve never known anything else.” However, he feels it’s also important to guide developers toward not trying to reinvent the wheel. “For many, especially if you are inexperienced, you try to solve a problem from scratch without investigating whether others have solved the problem already,” he says.

Developers today tend to forget about architecture a little bit. I love developing, but making the right decisions can save a lot of time and effort down the line.”—Luis Weir, Oracle ACE Director and Groundbreaker Ambassador

Although “managing conflict is a whole other topic,” he says, “one thing I am always battling with is design decisions. I hate accidental decisions.” He misses the focus on software architecture that he says used to be more prevalent.

“Developers today tend to forget about architecture a little bit. I love developing, but making the right decisions can save a lot of time and effort down the line,” Weir says. That’s why he has what he calls a “red-tape process for design decisions,” where he asks questions such as “Why are you using JavaScript as opposed to Java?” or “Why did you choose REST APIs over GraphQL APIs?” The key, he says, is to keep an open mind and make decisions that are justified for the goal you are trying to achieve.

Use Your Professional Network

Staying abreast of the changing technology landscape and how other executives are managing change is critical for a CTO. “You need to go out there and meet people at conferences such as Oracle OpenWorld Europe,” says Weir. As a long-standing Oracle ACE Director and now an Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador, he appreciates the opportunities that having a close relationship with a software vendor such as Oracle brings and the chances to interact with peer Oracle ACEs and Groundbreakers.

“Groundbreakers is a brilliant network for learning and collaborating,” Weir says. He also reads magazines online and is a Slack and Twitter enthusiast—but like most of us, he admits to struggling to shut off those information sources at times.

Don’t Exhaust Yourself

Indeed, for people such as Weir, knowing when he is able to concentrate and when to back off is key. “Mornings are best. I’m more creative, I’m rested, and I don’t have 100 things in my head,” Weir says. That focus has a limit, however: “Sometimes at the end of the day, my wife complains that I don’t want to talk. I find it difficult to think, because I’m mentally exhausted. I couldn’t do something creative at night.”

His favorite way to find flow is to isolate himself from office distractions. “If, for example, I have to deliver a hard-core demo, like a sample pattern to show my developers how to implement something the right way, I stay home, isolate myself in my home studio, shut off email, and just focus,” he says.

When you put your head down, time flies, Weir finds—but that, too, has risks. He’s found it critical to take breaks for meals and “to disconnect a little and come back fresh. Your creativity can be affected if you don’t look after yourself a little. That’s a common problem. You can exhaust yourself without knowing it.”

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Photography by BringIntoBeing/Matt Lever