FOURFOLD AND FORWARD

Portugal 2019 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

As specific skills grow more important than academic degrees, firms like Altran are leading the market in developing cutting edge educational programs for youth and employees alike.

Celia Reis
BIOGRAPHY
With a bachelor’s in computer science engineering from the faculty of Science and Technology at the New University of Lisbon, Reis holds an MBA from the AESE School of Management and Business. Beginning her pre-sales career at Xerox, in 1996 she joined a small group of entrepreneurs and founded Global NSA, launching activities in Portugal and Brazil focused on decision support systems. At the end of 1998, the company was acquired by the Altran Group. Reis is now CEO of Altran Portugal, integrating a working group that consolidates and develops the group’s strategic offerings in Portugal. In 2018, Altran Portugal celebrates its 20th anniversary, and has 1,800 employees and offices in Porto, Lisbon, and Fundão.

Could you provide an overview of Altran's operations in Portugal?

Altran entered Portugal through an acquisition of four companies, based on its aggressive, growth-based strategy to invest. Intrigued by Portugal's environment, we began a strategy of convergence and merged all the companies in 2005. It stayed like that until 2009, when Altran in Portugal established a consolidated brand, and I assumed the role of CEO. In terms of our evolution in the market, we have grown fourfold in the last couple of years. We did this time by investing and diversifying in several sectors. For example, we invested heavily in the telecoms engineering field. At present, Altran is recognized as a leading company that has partnered with different vendors and telecoms operators. Our success allowed us to create a good footprint in the financial sector and public administration, with specific solutions customized to our clients' requests. When we talk about the local market, telecoms, media, financial services, and public administration are the chief sectors in which we are present. Our second major boost came from our pioneering of the group, starting with a near-shore initiative that began in 2013. We innovated because we started proactively working with some of our colleagues in other countries and delocalizing some projects. Our colleagues sell the projects in each country, and depending on the client requirements and maturity to localize, we distribute the work between the engineering processes and on-site and off-site activities. We were one of the first entities in the group to push this traction. As a result, we have nearly 700 engineering consultants dedicated to our international projects, and in Portugal the company has more than 1,850 consulting engineers. The company has almost 2,000 employees after taking into account the management and support functions; we have 700 employees in our global engineering center and 1,150 people in the local market.

Altran Portugal has university ties with Universidade NOVA de Lisboa's “Big Data Academy." What is this, and have you any other similar projects in the pipeline?

We have a relationship with polytechnic universities and academia in general. When we entered the world of complex solutions and pioneered that domain, we saw it was critical to push the integration between the industry and academic ecosystem. More than recruiting recent graduates, we need to improve the process and cooperate with universities and polytechnics to customize the content to ease the integration of students into the professional world. With that in mind, we set up our internal academy, co-designed academies with universities and polytechnics, and worked with Universidade NOVA de Lisboa in the domain of complex analytics. We are also working with two polytechnics, Instituto Politécnico de Castelo Branco and Politécnico da Guarda, on designing content around software testing. The target is to customize tailor-made content together with industry players to allow students to enter the professional ecosystem at an early stage. Recently, we co-designed a telecom engineering course with Politécnico de Castelo Branco that consists of 1.5 years of theory and six months in the company. The world is innovating fast, and in order to help the unemployed population keep up with the changing world, we are co-developing a nine-month IEFE training program with the Institute of Employment and Professional Training. In the future, more companies will require skills rather than a degree. Of course, there needs to be a mix of certified skills while retaining the title of specialized professional. That is why we have been pushing for different formats, the first being training academies, since they complement sub-skills from different ecosystems. Despite all our initiatives over the years, we want to do more and build on levels of certified professionals.