Justina Peixoto, CIO at 123Milhas, highlights innovations in the company’s digital journey and shares her non-traditional career path to becoming a tech leader.
Avenue Code: Tell us about your personal career path. How did you get to where you are today?
Justina Peixoto: My story is very interesting because I didn't start in the technology area. My trajectory started when I decided to take a technical course in chemistry! Since there was a limited enrollment for the chemistry course, however, a friend of mine recommended a technical course at Cotemig that opened the door to my first job with computers. I worked as a newspaper designer for a while, which helped me pay for college, and after that I got my first opportunity as a developer. I then joined Art, a group at 123Milhas. I started my journey at 123 as a PHP developer, worked for almost two and a half years as a developer, and then migrated to DevOps. I also acted as a project leader and finally became CIO.
AC: Did you consciously cultivate soft skills to help you make this transition from a technical area to an upper-level management position?
JP: Becoming CIO was an incredible opportunity for me to develop my soft skills. I have always been very shy, and working in a predominantly male environment has been challenging and enriching. I was able to learn how to impose myself and put my ideas on the table. At 123Milhas, merit is highly valued, so regardless of gender etc., technical capacity is the most relevant consideration in hiring.
AC: What are the biggest challenges related to being a female leader in a predominantly male environment? What advice would you give to women who aspire to be technical leaders?
JP: I have never had a hard time working with male colleagues and have not experienced the challenges other women have, but perhaps I never made room to hear them either. I was always very focused on what I believed in and thought I was competent to do. We have to believe more in our abilities. If the people around us or the company we’re in don’t share the same values, it may be time to change environments. That said, I believe practices can be improved in any scenario as long as they are not rooted in outdated values.
AC: Could you tell us more about 123Milhas’s digital journey? What were the biggest challenges?
JP: Six years ago, we issued plane tickets manually. The first robot we built to automate the ticketing process was controversial because some people thought that the automation would eliminate jobs. We eventually demystified that belief by showing that technology is in favor of people and not against them since it frees us to focus on excellence in assisting customers. Automation has also helped us create several validation processes that guarantee the best prices within the closed market for plane tickets that are usually purchased using miles.
AC: Does 123Milhas have an area dedicated to innovation? How do you foster a culture of innovation throughout the company?
JP: When I joined the company, the team was very small. After about 3 or 4 years, we started an expansion process and now have clearly defined roles for each person and each team. I realized that there was an imminent need to assemble a DevOps team, but because It was difficult to find this expertise in the market, we trained internal talent to manage this area.
Another important point is that we are moving toward innovation in user experience as well as in technology. We recently hired some designers to improve the user experience as a whole. On the technical side, we are also promoting different ways for project leaders to think about constant implementation improvements. Innovation is linked to technology, but it’s also important to constantly review processes.
AC: Travel industries have been greatly affected by the pandemic. In your opinion, what is the role of technology in mitigating this crisis?
JP: We’re actually working on process issues that do not directly involve technology. I am closely monitoring our APP processes to learn more about the bottlenecks our service team faces. I am also focused on working with new products that may in the future improve our range of resources input, which will sustain the company going forward. 123Milhas decided to hire rather than reduce its number of employees through this crisis; we are working hard to improve and expand our offerings so that we are ready when things start to improve.
AC: How does 123Milhas handle strategic partnerships?
JP: We have several partners that help us broaden our range of services, gain competitive advantage, and improve our ROI. We see strategic partnerships as very important. In 2019, we implemented the Agile methodology, and for that reason, we now search for partners with the same business model to ensure project continuity and culture fit.
AC: Is your team entirely internal, or do you partner with consultants as well?
JP: We have a team of 40 people internally, and we also work with an outsourced team. We have been in the market for over 10 years, but our newest product - 123Milhas - is less than 4 years old and has enabled us to grow very fast. Because of that growth, we’re now hiring consultants to help us with human resources, important processes, and technical areas.
AC: What is something you are proud to have accomplished in your career?
JP: I am very proud to have worked on an automation project to optimize a process that involved a team of 100 people. The outcome of the project was that a process that used to take 8 hours took just 1 minute after the optimization.
AC: Thanks for sharing your personal career story, as well as all the work you’re doing to strengthen the digital journey at 123Milhas. It’s been a pleasure, Justina!
Andressa Lopes is the Inside Sales Lead at Avenue Code. She loves to talk to people and create new possibilities. She is also crazy about plants and piano.