A coffee with… Gilles Marajo
Digital transformation and inclusivity have been part of Gilles Marajo’s career DNA since day one. As a student, he sat on the board of an organisation focussed on fostering intercultural communication and mobility among technology undergraduates.
PWC’s director of technology risk and transformation then went on to cut his teeth working for well-known brands such as TOTAL and Peugeot Citroën, where he was often instrumental in streamlining business processes and acting as the vital liaison between IT and business divisions.
Today, he is a key decision-maker and thought leader at PWC, continuing to drive significant transformation and innovation within the tech space.
TechInformed met up with Marajo at this year’s Black Tech Fest, fresh from a thought-provoking panel discussion titled ‘Technology Transformation and Innovation’ where he shared his perspectives on the complex realities minority groups working in the tech sector can face.
We’re here at Black Tech Fest today, surrounded by tech’s brightest Black talent. Have you personally faced challenges as a Black man in your industry?
It has been challenging, a lot of ups and downs. What has worked for me is resilience, being brave and bold. I don’t think I ever really got any kind of privileges. I had to almost force my way through by proving that I’m deserving of being a leader.
So, it has been challenging. But I guess if you believe in yourself, it’s possible because I’ve made it happen for me.
How have you handled adversity in your career in the past?
I was due for promotion years before I was promoted. When I didn’t get it, rather than just blaming myself, I went back to leadership to ask for an explanation.
But you need to be smart about how you approach your leaders. You don’t want to be seen as a problem. You can’t come across as threatening. At the same time, you need to ensure that they understand that you are equally deserving as anybody else.
You do that by building strong relationships with leaders in your organisations. I’m saying that because, as Black people, we always have that complex. We struggle with imposter syndrome because we don’t always relate to some of our leaders — who are white men.
They see us as less approachable, but we need to break that. We need to be brave and bold and talk to them. If we don’t, we won’t put ourselves in a position to be seen as potential leaders.
What about the tech industry as a whole? What kind of challenges are you experiencing in the DX space right now?
Technology is changing, and the landscape is changing very quickly. So, companies must take risks because they don’t necessarily know what return on investment they’re going to get. But they aren’t willing to take much risk right now, given the current market situation. And it’s hard to try to tell them to be brave and take a risk when the market is so unpredictable. It’s difficult because clients are not spending as much as we would expect.
So, if money wasn’t a factor, let’s say you were given a £1m grant to spend however you want. What would you do with it?
I would think about minority groups, Black people, women, and other groups. How can we make life fairer for them? That’s what comes to my mind first. Then, I would think about how we can upskill the next generation. How can we help them understand how to make the best use of technology today.
Not necessarily to transform businesses — which is a good thing — but to have an impact on society. I mean, if you look at the news right now in Israel, we know how to misuse technology to destroy people’s lives. If we are such a great organisation, we should know how best to leverage technology to bring peace and make an impact on society.
What are the best lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Never take ‘no’ for an answer. It’s related to a previous point I made; sometimes, the reality is that we do not necessarily know what the answer is. But we can guarantee clients that we will do what we think is right. We will always have good intentions. We are not just here to make money; of course, money is important, and without it, we do not have a business. But we are here to do the right thing and make an impact on society.
We need to change our point of view. We cannot just go back and forth, telling the same story. So, the lesson is to be relentless.
What advice do you give to any up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs?
Be curious. The days where you would learn something at university and do 10 years leveraging those skills are over. Every two or three years, you need to upskill yourself. So be curious, and do not rely on what you know.
So, how do you take your coffee?
Black, no milk, no sugar. I’ve been fasting for a year and a half now, so no milk or sugar.
And other than caffeine, how do you recharge or relax after a long day?
High Intensity Interval Training!
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