A Brazilian Engineer’s Journey From Employee to CTO

by Gonzalo December 15, 2016

While becoming an Italian citizen in Milan

Arco della Pace in Milan

We first met Thiago Pappacena when he got a job as a back-end engineer with WalletSaver in Milan, Italy. Almost a year later, he has become the CTO of the company as well as an Italian citizen. Naturally, we decided to play catch-up!

So, how did you go from being an engineer on the team to becoming the CTO?

The previous CTO found another job in a bigger company because he thought the startup world was not for him. So the CEO asked me if I would like to be the new CTO because he thought my profile was cool and I had enough experience to do the job.

Does that mean you’ll stay in Italy for the foreseeable future?

I really like Italy, so I was already thinking about extending my jobbatical period. My initial idea was to stay for one year, but during my year here, things changed. It’s a really cool country and the company is amazing.

Historical architecture in Milan — Duomo di Milano & Galeria Vittorio Emanuelle

What do you like so much about Italy?

The food, the people. There are several cool cities to visit and lots of history, museums, and restaurants. I mentioned food, right?

Yep, you did! And you moved with your wife — what was that process like?

It was a little difficult in the beginning because Italy has a problem with visas, so my process was quite easy but getting a visa for my wife was not that easy. We had some bureaucracies to face, and we ended up being apart for a couple of months.

I have Italian ancestors, so I applied for my citizenship in Italy. Now I’m officially an Italian citizen and for citizens the process was faster.

What advice would you give to someone who’s moving with a partner?

First of all, you should both agree on it because it’s a big step. Everyone you know is far away. To avoid fights and disagreements after, you should talk a lot before. You also need to understand the immigration process in the country you’re going to, because if I weren’t able to get my Italian citizenship, it would be really terrible to bring my wife here. It would not be easy at all.

The WalletSaver team in Madrid

How are you enjoying being a CTO?

You have more responsibility and you have to take care of the team, not just your own work. So you need to be in contact with everyone a little bit more, but if you really want to be an entrepreneur and an employee at the same time, it’s a natural path to follow.

The team here is quite small — we are only 6 people. We hired another Brazilian, but probably the next hire will be from another country. It’s important to have this cultural difference, to be open to understanding each other and learn more about other cultures.

What are your plans for next year?

We’re just about to launch our app in Germany with a partner. I hope we expand to at least 1 or 2 new countries, maybe grow the team a little bit, and close new partnerships. I think we’ll continue expanding to other countries until we conquer the world.

What are some important qualities you look for in a teammate?

Apart from technical qualities that every engineer should have, being open and friendly are probably the two most important things to look for. We’re always quite friendly here, making jokes and talking to each other all the time, so you should not be closed and just code all day and not pay attention to what the other engineers are doing.

That’s the way of WalletSaver. Here we talk a lot — maybe sometimes we talk too much!

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