Marcelle Paiva, COO at Oracle Brazil. Photo: Oracle/Courtesy

For Oracle Brazil's COO, the connection between cultural and digital transformation is the growth driver to the country's operation

Thanks also to the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of Oracle Brazil's cloud services revenues already come from SMBs. In an exclusive interview with LABS, Marcelle Paiva shared her perspectives on the tech giant's Brazilian operation and her personal journey as a leader

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With nearly six years in marketing leadership roles at Oracle Brazil, Marcelle Paiva took over the position of Chief Operating Officer at the US multinational a year ago. The company, completing its 44th year anniversary this month, is one of the largest tech players in the world, with US$ 10.1 billion in revenues during the fourth quarter of 2020 and US$ 7.3 billion coming from cloud services and license support. “I was promoted to COO in the middle of the pandemic and it was a pretty big change: I spent my entire career in marketing,” says Paiva, in an exclusive interview with LABS. “The challenge was to build my own career [in the new position] and, at the same time, build a relatively new area, in existence for two and a half years within the organization,” she summarizes.

Paiva says that the operation in the country has undergone a major cultural transformation that has positioned the company as a strategic partner of its customers, no longer as a mere service provider. Added to this, Oracle has been benefiting from the increase in demand for cloud infrastructure, a movement brought about by the digital transformation forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the exec reveals, 20% of the cloud services revenue of the Brazilian operation already comes from small and medium enterprises.

“At a time when companies are looking at cost reduction, at how they are going to be more efficient, cloud operation brings that democratization. It has low cost, you pay for what you use, and get very quick answers. Oracle ended up having a lot of adhesion in the market with these solutions: cloud infrastructure, because everyone needs to host [technology] and democratize information much faster; and the business part, with ERP and customer experience,” reports the executive.

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But if the so-called digital transformation has opened up a new layer of opportunities for Oracle, it has also brought challenges. “We are a forty-year-old company, so we also went through this transformation along with our client”, she points out. In March, Oracle Brazil announced a partnership with Azure, from Microsoft, for the full migration of TIM‘s datacenters, the first Brazilian carrier to make this decision. “We joined forces with Microsoft, which could have been a competitor, and partnered to provide the client with a hybrid public cloud between Oracle and Azure. This is open innovation, this is what the market is looking for. TIM will have the best of both companies providing what it needs.” 

In addition to the partnership with Microsoft, the company created Oracle for Startups, an open innovation program with over two hundred Brazilian startups. To LABS, Paiva spoke about where Oracle’s digital transformation meets the cultural one, and shared a bit of her personal journey as a leader and mentor. Check out the main excerpts from the interview below:

Anna Lima: The company reported that total quarterly revenues increased 3% year over year to $10.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020 [third quarter of fiscal 2020]. How did the Brazilian operation perform in this scenario?

Marcelle Paiva: The Brazilian operation, under the leadership of Rodrigo Galvão [president of Oracle in Brazil], has gone through a great cultural transformation, but also in the way we use our technology portfolio – which has increased, we are a strong cloud player today – how we take all this innovation to the customer. At a time when companies are looking at cost reduction, at how they are going to be more effective to sell their operations, especially today in digital, the cloud operation brings this democratization. It has low cost, you pay for what you use, and you get very fast answers. The company started to have an operating model with the customer, focused on strategic partnerships, in which we follow the customer’s business to propose these solutions.

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We ended up having a lot of adhesion in the market with cloud infrastructure, since everyone needs to host [their technology], democratizing information much faster, and with the business part, ERP and customer experience; with everything on how to improve our clients’ journey, to understand what they need to sell more, how to keep this operation healthy, with innovation, totally digital. 

We are a forty-year-old company, so we also went through this transformation along with our client, understanding what it is to be in one moment and come with them to another. We did our homework, both culturally and in terms of technology, and I think we are reaping good rewards for this, for being able to unite the two sides.

An example is TIM, a client for a long time that has been following all our transformation and has also been acquiring technologies, modernizing itself. We got together with Microsoft, which could be a competitor, and partnered to provide the client with a hybrid public cloud between Oracle and Azure. This is open innovation, this is what the market is looking for. TIM will have the best of both companies providing what it needs. This partnership will help the company to get more performance. Hybrid cloud – being able to count on several players in your operation to ensure the best performance – is where the market is heading in terms of innovation.

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These partnerships and the way of looking at the customer is where Oracle has been transforming itself. Open innovation is very important for us: just like we did with Microsoft, we have cases with startups, when we recommend to the client: let’s go together with this startup so that you really have this functionality, this differential in the market.

We feel a strong movement in SMB [small and medium businesses]: 20% of our cloud revenues already come from this category. Precisely because the cloud has a cost according to the need, you will pay for the use, for your environment, not per user, where the cost was higher and you had to bring the complete infrstracture to the company. Now you pay for the service. 

SkyOne is a startup with a business model in which its technology is transacted in our cloud infrastructure, so every time it sells the technology, because it is hosted in Oracle, it earns, grows, and then consumes more of our cloud – so we also earn. We manage to balance these win-win models well. We have business models that allow this, from a strategic partnership in Brazil with a player like Microsoft to a model with SkyOne, which is an SMB, where both companies win.

We also have a program called Oracle for Startups, with about 200 startups. We provide, upfront, credits on our cloud infrastructure and we do not take equity from any company. It’s a job where we give those credits, do mentorships, and make the connection with our customers. Sometimes we will just introduce the customer to the startup and they will follow on their own, or at other times, we will compound with our solution. We customize strategies to offer what our client needs between a startup, a business model. Part of the cultural transformation that Rodrigo promoted was to develop work with these startups, which culminates in open innovation. 

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AL: In which sectors do you think cloud services will have more penetration in the coming years?

MP: All sectors and sizes of companies benefit, but where I think we are going to accelerate a lot, in Oracle’s case, is in telco, retail, financial services, and manufacturing, because they have started to look a lot at logistics operations, at the need to have a modern ERP, in the cloud, and this is starting to be a very strategic issue. Education is also changing a lot because of the pandemic, and technology will back new business models and new formats in this sector.

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AL: With almost six years at Oracle and one year as COO, what are the challenges of this new career stage?

MP: I was promoted to COO in the middle of the pandemic, when I was invited to take on this new challenge. It was quite a big change, as I have spent my whole career in marketing. During my career, I had always worked within the same area and purpose, to delight the customer, to communicate well our solutions, to meet demand generation. And then this invitation came, after three months of pandemic and in the middle of the working-from-home model, to come to an operations area, which has some features in common with my education, but others not. Of course it was scary. 

The challenge was to build my own career [in the new position] and, at the same time, to build a newly created area that has been in the organization for two and a half years.

Despite being in an area of processes and operations, I thought that the best thing to design the best processes, to better understand the numbers, would be to create two support networks [one external, with fifty C-level women from client or potential client companies, and another internal, with a mentoring program for female employees]. I was looking for potential clients, so the first ninety days were about connecting. And I thought: ‘since I want to connect with clients, understand their vision for the business, why not do it only with women, uniting the two things, business and diversity?’ As I said, my motto is very much one of inclusion. And it was very cool, I had both the perspective of what it is to be a woman in a C-level career and the business perspective, the vision they had of Oracle, whether they knew about ir or not. The material that I compiled afterwards was very rich.

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AL: How do you reconcile your current position with motherhood?

MP: I am a very dynamic person, I like to include things in my life. When I had my first child, at 27, I had the shock of telling my managers, that insecurity of ‘will I have my place when I come back?’ But some of those myths were falling apart for me. Since my first child, I was lucky – and I say this because not all women have this same experience – to have a good transition, to have been able to go on leave, come back, and it has added to my life. I had my second child at the age of 30. So how I deal with motherhood is by inclusion, not exclusion, my children are used to seeing me working. I have this motto of including things in my life, I think motherhood was one and I feed a lot of personal things, of organizing routine. Although I have this energy, I am very disciplined with my things, I have a very strong personal routine, a lot of discipline to be able to include several things.

I started a post-graduation program in emotional management. As a leader, in this time of the pandemic, I felt more inclined to do this than to become more qualified in financial matters, which is an aspect that those who are in marketing end up having to develop better. But I thought that at this moment of the world, of the situation, and of my role, I could add more by focusing on this. We live in a time in which leaders are not those who only work, because those who only work forget to see the big picture. 

AL: How does your mentoring program work with Oracle’s female employees?

MP: Internally, we have a global [diversity] program, with its own organization, goals and structure, but we have a very strong inclination for Latin America and Brazil. We have a leader in Latin America who promotes several actions and meetings. It is a very structured program to promote diversity, but diversity as a whole. How could I, in my role, with my knowledge and background, add to this program? I proposed a laboratory to organize some top talents that can take on the next leadership and I do a weekly mentoring program with them. I have structured a seven-month program in which I call men and women, internal and external. Everyone has to have a development plan and tell their personal stories. I think that women have a lot of difficulty in exposing themselves and telling their story, and I think that the strength of empowerment is in the personal story of each one. That is one pillar. 

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There is also a pillar of certifications: we want this equality, but we also have to seek training, so that when the opportunity comes, we are prepared. Making women more visible is another pillar: how I learn to make myself more visible, to put my opinion out there. 

The program started in January and there are thirty mentors, from different areas and positions, including leaders, who, for some reason, are not being able to have an active voice. In July we will finish the first group to embrace other women and then I want to measure the results: how many women reached leadership positions, how many were promoted, how many became more visible, how many became more protagonists. We have some metrics for us to reach these goals. The idea is to be able to talk to all women. But to make a connection, which is what I believe in, it is not possible to make a connection in a mass event, so we start with groups.

At Oracle we have mentoring groups with black people, the LGBT+ community, people with special needs, women, autistic people… all these groups have a volunteer leader from the organization, who may or may not be in a leadership position. Today we discuss how these people’s careers can be leveraged, how they will move up, how they also want to participate in leadership.