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Phil Alves of Devsquad: “Always remain humble”

Always remain humble. Often you’re not the best person for the task and it’s important to learn that someone else can do a better job than you. For example, although I’m a developer and coder at heart, I no longer make coding decisions for DevSquad. I hired a great CTO who decides on code and […]

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Always remain humble. Often you’re not the best person for the task and it’s important to learn that someone else can do a better job than you. For example, although I’m a developer and coder at heart, I no longer make coding decisions for DevSquad. I hired a great CTO who decides on code and knows better than I do!

Don’t be a control freak when it comes to method, just focus on results. The way someone gets to or achieves a result isn’t important, the only thing to focus on is that the desired end result is achieved.


As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Alves.

Phil first began his entrepreneurial journey in his teens, when he started and exited his own SaaS business. From there he worked in senior positions in the ecommerce industry before founding DevSquad, a SoftwareS development agency that provides high-performance, agile teams to fast-growing startups, and big enterprises who demand both speed and quality.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Of course! Currently I’m the CEO of DevSquad and to date we’ve helped to build more than 100 software products. I’m a self-taught software developer originally from Brazil. I first started software development when I was 16 and built my first software product when I was 18 when I founded my first company. After growing and selling that first company, I moved to the US to study and today with DevSquad I work with some big name clients like ADP and Box. Many of DevSquad’s startup clients have gone on to raise 10 million USD after building their MVP with DevSquad.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The start of my journey and my first time building a company actually went pretty smoothly and growth happened very quickly, I guess I was quite lucky in that sense. My early experience in entrepreneurship at a young age set me in good stead for employment after graduating from college so years later after moving to the US, I found myself in a really well paying job. I then decided to leave that stable, high earning position to start my own business again. However, things didn’t go as smoothly as the first time around and on top of the usual difficulties of starting your own business, I found myself earning just a quarter of what I had been at my previous job. I definitely had moments of wanting my secure, 6 figure salary job back, to have a better work/life balance and only work a few hours a day rather than every minute of the week!

I found it difficult to justify making 4 times less than in my previous role and that played on my mind a lot. However, I decided to persevere and was lucky to have the support of my wife who encouraged me to keep going and was earning enough for the both of us. I’m grateful to her for pushing me to continue pursuing my entrepreneurial dream.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

We were once building some software for a client and were at the stage of customization. There was a report that the client wanted us to do but which wasn’t really possible on our side. I asked our developers to carry out a simple hack to get the job done quickly for the client but the developers said that the hack wouldn’t provide a long term solution and could cause problems later down the line. When writing the code, my developers included a comment saying something like “The hack Phil told us to do is going to cause problems and we’ll have to change the code later.” Of course, the client saw the comment and asked what it was about! Luckily, I was able to explain this to the client and keep them on board but I definitely learned my lesson: Keep communications with your team very clear and open. I should’ve explained in better detail what they were doing and why I wanted them to do it. It’s also a lesson for me (and many!) to always review code or any document in detail before sending it to the client!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At DevSquad, we’re very good at building products. Lots of companies do this but only really provide developers. We’re not just about finding excellent developers but we’re also about getting things done. Our mentality isn’t just about the hours put in but also the output of what we’re doing. We really think about how the product is going to impact people’s lives and who’s going to be using the product. We always have the bigger picture in mind and I believe that’s what makes us stand out.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To avoid burnout, you have to be able to delegate and to say “no”. I remember a former client of DevSquad, a guy who was Head of Acquisition at a large company who’d always tell me the reason why he got paid a 7 figure salary was simple: He said “no” to people. Saying “no” is definitely how you avoid getting overwhelmed. When you’re good at what you do, everyone wants to give you tasks but you have to learn how to say “no”, delegate and avoid working 24 hours per day. I think this is really important.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Too many people to name! The main person who comes to mind is my father. He had a small woodwork business while I was growing up and I learned a lot about management and entrepreneurship from him. He showed me that entrepreneurship pushes you to do more and offers you the freedom of doing what you want and choosing who you work with.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?

I think the key is to not get overwhelmed. No one can do anything alone, no matter who they are. Even entrepreneurial superstars like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had help in building what they did. I think that the only way to build something worthwhile is to build it as part of a team. Essentially, humans are made for teamwork. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, when we were just trying to survive, we had to remain as a pack and a team. I think that’s true today; we only survive in groups and so if you want to be an effective leader, you better know how to delegate otherwise you won’t be doing the best for your team.

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

When you’re good at something, it’s hard to delegate. If a task takes you 1 hour to complete and it’s likely to take someone else 4 hours then it’s easy to take it on yourself for efficiency. But if you don’t delegate that task and let the other person take their time to figure it out and improve each time then they’ll never get the chance to learn and become as expert or efficient in that particular task as you are. That’s why delegating can be a challenge; it’s hard when you know that someone will take much longer than you on a task.

In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?

If you have a culture of teaching and learning, and if people get kudos for teaching someone and not just doing the task, that really helps. It’s all about the workplace environment and nurturing future leaders. I believe that being a strong leader isn’t defined by money or how business is doing but by how many other leaders you can form. I’m a big fan of the PayPal mafia idea; as one of the first companies to offer online payments in the tech world, PayPal nurtured several future leaders. The PayPal mafia are people that worked there who then went on to start other companies like Tesla, Youtube, Yelp, and LinkedIn. I like to talk and think about the DevSquad mafia in that I want my employees to become CEOs of other companies in future. It’s all about forming future leaders.

Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Have trust in others but do verify before sending on work externally. This goes back to my funny story about not checking my team’s code comment. Have trust in what others are doing but if you’re ultimately going to be held accountable, you need to be sure that you checked everything over and that you explained the reasons for doing something clearly to your team.
  2. Mentorship is very important. When you’re first delegating, you need to be a good mentor too because if you’re giving someone a task to carry out, they need the right information and education in order to do the task well.
  3. Always remain humble. Often you’re not the best person for the task and it’s important to learn that someone else can do a better job than you. For example, although I’m a developer and coder at heart, I no longer make coding decisions for DevSquad. I hired a great CTO who decides on code and knows better than I do!
  4. Patience. This goes back to the idea that even if it takes someone else much longer than you to complete a task, it’s essential to be patient and let them do it because it’s the most effective way for them to learn.
  5. Don’t be a control freak when it comes to method, just focus on results. The way someone gets to or achieves a result isn’t important, the only thing to focus on is that the desired end result is achieved.

One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

Well, that statement is true if you’re a poor delegator! It all boils down to mentality and sometimes the fact that people are shortsighted and fail to see the bigger picture. There are times when you need to do the task yourself and also times when you need to delegate, it’s about striking the right balance. It’s also important to be flexible; you need to assess what needs doing and adapt to the circumstances.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be to help people understand that you don’t need all the resources in the world to make things happen.Talent and determination always beat unlimited resources so if you’re willing to work hard, you can achieve what you set out to.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn or go to the DevSquad website and have a look at our blog.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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