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High performing teams, serving high performing humans!

Fail Faster

Episode 405


28 minutes

InfoBeans’ Fail Faster team welcomes Luis Mata, CTO of Metabolic Living Technology. He shares the secrets of empowering in their health and wellness journey.

He highlights his unique approach to recruiting and the keys to building happy, high-performing teams. There are a lot of invaluable lessons and strategies Luis shares in this episode for leaders to thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Podcast transcript

Vandana: Hi, Luis. Happy afternoon. Good afternoon.

Luis: Good afternoon to you too, Vandana.

Vandana: Thank you for joining the show. I know I’ve been doing happy fourth a lot, so I think that’s what came out unconsciously from my mouth. 

Luis: There we go.

Vandana: I hope you’re doing well and you had a great fourth.

Luis: Oh, it was amazing. It was a really, really nice day. And today is a gorgeous day also as well. So enjoying here from North Carolina.

Vandana: Very good. Very good. Let’s dive into the podcast, Luis. Let’s start with your introduction for our listeners, please, so they know who we are bringing on today and a little bit about your background. Maybe take five, seven minutes to tell us how you navigated to this career you’re in today. You can delve into some other details about your family, about kids, whatever you like.

Luis: Definitely, Vandana. I appreciate it. So actually, a really quick story. I actually grew up in Montreal, Canada, a very cool, nice, beautiful city. And my interest into technology actually came very rapidly back then in the 80s. The gaming consoles was the Atari. And I became really infatuated about gaming at an early age. So I was blessed. I had the opportunity, thanks to my family, to get access to a Commodore computer back then.

It was, you know, the initial way of personal computers. And my first dive into developing software was actually building a game very similar to Dungeons and Dragons, which was a text-based game that you actually talk to the computer and try to actually find clues through your journey in the game. Fast forward that, obviously, way into computer science. And my first job basically was in SunTrust Banks, where I got the first taste of vibrant and dynamic tech industry.

Later in my tenure, I ended up in a company like Novell and Quest Communications, where I put my skills and insights in the multi-faceted world of technology and leadership. In each role, I undertook each obstacle that I overcame. And I celebrate it. Later steps and stones and to where I stand today, that’s actually really, in a nutshell, my career path. Obviously, through that journey, I got married. And I think that one of my best achievements in life has been the two kids that I have. I love them to death. One is a rocket scientist, and the other one, I think, is going to be a nuclear physics scientist, because they’ve been great animals in ours.

Vandana: What did you do with those kids? Oh, my God. Who becomes a rocket scientist? You’re like saying it as a matter of fact. Oh, yeah. This is…

Luis: You’re right. Yeah. So definitely, you know, really look up to them. You know, much more to the present day, I’m here at Metabolic Living. I drive the technological vision and execution, driving the health and wellness company that enriches lives and generates, you know, we get a really accessible amount of income per year.

Obviously, as a CTO, I lead in the sectional talent and cross-functional team, that we try to consistently deliver performance and results. That accumulated wisdom through all my years has actually allowed me to be where I’m at and allows me to navigate the complex and challenges that are in the tech industry.

Vandana: How amazing is that? Wow. What a great way to navigate to this. So you did some gaming experimentation and then did some banking. Did you kind of marry those two together, because the banking and gaming at any point in time?

Luis: Right. Actually, interesting enough, the only correlation that you have in there is basically data, right? If you try to look back, back in the system, we’re very native in a sense, so didn’t have the potential that we have today. So it was more data-driven. And that’s actually where I actually dive myself into and navigate towards, is understanding complex data.

One of the things that the banking industry has, I mean, as you’re all aware, is data, right? Millions and millions of transactions per day, security. You have to understand the whole realm of what technology is when you’re in the banking industry. And you need to understand consumer behavior. So I think that was actually what allowed me to pivot to health and fitness really well, because the vast understanding of the data and the consumer behavior.

I dived really early in my career to data analytics and machine learning. Interesting enough, back then, you had to explain to people what machine learning was. And now, thanks to ChatGPT, everyone has kind of opened their eyes and said, oh, wow, this is what you achieve when you have really good data and you actually train models, right?

Vandana: Yeah, absolutely. What a great way to bring all that to the fitness space. So I’m very intrigued about understanding how are you looking at the consumer behavior in the fitness industry? What are some of the things that you are now doing, which maybe is a differentiator for metabolic living?

Luis: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I love to delve into the training developments that we’re doing in metabolic. One of the most compelling transformative projects we’re currently working on is what we call the Behavioral Predictor Unit. We call it, I call it BPU. This year, I think about it as a crystal ball, right? Leveraging vast reserves of data to build precise models and behavioral models that help us unlock new horizons or potentials.

If you think about, you know, the A’s to C’s in data collection, analysis, and machine learning, this is basically kind of like a three-tier process that we do. You have the data collection on one side, the model training on the other, and the model deployment, which is basically when you get to reap those benefits of the models, right? For metabolic, we have kind of like horizons that go minus the data that we have masked throughout the years through customer interaction, transactions, and online behavior.

These data is kind of like a bedrock of our predictive unit. By utilizing, you know, our CTL services, which is basically a strike, transform, and load processes, we can capture, clean, and categorize this data to create a streamlined and robust data work, right? We apply stringent data quality checks, and stringent integrity and accuracy of our base layer because, you know, I don’t know if you ever heard a proverb that says, you know, garbage in, garbage out, right?

In engineering, in fact, we always say that. So how well you have that data is how successful you are in whatever you do with machine learning, right? If you have, you know, bad inception, you have, you know, bad outcomes. 

Then, I mean, the second phase, we do the model trainings, and where we have all that data prepared, we move to the heart of the process, right? The model training, which this is where the magic really happens, right? I have built customized algorithms that I use kind of like a secret sauce, you know, put the salt and pepper in there, where we feed our data to the models.

These algorithms are designed to learn from patterns and established connections that might elude to a simple naked eye, right? You know, you open a spreadsheet, you might not be able to see within millions of rows, right? Be it decision trees, neural networks, or random forest algorithms, each technique brings different flavors. So I actually have to kind of like, like put in like a stew that you put a lot of ingredients into it to actually come up with something, call it, you know, we start in your model stacking or models on models.

This is basically how we build out this rich insights. Basically, when you have a little child that gets birthed, which we call the model, we actually start navigating and testing it to see how accurate that model is. And then obviously, like anything in life, you know, when you have a little kid and you teach them, they’re going to make mistakes, right? And then you do that reinforced learning, you go back and, hey, you did this wrong. This is the way you’re supposed to do it, right?

So those are some of the techniques that we actually also apply once the model is trained to ensure that we have our, achieve our quality standards, right? So interesting enough, we have, I built a model that actually runs QA on the model, right? So this, this, this model is kind of like, like the reinforcer to apply that’s our quality because we have high standards in quality that would say, okay, if you don’t meet this, this, this data points, then I want you to go back and learn this or adjust to this.

And then obviously, the last part, sorry about that, is the model department, which is very straightforward, putting them in production.

Vandana: Super cool. And so, so this is a product I am assuming, is it one product? The BPU is one part of one product or you have more products under Metabolic?

Luis: So the BPU is basically a system, right? That is being able to be leveraged for multiple revenue streams in our organization, right? So simple as that, we can use it to predict behavior on the funnel when the customers come into our funnels, right? We can use it to predict what type of offerings we should actually, you know, show the customers.

We can use, use to predict, you know, lifetime value if we need to, or perhaps, you know, what other parts we can upsell on the last end of the cycle or last on the bottom side of the funnel. So there’s multiple things we can do. And we can actually, the good thing about this is, because it’s resilient and self-learning, we can adapt it to all the necessities within the company to enhance productivity or efficiency within the departments.

Vandana: Super cool. So on a, on a customer level, so this is more like a B2C, right? Like your end customer are the people like general public, like me, who’s trying to do for my, for my health. So it’s, it’s an app. Is it an app?

Luis: Right. So, okay. So I see what you’re doing. So this is actually running behind the curtains. If the consumer does see that, you as a consumer might actually go into our website and go to one of our funnels, answer several questions like, you know, your, your weight, what you’re trying to achieve, whether it was to lose weight, gain, you know, get fit or whatnot.

And then we collect all that information and that’s the information that gets passed down to Bing, enhance your lifestyle and be able to actually provide you answers that will actually help you navigate to your health and wellness journey.

Vandana: So it’s going to kind of check my, my activity level and predict where am I lagging and kind of give me boost on what I need to be doing, like with the right kind of communication and, and some, you know, motivation. Is that what it does?

Luis: Right. So that ultimately, ultimately, I said, we, we, that’s actually the phase that we’re building. Our chief executive officer actually has what we call the metabolic OS, which eventually is going to help you have all those data points, you know, built together and enrich your lifestyle. Right. Very exciting to get there.

We’re still building, we’re in the building phase. And like any company we had challenges and we have, you know, hurdles that we had to overcome to get there. Right. So we’re in the inception phase and I’m very excited to see what the future holds.

Vandana: How cool is that? So what, what are some of the success stories so far? Like tell me more about, I think this is a older company, it’s about 20 plus years old, right? Metabolic Living?

Luis: No, this, no, it’s 10, it’s plus 11 years in the making. Okay. Okay.

Vandana: So, so where was it when you joined and where are you taking it? What’s, what’s the, like OS, but like where did you, when, where was it when you started?

Luis: All right. That’s a really good question. So, wow. I mean, I, I feedback three years back and when I came on board, the company had a small engineering team and believe it or not, it was actually hosting all the technology on a bare metal data warehouse, right? Hosting facility.

So my first challenge when I came on board was actually move that infrastructure to a cloud-based services. Obviously in NoSQL we’re using AWS. We was pre-selected when I got here. So I didn’t have a say on that, although I do know AWS because I’ve been working many years with them. So obviously that’s the first challenge, you know, how do you move a 24 seven operation from a bare metal data hosting facility to a cloud-initiated facility? So that wasn’t the first challenge.

They had tried to do it many times, they couldn’t do it. So I actually set my eyes on it and I actually did it within, it took us a year to do the entire transition, but the transition itself took like a week and we did, we did it real time with no downtime. So that was actually one of the highlights in that year for me being able to achieve that. So very accomplished in that. Then after that, it was actually expansion and looking for growth, right?

It’s very hard to have a fixed bandwidth allocated to you in moving to something more nimble like AWS that you can expand bandwidth as required and you can scale linear, right? So that was the other part, you know, enhanced infrastructure to ensure that we had the scalability to be able to serve customers with a great quality, right? So one of the things you really want to do is empower the customer to be able to feel happy and be able to satisfy their needs.

That’s when we set our eyes to improve the platform. We went to two transformation events in AWS to make it happen. Now I can come with that said and done. We’re able to scale efficiently and we actually had triple that growth after that.

Vandana: Amazing. How amazing. So congratulations on that achievement. So what were some of the challenges or the next coming up challenges that you see as you are scaling?

Luis: So I think that really the question, I think that in any industry, I think the critical challenge that any executive face is talent. Believe it or not, I mean, I faced with those challenges. I mean, you will think it’s technology, but no, our challenges are being actually recruiting because obviously we face COVID and everyone face COVID, unfortunately.

We actually designed a hiring process that I think came by far by none. I had never seen any organization use it like we use it. And I designed a cognitive process evaluation system that allows me to better candidates to make sure that they arrive fit. Because remember, we’re a 100% remote organization. So getting the right talent is able to be able to achieve your roadmap, to be able to deliver that promise, right?

Through this qualifying process, I mean, I’m happy to say that we have, I think we have all the best high performance teams in the industry right now. I’m very proud of what the team have achieved. I’m very proud of every single engineer that we have in the team. They deserve to be here and we actually treat them the same way. 

Vandana: How cool is that? High performance teams, you know, serving high performing humans, you know, that’s amazing. Like that’s your segment. So yeah. And what are some of the outcomes that you’re after Luis now, like this year, maybe by end of this year? What are some of the things that would make you successful?

Luis: Oh, wow. I’m actually diving more into enhancing our BPU, obviously be able to find more homes for the BPU. But one of the things that I’m actually doing papers and research is in AGI because I think that’s the future. I know there’s a lot of talk on the industry that we have to be careful that, you know, doomsday is going to happen if we actually get to AGI. You have to think about this.

20 years ago, we had an ADA, 30 years ago, we have an ADA CPU with 8 bits. Right now we have, you know, we’re talking about qubits, right? So the golden side is near, AGI will happen. It’s just a matter of when we adopt it and accept it as per is to help the industries, right?

So your job or my job or, you know, or across the board is going to, I think the best we can do is put kind of like guardrails in the industries to make sure that it’s used appropriately and cautiously. Right. But I think the future is bright for everyone that’s actually living through this on these times. People should embrace it and learn from it.

Vandana: Absolutely. What are some of the things that as a leader that you would like to share with some of the leaders who are listening to the podcast? Like what are some of the mantras that you have that have helped you, you know, go get to this level of growth?

Luis: So you always have to have an inquisitive mind. Don’t stop learning. I think that learning is the gift that you can give to anyone in life. Always listen.Be a listener instead of a speaker, quick side note, I had a CEO that I worked with that he was very draconian, very old style, very old school. And I learned a lot from him because I learned how not to be the bad boss.

I learned how to be the empowerment, the enabler, the listener and the coaching and mentor that makes me into who I am today. I think you are more successful as an executive if you are that kind of leadership where you mentor, you mentor men, you coach and you listen. Because listening allows you to learn more, allows you to learn behaviors from other people and understand those behaviors instead of trying to enforce something that might not be.

But on the flip side of that, you also have to make sure that you hire properly, right? I always had a mantra in my beginning years, you know, the right man for the right seat. Because you don’t put a stewardess to pilot a plane, you put a pilot to pilot a plane. That’s why I say, they all say, you know, the right man for the right seat.

If you don’t do that, you stress your employees, you stress your team. And that energy, believe it or not, is felt throughout the organization. So I also use another acronym, which is happy teams. I like to have happy teams. The minute you don’t have happy teams, our performance starts to decay.

Vandana: love it. I love it. And that brings us back to the recruiting, the hiring model that you designed. So can you share some insights? Because, I mean, that is a struggle for all organizations to have the right teams and happy teams, right? So what are some of the details that you considered as you designed this hiring system?

Luis: Oh, right. So a couple of things. One of the things is basically, should you use thorough analysis of what is it that you’re really trying to achieve with that new hire, right? I mean, if you actually dive into it, say, okay, well, I mean, a lot of people say, oh, I need a software developer, right?

But what we think that software developer is that you’re trying to get on board and to do what and to fix what or contribute. What’s the contribution that that person is going to be? And that shouldn’t be taken lightly because that’s the first step that you had to do when you hire somebody, whether it’s an admin assistant, whether it’s a doctor, whoever that person is, to understand what’s the outcome and the benefit for the company, right? What is it? How does that person fit into that Lego, in that building block, right?

So after you have done that core analysis and you start building what is that person should look like within the organization, is that when you can sit down and probably perhaps build a job description, right? Interesting enough, if you see the biggest corporations, and I’ll tell you real life stories where they require for a specific position that you have to have a master’s degree or a PhD, a doctorate degree, right?

I have actually, I’m blessed, my father has actually a PhD. I am blessed to work with every type of individual in the organizations, and I can tell you that nothing beats a person with high cognitive abilities, right, in QE, than a person that probably could have three master’s degrees and a PhD that has low cognitive abilities or actually lack of that QE, right?

So to that, is that where I say, okay, and this was a lot of trial and error, right? It says, well, the hiring process needs to change because the hiring process that we know as today is flawed, right? And I failed a lot. I failed. If you talk about, you know, fail fast, I mean, this is, that was my mantra, right?

You’re going to have really missed hires, but the only way for you to correct and learn from it is going through the exercise, right? And so if you describe that in a nutshell, make sure you do a thorough analysis, who do you want for that position, how that position is going to line up with the company culture, and what’s the business outcome that that position is going to actually influence for the organization and how it’s going to impact the organization.

And then you have to build, obviously, the interview process around that. And I think the key component there is the interview process, is where I’ve seen organizations that they do seven, eight interviews, and basically, they make you feel that you’re actually going to work for NASA, but you’re not.

And they still do mishire, and they still miss the mark because it’s not how lengthy the interview process is, is asking the right, gathering the right information and asking the right signals to be able to make sure that you have a fit for the hire. That’s basically in a nutshell.

Vandana: And what is your favorite interview question?

Luis: I don’t have one. Okay. You can. So that’s actually a question for the interview questions. So one of the things that you go as you learn through this process of this new way of doing interviews is you have to adapt based on the persona that you’re trying to hire, right?

This is basically when you take a resume and you take a job description and you’re looking at it, you have to be saying, okay, well, how do I fit this person into this job? What are the things that this person is going to achieve through the journey?

Because what I see is that people also forget is when people go to a job, it’s not only to make money, obviously, that’s the first thing they do, right? But it’s to have a career, right? So a job has to be something with that end in sight. They need to have… So when you build a job, make sure that you build a job and that component of that job is also, okay, what does it mean for them to keep them motivated every single day?

And every single day, they turn that screen to you and say, oh, I’m happy to be here. I’m excited because I’m doing this. And this is how I’m contributing with the company, right? So that’s how you’re actually building your interview questions. You have to… It’s a whole package that you do. 

Vandana: I love it. I love it. And such a great tip. I know we were not thinking to arrive here, but I love the fact that we arrived to this something so important, how a company’s vision has to align with an individual’s purpose and their excitement towards what they’re contributing to that big vision of the company.

And that is such a critical thing in being successful for both the company and the individual. So yeah, that’s amazing. Anything else, Luis, that I haven’t asked you? I know that we are almost at time. Is there anything else that you have on mind that you want to share with our listeners while we have you? 

Luis: Yeah. So just to bring it full circle and just to wrap up a little activity on the interview process also that I forgot to mention, I believe trust is something that you earn towards time, but that’s something that I share a lot for every single person that works with me. So just to give you an idea, we don’t have meetings until after 12 noon.

So the morning, we call it the deep work time, which I basically have communication with my team via Teams from time to time if I need to ask them questions. But I trust in them that they’re doing their jobs. I’m not micromanaging nobody because I don’t believe that’s the way to be successful or what you do.

That’s in that part of the hiring process and building an effective teams. On the other side of the house, on AI and all the things that we’re doing in Metabolic, I think we have a tremendous future of growth. I think that you will see us again in the map pretty soon and very excited to see what the year holds for us. 

Vandana: Absolutely. And wishing you luck for all that you’re about to launch and you have launched already. And I’m very excited to follow your success as I might be one of your personas. And if you have an app, I’m looking for it right after we finish this interview. 

Luis: Excellent. I really appreciate it, Vandana. 

Vandana: Absolutely. Thank you, Luis. It was wonderful having you and have a great day. 

Luis: Thank you, Vandana. Thank you for everyone to join and listen. 

Vandana: Thank you.

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