#AbstractaStory In Depth with Matías Reina: “A CEO has to relate strongly with what is happening in society”.

He never dreamed of being the CEO, but he slowly realized all he could accomplish from there on a social level. Part of abstracta from its birth, Matías dreams big.

When people think of the role of a CEO, their minds tend to go to hierarchical management within a company. However, the most important challenge a CEO has is leading transformation. A leadership capable of achieving an operational direction that allows the sustainability and scalability of a company at the same time as it promotes the integral growth of those who make up the company.

Optimistic, driven, and pragmatic. Goodhearted, wholesome, and empathetic. Humble and honest. These are some of the words used to describe Matias Reina by those who work side by side with him. Matias is the Chief Executive Officer of Abstracta, a leading global software testing company. And he honors his role in all his actions. 

He has been a part of the company, from the very beginning and has remained close every step of the way. Before becoming CEO, he developed software, managed projects, paid salaries, cashed checks, and even assembled office furniture if necessary. 

Dreaming Abstracta and being part of the first stages is very moving. A clear demonstration of how access to education can hack the system and turn projects and desires into reality.

Matías Reina setting up Abstracta's first office with his wife, Magdalena Rodríguez, and his partners Federico Toledo and Fabián Baptista, in 2009 (Federico was taking the photo). Years later, Sofía Palamarchuk would join as a partner.
Matías Reina setting up Abstracta’s first office with his wife, Magdalena Rodríguez, and his partners Federico Toledo and Fabián Baptista, in 2009 (Federico was taking the photo). Years later, Sofía Palamarchuk would join as a partner.

Attributes that endure

Matias was born in Bariloche, Argentina, but his whole family is originally from Salto, Uruguay. Because of his father’s job, he moved a lot during his childhood, always between Argentina and Uruguay. 

“I had a very free childhood. Until I was 10 years old, we lived in Ituzaingo, Corrientes, a small town that was like a fantasy world. Everyone was employed by the Yacyreta dam, we attended the same club, the cinema, the school, and the supermarket, all built for the employees there. We walked freely everywhere after school with my brother and my dog. We made huts, and we had some businesses, like selling plants and washing cars,” he said.

He and his brother invested the money earned in each business to keep building new ones. “The companies were of different nature, we sold plants, things for fishing, washing cars,” he recalls.

That free spirit, his ability to adapt to new contexts and his entrepreneurial strength have developed throughout his life and set the tone for his life, with a direct impact on what would become Abstracta.

As a child, he dreamed of a diversity of possible jobs. They varied, though, they all had one thing in common: the search for helping others. They all brought with them a change in society.

Over time, he understood all that he could potentially do as a computer engineer on a social level. And so, the consolidation of Abstracta meant the possibility to put into practice countless projects to generate that social impact he was aiming at.

Matías Reina speaking to a group of people

Life-changing decisions

His access to the IT world did not come without having previously ventured into different careers: international relations, law, bioengineering, human genetics, and medicine, among others. A lover of continuous learning, he gave himself the opportunity to explore and discover. When he got to know the world of computer engineering and all its possible implications, he stayed there, exploring. “None of this would have been possible without the help and support from my parents,” he emphasized.

In 2002, he moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, with his twin brother. When they made the decision, it was 2001 and they were living in Argentina, at a time of deep crisis in the country. They had begun their university studies there but decided to start from scratch in the neighboring country due to the complex context.  

“My parents and my older sister stayed living in Rosario, Argentina. It was very difficult because it was very expensive and we were going far away, but they supported us. Today, looking back, it was a good decision. In Montevideo we felt at home from the moment we arrived, we made great friends and met our girlfriends, who would then become our wives. Magdalena, Matias’ wife, has been a huge support to him ever since.

Matias graduated as a Computer Engineer from the Universidad de La República and his brother as a Civil Engineer. Both had the opportunity to become entrepreneurs. Currently, Matias lives in Salto with his wife and their children.

“Mati has a vision. He is always looking for solutions for real-life situations that he recognizes as unfair. Always trying to collaborate in making the world a better place. He has a lot of ideas to carry out projects in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And he sees Abstracta as a tool to achieve them. Every action he takes is moved by this feeling,” said Vera Babat, psychologist and Chief Culture Officer of the company.

“He is not a doer, he is a dreamer surrounded by many good doers, and he helps create the network needed to make things happen. It is this combination of idealism with pragmatism that sets him apart and has allowed us through Abstracta to make a difference,” continued Vera.

“Mati is an extraordinary person; personally and professionally speaking. He has the ability to build strong teams, supporting each member and transmitting lots of his enthusiasm. He is our natural leader. From the very beginning of Abstracta, he has been our driving force. From the conception of the idea to the commitment to carry it forward, he has always been our engine”, emphasized Fabián Baptista, partner and Director of Abstracta. 

“It was quite obvious for me to nominate him to be our CEO, I remember that day very well. My expectation was that he could take perspective and see problems from a strategic point of view, to leverage our growth. These expectations were met. Since then the company has been growing and improving year by year,” he outlined.  

“I’ll be forever grateful for having met Mati. Ever since we started to kick around the first ideas of developing a product, Mati had a tremendous motivation to start a company, to do something global, something that would generate impact,” recalled Federico Toledo, Abstracta’s partner, and COO. 

“At that time, that was not among my own ambitions, but I got on board little by little thanks to his enthusiasm and drive. Mati does that. His enthusiasm catches on. All his noble values, his deep sense of purpose and commitment, and his willingness to change is contagious. He encourages others to dream too, and most importantly, that we can achieve incredible things together,” he said. And he highlighted: “If I could go back in time, I would undoubtedly choose him again as CEO. He manages to amplify his dreams and vision, energize the rest by sharing his sense of purpose and helping everyone connect on a human level.”

Fabián Baptista, Sofía Palamarchuk, Matías Reina and Federico Toledo with a recognition for the 10th anniversary of Abstracta

A long road

Roles and responsibilities changed over time as Abstracta consolidated. When they started, the idea was to have a “mother company” and develop different products. GXtest was the first of them. Matias and Fabian were the developers, and Federico the tester. 

In 2011, Matias’ first child was born, and with his wife, they took out a loan to buy a house. “The money was not enough with GXtest alone. At that moment, I had to decide whether to look for another job that would provide us with more income or dedicate myself 100% to Abstracta. It was a big family decision: to look for financial stability, at a crucial moment in our lives. Or to take the risk that I would be involved full time in a venture that could work out well or not, and that everything was day by day,” he recalled. 

“I remember very profound conversations at home in the living room with my wife and in-laws. It was not easy, but we decided to take the risk. As soon as I started this new phase, we started with the services area in order to increase our income. Genexus Consulting was the first company to trust in our services”, he continued. 

Mati alongside part of the Abstracta team at Salto's Office.

In 2013, he started to put more focus on the commercial area. In 2014, Federico returned to Uruguay after finishing his PhD in software testing in Spain, and Matias started to dedicate himself completely to sales. In 2016, he moved into the role of CFO. “That year, we came to live in Salto with my family. We were looking for ways to spend more time with our children and as a family. We were looking for a better life.”

How did the move affect your work?
It was a very difficult decision for me and for my partners. But they understood and supported me. To tell the truth, I thought it was going to be a “step back” in my involvement with Abstracta, and that weighed heavily on me. But it ended up being the other way around. 

In what way is the other way around?
I was able to occupy a beautiful role, and promote many issues such as work in the provinces, to opening an office in Salto; something that was quite unexpected at the time. And it has been such a gratifying experience. It was not among our plans, but we met so many talented people in Salto that we decided to give them a chance. The result was so good that there came a time when our priority was to hire people from there. Also, I was able to continue to have a beautiful bond with the rest of the team despite being remote. In 2017, in a reconfiguration of the company and by the nomination of my partners, I became the CEO. Until that moment, we did not have a CEO, we were acting as CEO among all of us.

2021 was a very special year for you as a family, and you decided to take a break from Abstracta for a while.
Yes, I had to leave Abstracta from one day to the next due to a health condition that affected my daughter for a period of 7 months. That put a lot of strain on the whole team, in a very peculiar year for all of us, with a pandemic, with a very particular moment in the industry. It was not easy for anyone. In spite of that, the team moved forward and the company grew. They took care of everything and supported me and sent me a lot of love. All this was very important and of a great source of strength for me and my family.

Why is it important for you that companies have a humanistic culture and mutual care?
I believe that there is no sense in an organization if it does not have a positive impact on the people who are part of it, on their social contexts, i.e. family members, and on the communities where they are inserted. Even more so, in this post-pandemic context, where we’ve learned the relevance of being able to take care of each other, to be a part of a  group we share values with others, and build things that make us feel proud. I believe all this gives a deeper meaning to our organization.

What is the “traditional” role of a CEO, and what should be for you the real role of a CEO?
I think the traditional role of the CEO is very results-oriented and to get there “at any cost” in the shortest possible time. At Abstracta, results are very important, in fact, we have good results. But it is also very important how we get there. It is especially important for us that Abstracta is a platform that leads not only to business objectives but also to the well-being of our people. 

Therefore, in addition to professionalism and engineering knowledge, we focus on quality of life, mutual care, flexibility, and diversity as our greatest strengths. We are in a marathon here, not in a 100-meter race. We are very clear about where we are going and what we want, but how we do this is much more important than when we get there. This means that we have more freedom to experiment and define the best ways to achieve our goals.

How does this impact your role?
Part of our objectives are to develop local communities and to have a strong and generous culture, and this necessarily implies that the CEO’s role does not end at the office door A CEO  has to relate strongly with what is happening in the rest of society. They must get involved in the challenges we have as a society and try to provide solutions with the company as a platform. It is a great responsibility, and also an opportunity to push our barriers. The problems that move us the most today are about bringing quality job opening opportunities to promote equal opportunities, to work towards social equality, and helping to reskill the workforce. 

Why did you choose testing within the IT universe for all this?
Software quality is very important given the great dependence we have today on technology. Being able to build technology quickly to adapt promptly to change, in a way it adds value with quality, is a huge challenge. The way this impacts everyone’s life is gigantic. I am fascinated to collaborate with the creation of technology that has a positive impact. Being able to make technology faster and with better quality is fundamental to addressing many of the challenges we have as a society.

What are your future plans and dreams? On a personal and professional level.
What I would like the most is to be able to be well, learn, improve, share, be able to take time  to listen and help. I would love for my children, my loved ones, my friends, and the people who are close to me, to know that I am there to look for solutions when they are in trouble. I want to help them to believe in themselves, look towards new challenges, and start new projects.

What are your expectations for Abstracta 10 years from now? And 20 years from now?
In 10 years I would like us to be in 5 countries, well established, with a team, committed to the local community, accentuating more and more our strongest attributes. I imagine knowing that, wherever I go inthese places, we will have a group of finepeople to visit, share and celebrate life with. I also imagine us being in all the main cities of each province of Uruguay and in several cities outside of Santiago in Chile. In 20 years I imagine us in more countries, especially in Asia and Oceania. I would love it if we could be in New Zealand, Australia orJapan.

An anecdote that has marked you forever in testing?
Once we were working on a project for the public health system in Peru (10 million users). We had managed to reduce the response time of a page showing patient data from 3 minutes to 30 seconds. It had been a lot of effort and I was satisfied with that. Then I said to Colo (Fabián): “That’s it, with this it will work much better, let’s leave it there”. And Colo told me: “Mati, there might be an old man in line in need of help and something could happen to him having to wait a bit longer and we are here, from the comfort of our own home. How can we not continue to strive to get this down to 3 seconds?” That certainly changed my vision. Today I look at everything from that perspective.

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