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Digital processing 05 Mar 2020

The first black belt in BBVA’s ‘Ninja’ project

Pablo Inchausti works at BBVA Argentina and is a very special member of the ‘Ninja’ initiative. In 2019, he became the first person to earn a black belt as part of this program designed to promote and give visibility to BBVA’s technological talent. Now he’s willing to help more and more colleagues do the same.

When we think of a ninja, we picture someone serious, quiet, always willing to get involved in a fight and emerge victorious. But Pablo Inchausti is very different. He’s quick to laugh, speaks freely and the only punches he throws are in video games, although he says he’s not that interested in them. Maybe because he’s not that into martial arts; technology is his thing. He was the first person to earn a black belt in BBVA’s ‘Ninja’ program, the training and digital capacity building program that is expanding this year to new areas of the bank, beyond Engineering.

It’s an accomplishment that only ten people have achieved so far, and it requires great dedication. “Although all employees have the opportunity to become black belts, not all of them achieve this. It requires unwavering discipline in training and a mindset of continuous improvement,” explains David Hernantes, the head of the Ninja program. It is also important to have a large dose of generosity, always be willing to share knowledge, know how to work as a team and contribute to the community . Of course, the ninjas that reach “digital mastery” must also demonstrate that they are experts in numerous disciplines and have highly advanced digital knowledge. “Although, since each ninja’s journey is different based on their interests and the areas in which they would like to evolve, every ninca is unique!” adds Hernantes.

Despite the differences, Inchausti and the “other ninjas” share many virtues: their passion for growth and self-development. But also humility and the desire to share what they learn: “You have to specialize in a topic in order to contribute to others. And be aware that there are many valuable people that may not have gotten as involved in the Ninja program to demonstrate their skills, but we are surrounded by a lot of talent. There are many hidden ninjas,” Inchausti says laughing.

Pablo Inchausti was the first BBVA employee to earn the black belt as part of the Ninja program

He does not consider himself a guru, even though he has spent a great deal of time in recent years organizing talks, workshops, certifications and even a hackathon. “I ended up signing up as a participant, too and really enjoyed myself,” he says. And his efforts have led him to hobnob with the world’s leading experts at the different international events he attended as part of the program, such as Amazon Re:Invent in Las Vegas, where he had the opportunity to see where technology is headed  firsthand. “A dream come true,” he says.

“In order to be able to give something, you have to first start by improving yourself”

Technology for customers

One of the messages he took away from his participation in international initiatives of this kind is that “more than a technology for the future, what we have right now is an explosion of technologies and disciplines. And what the ability to interrelate them is what will be important.”

But always with a focus on the customer. “One of the keys to the transformation we are experiencing at BBVA is the concentration on ‘time to market’ — on our ability to implement solutions for customers in a rapid and efficient manner. In order to achieve this, we have to use certain technologies that are precisely the ones fomented in the Ninja project. That’s why it’s so important for customers. For example, automating the development cycle or using open source technologies allows us to be faster. In our case, we can also use developments from other countries where BBVA has a presence, customize them and ensure that they add value for customers in the local market at a fraction of the cost of a new development.”

Inchausti is currently part of the team in charge of developing BBVA’s global mobile banking (GloMo, or Global Mobile) in Argentina. A project that is being implemented in each of the Group’s locations so that the bank’s customers anywhere in the world have the same user experience when they do their banking on a mobile device.

Making the hard work easier

Earning the Ninja black belt took hard work and sacrifice. But he also says there were a lot of things that made it easier. “Before the Ninja project arrived in Argentina, there weren’t a lot of training options. I was always looking for classes to take and trying to acquire new knowledge. And when the platform arrived it was a way to channel that energy from the research. The platform also allows you to focus on the training, without having to worry about the logistics,” adds Inchausti.

“We are surrounded by a lot of talent. There are many hidden ninjas”

He recognizes that part of his accomplishment is due to the fact that Ninja fits perfectly with his characteristics. “It was a sort of virtuous circle. I like to learn, grow, better myself, share my knowledge and help people, and all of this is valued in the program.” He also recently finished a Master’s degree in Technology and Communications and “was able to share part of the relevant content that I learned in the workshops.”

Pablo Inchausti is part of the team that develops BBVA's global mobile banking platform.

New challenges

Pablo is a Ninja black belt, but he is already looking for new challenges. Despite his experience, there are still many things he wants to do. “I have been working for the bank since 2001. For many years, I was involved in developments related to online banking, individual and corporate websites, corporate mobile banking and SMS banking. I like to say that I started as a young professional and still consider myself a young professional,” he says laughing.

Now he has so many projects in all areas of his life that he has had to give up his other great passion: chess. After completing his Master’s, he is focusing on continuing to learn new technologies and of course, sharing his knowledge. “You cannot give what you don’t have. In order to be able to give something, you have to first start by improving yourself. And as long as there is something to give, I’ll continue giving it.”

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