What were its beginnings like? What is its differential? What are the challenges ahead? A few days before celebrating 15 years of this company that came to revolutionize the behavioral assessment industry, we talked to PDA’s co-founder, Leonardo Lammers, and CEO, Jaime Díaz Luque. Learn more about this company that has always led by example.
Because of that intrinsic drive that always pushed him to go for more, Leonardo Lammers, together with his founding partner, started 15 years ago the dream of PDA, the HRTech that today leads the assessment industry and is a pioneer in using behavioral data with hard data for different processes of coaching, hiring, job search, vocational reorientation, reskilling and many other aspects inherent to the human.
“Our purpose was to impact people from an optimized and scientifically validated tool, but the reality is that it took shape as people joined the team,” Leo points out from Spain, where he has been living for almost three years, when he handed over the CEO position to Jaime Díaz Luque.
“Jaime is an improved version of me, we are both Pisces, we have a similar way of seeing things, that’s why we’ve fit together very well and I know that Jaime can give continuity to a cultural and leadership model that PDA has always tried to have. That is one of the things I am most proud of”, he confesses.
From the beginning of the interview he made it clear: “One thing I am never willing to compromise with is PDA’s culture. I encourage people to feel that results are the consequence of a good working environment, where they can grow personally and professionally. PDA has many young people in the management area because they have the space to grow, they are listened to, they are given a place”.
“PDA was able to grow without looking for investors and today we are leaders thanks to this effort. It was a great decision not to bet only on those who came with a lot of experience in similar industries, but also on young people who brought new proposals and ideas”. Leo Lammers
And Jaime is the fruit of that cultural mindset that Leo promoted since PDA’s beginnings. He arrived from Colombia 12 years ago for an internship, and although he confesses to being restless and indomitable, he was attracted to PDA: “In April 2011, when I joined, I found a cutting-edge company, it had all the condiments of post-pandemic companies: sales via Skype, CRM management, integrations, API development, management models, competency management, behavioral management, profile retention. I say that Leo always had the foresight to anticipate the movement, and when I was about to return to Colombia, he proposed me to stay one more year in PDA… and I never left again”.
“We found a purpose when the company started to have exponential growth and social responsibility, and we had two choices: we either embraced it or we didn’t. And we decided to take on this possibility of impacting people so that they could have a space of self-knowledge so powerful that would allow them to develop.” Jaime Díaz.
PDA, the first behavioral assessment company to become HRTech
What is the company’s business vision and expansion strategy for the coming years?
Leo: As part of the strategy, I think it is key that PDA can continue to grow through integrations with other complementary software or products that allow us to continue generating that network where everyone contributes what they know.
Another important point in the strategy is to generate alliances and links with a more robust value proposition based on partnerships with large companies and startups that complement PDA very well.
Jaime: Actually, PDA was born as an HRTech in 2007 because at that time it was a management tool that today is known as ATS within a platform that was the HS System, but at the time it did not vibrate as it should have because it was like having a camera in the cave age, that is, you have nowhere to develop the film, you do not know how to charge the battery, it was outdated in time.
Then, we began to understand that the world of assessment, as the industry is known, was too static and that is exactly what does not allow many companies to be an HRTech today. We provide integrations with other platforms, with multimedia materials, and with a lot of background technology. PDA was a pioneer in the whole world of people analytics, we were one of the first organizations to start talking about how to use behavioral data mixed with hard data to understand how to manage with data. Then, we decided to put all that information and all the technological development to take it to products like TOV, mobile apps, skill wallets and start to commune from another side with assessment, and that’s how PDA moves away from being an assessment tool and becomes an HRTech.
“As an expansion plan, the U.S. is a beautiful place, where there are a lot of possibilities and very powerful and good competitors, but we know that we are at the height of the top competitors in the local market”. Jaime Diaz.
Do you have in mind the dream of turning PDA into the next Argentine unicorn?
L: Fifteen years ago we were in an industry that today is at its peak and we have to take advantage of all the experience of having done a lot of things, both the successes and the failures. We have positioning, links, maturity. It is a moment that, undoubtedly, we have to take advantage of.
It is not by chance that today a lot of companies dedicated to assessment are starting to appear, some of them with interesting things, others with less interesting characteristics, but we have a long way to go, a place in the market, a trajectory, an experience that makes us very strong. That is why I believe that today the conditions are in place for us to accelerate this growth.
J: I don’t know if we’ll be the next one because one of those things could happen next month, but with Leo we always say we’re going to try or die with our boots on.
Very seriously, we are going to be a unicorn, but we don’t say that because we are in love with the project and because we have a great passion for what we do. But because it is a fact that the competencies that are going to be required within the work environment in the next 30 years are empathy, communication, self-knowledge, emotional intelligence… and this has to do with our industry, which is no longer a niche industry but a real need in organizations. And what is happening with the industry of self-knowledge of soft skills is where we are standing today, and we understand that it is the future to become a unicorn.
How is PDA different from the competition?
L: The fact that we have so many years of experience is not a minor issue because we know which projects work, how the tool responds, such as PDA assessment, etc. There are developments we have made at a technological and functional level that we understand better than anyone else. In addition, all this network of alliances and links with companies that complement our offer is a very important aspect when analyzing the different options available in the market.
The PDA assessment has a very high validity and reliability, the speed with which the report is made, the simplicity to access the information and to interpret the report, the cost, the quality. But it has to do not only with technical and scientific aspects, but also with the orientation towards user experience, which we continue to improve today.
PDA tries to sustain over time this combination of being a tool that is not complex to use, that is fast and agile, but, at the same time, it has a depth that other tools do not have and, in addition, they take time to fill. Something that is not minor, it maintains a constant update with respect to the needs that the client has today.
In this industry that is growing so much, some tools appear that are good and others that have interesting things, but we see some others remain in the game.
We understand that we have a tremendous responsibility and that in the end what is at stake is the destiny of the people, whether they remain on a job list, how they are developed, where they will be inclined to develop their professional career, so you can not just stay in a nice or fun experience, there must be a solidity behind it. There are many companies that only have a lot of marketing and packaging behind them.
The PDA assessment evaluates itself and tells you how reliable the information it is giving you before you start reading the whole report. It tells you how blurry the picture it is showing you is, so that you can then see what you do with that information, because the tool interprets when the person was not clear in their answers”. Leo Lammers.
J: The most important thing when you make predictions or when you make a guess about what a person you do not know is like, and you are doing it through a test or a technological tool, is the validation you have of that tool. At the end of the day, there is something that will remain over time and that has to do with the accuracy of the information you can provide.
These tools also have a reputation and many times they do not go down well, not because they are not good, but because they used tools without validation, which have no academic process behind them and that has been what PDA has been constantly watching over, since 2012 when the first validation process started through AIOBP.
“Once you understand that the compass is well calibrated, north will always be north. With other tools, when you think you are going north, you are going south”. Jaime Díaz.
Both agree that, to begin with, you must have a dream and, no less important, believe in the project and never limit yourself. “There are many more great ideas that failed and many more mediocre products that have had great achievements, that, in the end, has to do with a matter of attitude, strategy and links”, explains Leo and emphasizes that today PDA is a smarter and more orderly company.
Leo and Jaime complement and enhance each other, they know each other and know that the limitations of one are the opportunities of the other. Thus, PDA is a place that seeks to foster strong and human bonds, but, above all, a place where you can enjoy the process and dream big.
Today, for the CEO, his biggest challenge is to maintain and watch over this culture: “As the company grows, it becomes more complicated, but it does not mean that it is impossible, this is the main reason why I am sitting here. The most difficult thing is to know when you are the person who is good for the company and when you are bad for it. For now, things are going well, but you have to understand that the capabilities you have go with you at certain times. CEO positions in an organization are like those of a country. I think it was Franklin who said that more than two terms in a presidency is a dictatorship. I constantly ask myself, in any situation, if I am contributing what the company needs, if I have the capacity, if I have the energy, if I have the creativity, if I am up to the task. And you have two ways of doing things: stubborn and stubborn or you learn to listen, and I always choose to listen”.
“Once, at the beginning of PDA, I attended a partner meeting in South Africa and it was the first time I became aware of the impact of what we were doing and the obligation not to screw up. That helped me understand the impact of what we were creating”. Leo Lammers.
Leo, what advice would you give to today’s Jaime? And Jaime, what advice would you give to today’s Leo?
L: Whatever you do, whatever ambition you have, let everything that is linked to work not cease to be something you are passionate about. That the pressures do not turn into something else. That the essential things that have to do with family, children or friends are always above closing a business. That you always come back to the axis, because that is the balance you have to be permanently looking for.
J: I can hardly give Leo advice, whenever I need advice, the first person I consult is him. This year I saw a career I was going to start cut short because he told me: “You are going to lose your son and your wife, you are going to take on water somewhere”. More than advice, it is a request. He has always been attached to the same idea of not compromising and sticking to what he believes in, regardless of what others think. And today we have generated a purpose that transcends the company and that is inherent to the dream he had. I ask him to always maintain that humility because I can attest that he is the same person I met 12 years ago.
Leo: The crisis of the 50s and low patience
Jaime: My savagery
The best virtue
Leo: Staying motivated to keep growing
Jaime: Dreaming big
A dream to fulfill
Leo: Living in the U.S. with Jaime
Jaime: Making PDA a unicorn
The best advice ever given
Leo: “Don’t be so anxious and stay working on this thing you’re good at, let it flow.”
Jaime: “He who speaks the truth is not wrong.”
The worst advice you were given
Leo: That I got divorced and had to fire Jaime a month after he started working.
Jaime: Not to do the MBA
Leonardo Lammers | Co-founder at PDA