"Let's free printing from its digital box"

The General Manager of HP's Large Format Design Business, Guayente Sanmartín, defends the art of smiling, learning, dreaming and that touch of madness needed to triumph

Guayente Sanmartín HP
Guayente Sanmartín HP

Guayente Sanmartín (Barcelona, 1968) is the General Manager of HP’s Large Format Design Business for the world. An engineer by training and a communicator by vocation, she joined the multinational as an intern and 25 years after travelling the world she says it is a dream come true. The secret of her success? Choosing the work that most makes her smile, to never stop learning, and walking to the pace of TED Talks.

She defines herself as "extroverted, hands-on and curious" above all in technology, innovation, team management and business. She begins all her messages with the phrase "People first," and each week has breakfast with 10 to 15 of her staff to understand what they need and to argue that "you can only be successful if you are happy in what you do." Beyond paper, dreams can be sketched out and happiness printed.

You began working at HP in 1991.

I was still studying Telecommunications at UPC and I began as an intern in the sales department. HP was growing a lot and I had a dream: I wanted to be the General Manager of this business. It has taken me 25 years, travelling the world, and working in all parts of the company.

"When someone begins at HP I ask them to sketch out their dream"

From dream to reality.

If I don't learn something new every day it means the day wasn't worth much. We often do a strengthfighter exercise: we do not look for weaknesses in the employee but rather their virtues. For me the main characteristic is learning. Without that it's impossible for a person to evolve and for the organisation to survive.

What have you learned?

I'll now show you the Bible [she laughs]. Every day I've learned something both about people as well as external stimuli... I'm not very sporty but when I walk I put on TED Talks about innovation, growth, organisations, politics, or anything else. I've learned that you must never give up your dream. Even if you later change it, it is better to have a plan about where you want to go. In fact, when someone begins at HP I ask them to sketch out their dream.

Guayente Sanmartin HP

Photograph by Àngel Bravo

"Life is a dream," wrote Calderón de la Barca.

You can only be successful if you are happy in what you do, never choose a job because of a qualification or a salary. It has to make you smile. Over the past few years heading large organisations I have realised the value of people and that's why I begin all my messages with the phrase "People first". And for sure tomorrow I will have learnt another new thing... These are the principles of HP that I like: "Imagine the future, inspire your team and make it possible."

How do you inspire and manage your team?

The first thing is to know who is in the team. There is an analogy with a book that says you have to go on a journey and you have to decide who you want to get on the bus with you. At times it's tough. You have to sketch out a vision and it all depends on the route you want to take. Once you have chosen your team it is very important to empathise with the organisation. Each week I have breakfast with 10 to 15 employees to understand what they need and we do a lot of engagement activities to have reachable objectives and to help them grow.

"You can only be successful if you are happy in what you do, never choose a job because of a qualification or a salary"

What can an employee learn by being abroad that they can't learn here?

We speak a lot about diversity between men and women, large and small, but we have to understand personal cultural diversity. I have worked in Singapore where four religions live side-by-side and there I learnt to work with all genuine cultures. Living in Barcelona is also a luxury and it's full of talent. Going elsewhere shows you how to reinvent yourself in terms of family, business, culture...

You have to leave your comfort zone.

And then you can start again, bring fresh ideas and win total empathy from people in all of their diversity. We have clients all over and we have to have innovation centres all around the world.

Guayente Sanmartin HP and Víctor Costa

Photograph by Àngel Bravo

Sant Cugat is HP's most important international centre outside the United States.

It's very easy for it to grow into a major innovation centre due to its capacity to attract competitive talent. Thus, 3D printing came from engineers here and here is also where the business' European sales are handled. HP will continue to invest in Barcelona as long as there is economic and social stability.

"Printing isn't bad, it is an emotional act," says Enrique Lores, president of HP's Printing and Solutions Business.

That's a good one. We always say If you like it, click it. If you love it, print it. Why? Let me suggest an exercise: take a photo of your parents and rip it up, then delete it from your iPhone. We are analogical beings and the more we invest our senses into something, the stronger the link we have with it. Printing in advertising started to go down and now it's rising again... It's the connection: printing means you have more senses ready. An HP study states that you retain 47% of the impression if you see it and only 37% if it is in digital format.

"HP will continue to invest in Barcelona as long as there is economic and social stability"

Breaking clichés, doesn't paper have a sell-by date?

Printing is no longer just about paper, even though a lot of people still have the perception that it is bad. What if I print it and then it's erased by the rain? Printing is limited. At HP we want to reduce the amount of paper used in analog printing through digital printing.

Nor does 3D have any limits except for imagination.

Construction is the industry that has grown least over the past few years. It has gone from not wanting to automate to wanting automation and now there is a change in what is and what isn't printed and why. The future will see more robotics and digitatisation and the concept of printing will be a cooperation tool that will allow for the automation of these processes.

HP Sant Cugat

Photograph by Àngel Bravo

Is talent captured or retained?

Both things. Everyone focuses on capturing talent but keeping hold of it is something that makes HP stand out. Here we do a lot of work on engagement and social work like, for example, the 40 days of good or the Charity Day. The firm not only gives you objectives but it also helps you to give back to society. And on top of that we have a football pitch... [she laughs]. You must keep talent and then capture it.

"We are analogical beings and printing means we have more senses ready"

Gutenberg created a revolutionary invention more than 550 years ago, who do you see the printing of the future?

You imagine printing contained in a closed box and on paper. But in the future it will be mobile, flexible and open. We will free printing from its closed box. It will be freer and there will be no problems of paper or size. Open the box and begin to dream. On the Carretera de les Aigües there is something written in French that says: you need a touch of madness to change things.

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