Hi Jéssica! You joined us last year from São Paulo, Brazil with past experience working for startups. Tell us a bit about that experience and the main differences you found while working for a Portuguese company.
I had worked for two completely different startups before coming here. I had also worked in corporate but I chose startups because I find it matches my work style and dynamics much better.
The first startup I worked for sold software to hospitals and clinics that organised patients databases, doctors, you name it. Funnily enough, when I signed for Infraspeak, back in February 2019, my staff number was 25 which was also my number when I was working for that startup and that was extremely weird… I worked there until we reached about 100 employees. At that point, we suffered a setback so I decided I wanted to work for a more structured company.
My second experience was working for a fintech company that was in a much different stage of evolution. It had 900 employees and around 3 million customers (when I left for Portugal they were 1500 and today, over 2000). It was interesting because even though they had been active for 5 years and were extremely well funded, they were able to keep an extremely quick career development plan, which allowed employees to rise within the company very fast, all depending on performance, of course. At the same time, they also managed to stay organised with well structured squads and weekly one-on-ones, among other things.
Once I left to Portugal and to Infraspeak, my preference was going back to working for startups. I believe startups, regardless of where they are, are fast-growing, dynamic companies. You make a decision or start working on a project today, and next week it’s getting delivered. You have a very strong philosophy of making mistakes quickly, so you can solve the problems even quicker. You learn fast and 6 months feel like 10 years. That is extremely appealing to me. You start on a specific role but you join and participate in several different projects. You feel your impact, both on the life of the company and on the life of its customers.
Our sources tell us that the best meat pie you ever had was here, in Portugal! Do you already feel like you’re part of this country? What do you miss the most from Brazil and what were they key differences you found when you moved?
I feel a lot better integrated now, especially after that meat pie!
To be completely honest, I was a little shocked. I had traveled to the United States before and visited cities like Chicago or New York. You tend to think developed countries are the same everywhere – technological, quick, everything happening the same day… When I got here, I came to a city with a population of 200.000 and found out shops closed between 6 and 8. I had just arrived from São Paulo so my first thought was “My God, how am I going to survive here?”. I was too accustomed to having days that lasted 48 hours.
My second shock was when dealing with people. At first, I couldn’t understand anything! I can’t even spell most of the verb tenses people use here. Besides, Portuguese people are a little too direct. In the beginning, I’d speak to people and then run to my corner to cry because I thought people had something personal against me! Now I know it’s not like that at all and I’m happy things are clear. It’s much better!
Today I feel much more at home. I have my social circle, which is one of the main goals before feeling at home, for anyone who leaves their country. I have people that can support me if I need a sofa to crash on, a shoulder to cry on or someone to go for coffee with. I’m a very social person and not having that was very hard for me in the beginning.
When I walked down the street here, despite seeing lots of Brazilian people, nobody really knew “how I am”. Nobody knew how my birthday parties were, my food, my rituals. When you look back at your country from the outside, you realise everyone there is your brother or sister and when I speak to any Brazilian here, I immediately get a “Oh! It was the same when I was growing up…”.
To leave your country is to never be whole again. I miss feeling like I belong 100% to a place and I know that feeling will probably never come back while I’m here.
We also know you thought about the possibility of leaving Infraspeak so you could participate in ‘Masterchef’ but Maintenance Management won! Is cooking more than just a hobby to you? Is there any cooking project in your future?
I only cook since I was 17 or 18 but I love it. I get distracted easily but when I’m cooking, I’m completely focused on what I’m doing and it’s something I enjoy when I’m stressed.
Actually, when I was working for startups in Brazil, I had quite a few veterinarian bills with my dog so I started baking cakes and selling them at the company I worked for. I had a pretty good customer base!
When I got to Portugal, I was at that crucial point wondering “did I do the right thing?” and, since I always loved ‘Masterchef’, when the signups opened I just went for it! I made a video, got selected and decided to run with something we call a pancake in Brazil, which isn’t the pancake you know in the United States or in Portugal. I made homemade pastry, minced meat, eggplant pate and tomato sauce. I topped it up with a touch of Portugal… something I discovered and find absolutely incredible – fried onion! They liked it and then I found out I had been selected to the final phase.
The problem was that I’d have to move to Lisbon for the semi finals and agree to spend 3 months there. At the time, I had just joined Infraspeak and was starting a Spanish course so I pondered on it for a bit and realised that if I turn something I love into work, I’m going to be transferring that energy into the food, and that won’t be good.
Given that, I decided to stay at Infraspeak.
Today I think that was the right choice and, naturally, I’m still cooking.
Feminism is an important cause for you which is ironic, given that you work for an industry that is mostly male. How do you see the role of women in leadership positions both in general, and more specifically, in tech?
I discovered feminism during my last year of university (International Relations) when I did my thesis on “The role of UN in women’s rights” and what had been done to reduce inequalities in both job titles and salary disparities. That was a crucial aspect for me because when you start studying minorities, you start seeing things that we experience ourselves. Feminism isn’t just important for women but for men as well, who suffer with society’s pressure to follow their own standard of what being a man is. Providing for your family, having a beard, whatever it is.
Having to follow a specific set of rules because you’re a woman, man, white, black…when you start studying, you realise you’ve suffered from this so you become much more aware on minorities. You can’t study feminism without understanding racism and how structural it is. That was very important to my personal development and it made a huge difference in which places I’ve visited, the people I know and the companies I’ve been a part of.
Generally speaking, startups, or at least the ones I’ve worked for, are mostly meritocratic. In theory, it doesn’t matter where you come from, your gender or your color. What matters is your performance. The problem is not to stay or to climb, is to get the chance to fight for it in the first place. We signed our first female engineer this month, for example. You don’t usual find women in leadership or tech positions but that’s not due to lack of merit but due to conditioning from soap operas, families, propaganda. A woman can’t be ambitious, can’t use tools, has to think about kids, about the house… it starts at a very young age.
I don’t believe I’ll see true equality during my lifetime because that’s both structural and generational. It takes time to change and not everyone is aware of it yet. Some families still educate their children like that and that’s ok…it’s how the world works. Today, I’m happy that I work for a company that has a completely female QA department.
In a way, I support quotas or even placing some limits. The world has been unfair for far too many years…500, 700, 1000, ever since the world is world. Until we fix this, we would gain from imposing some limits. Is it a band aid? Yes, of course. However, that’s one of the things we can do today, because we only live in the present. I’m extremely happy for working for a company that shares my values, my principles and my beliefs.
And our last question… You mentioned you are a very sociable person. Even though working remotely makes no difference to you, how was it being locked up at home during the pandemic?
It was extremely hard.
At Infraspeak, we are free to choose whether we want to work remotely, whenever we feel like it, especially in my particularly department (Sales Development). We don’t visit clients or have to do any tasks outside the office. We’re constantly on the phone or in a video conference. Even then, I never worked remotely. To me, that ‘switch’ between home and office was very important.
The problem was that I couldn’t quite ‘get’ my work environment at home. I get easily distracted so I also lost track of time. In addition to being forced to go fully remote, there was a pandemic happening outside so I had nothing else to do. Schedule a demo at 9 or 10 in the evening? No problem!
People who work remotely while the world keeps turning still manage to complete their daily routines, go to the gym or whatever they enjoy doing. During a pandemic, things get a little trickier. At the office, when you have a bad call or your connection is down, you can get up and talk to someone, go outside for fresh air or have a cup of coffee. Even though I was living in a house with 2 other Infraspeakers, you can’t do that during quarantine!
Besides, I wasn’t able to have the life I used to have. I loved going for lunch with friends or take walks on the beach and adapting to not having that wasn’t easy at all. There were days I worked 12 or 13 hours and days I worked 4. I spent more than a month contemplating every corner in my ceiling before I managed to regain the pace I had when I was working from our offices.
Jéssica is one of Infraspeak’s Sales Development Representatives and this week’s guest for Inside Infraspeak. Thank you, Jéssica!