Brave New World

You take a plane from an urban jungle of busy roads, favelas, manic buses, chatty taxi drivers, infinite lines, colorful outfits, provocative women, machista men, rowdy children and overall chaos that Rio de Janeiro represents and land in Frankfurt, Germany.

You are welcomed by utter silence. Empty terminal, empty border control hall, empty baggage claim, few people are quietly shuffling around the terminal hallways. You pick up your luggage (which arrives 2 seconds after you step into the claim area), and head through automatic doors of the Green customs line. Clearly marked signs in English show you the way to the lower ground, and after about 5 minutes, you have already bought your train ticket (4 Euros) and are comfortably seated in the nearly empty train headed to the city. Again, the train is practically empty and the few other passengers (all middle-aged and dressed in beige or gray) are quietly staring in space. 10 silent minutes later, you are in the city center, ready to explore.

It’s a public holiday, and the weather is quite nice, the streets are perfectly paved and lined with nice green trees. The buildings around sport handsome balconies with pots of flowers and manicured lawns. There is only one thing missing in Simcity – the people!

I have been to Frankfurt to several times but never before I noticed this artificial, almost stagnant air about it, which was at such stark contrast to Rio’s atmosphere. It was great as always to meet my dear friends (The Greek Lady and The Crazy Spaniards) and catch up on our lives (They said that I am all grown up now… I guess they still remember me as the crazy 21 year old that joined their banking analyst class and used to pass the training course either sleeping or drawing portraits of the people around her).

I asked them about my perceptions and they confirmed them to an extent. They talked about the great quality of life the Germany offers (good salaries, low cost of living) but how for them, it lacked the vibrant livelihood of their beloved Madrid.

As always, this made me think about how the environment we are in affects our happiness and how difficult it is to do that cost/benefit analysis on what is more important? (For example, Which combo is better:Clean streets, safety, efficient transport system & boring stability or chaos, dirt, crime, beautiful landscapes, happy people, ever-changing dynamic reality)

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The Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur part 7

This week I was somewhat slowed down because I was working on several things in parallel (what’s new about that?). It is amazing to live a life when new and different things happen all the time.

My newly launched social movement I wrote about in part 6 has kept me extremely motivated. Both men and women expressed opinions and support. Even my dad had one (he thought it was bullshit.. But that’s ok too..). I am learning a lot about engagement of all kinds of audiences.

As for LetMeKnow, I tried to outsource logo design to Russia but the outcomes were very unsatisfactory. Now trying again to find someone locally. There are a couple of leads and hopefully I will have something done soon.

In parallel, I am trying to promote a fellow start-up, Codifique, which is promising to become the next oDesk of Brazil in exchange for IT services. This is something we see often in start-up world: Bootstrapped start ups exchanging skills. I love the sense of community.

I’m trying to keep a bit of a healthy work-life balance and so on Saturday I went hiking and during the night I mixed business and pleasure, at the lovely rooftop Paixeco Bar in Jardim Botanico, when I enjoyed a caipirinha to the night view of the Christ while catching up with friends and meeting some of the bright young faces that are destined to star on future business magazine covers.

to be continued..

The little details of life

In my craziness of work, start-up business and social movements I forgot to enjoy the beauty of this wonderful city. Today, I climbed up the Leme Fortress and remembered once again. Love you Rio!

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How I chose to motivate my amazing leader friends to make a difference and inspire others

I sent out the following long e-mail to my girl-friends this week:

Hi Girls, did you know that only 3% of CEOs of large companies are women?

How does the above statistic make you feel?

I am guessing that the thought that may go into your mind is: these women are probably some sort of cold-hearted bitches that don’t have time for their personal lives..

What I am thinking is that the other 97% of CEOs are supported emotionally by strong and smart women, that are doing the work behind the scenes.

As you know I am full of projects and not in short of free time. But wanted to talk to you about something important that I have been thinking for a while that I need to do something about. I wanted to share this with you because all of you inspired me somehow in my life and made a huge difference in the formation of who I am today.

I have always been operating in male-dominated environments -> mathematics after-school program, computer science undergraduate, banking and now natural resources industry. Even in business school, you could see that the ratio and distribution of power was not equal. When we talk about Brazil, the situation is just sad in my opinion. Women participate, but who makes the decisions are definitely the men, in my opinion.

I never felt that I had less opportunities in life because I were a woman. Probably, the the opposite is true. I did feel often that I had to apologize to society somehow for being a successful career woman. I still think that with all the liberalism and social progress, being a successful woman carries a negative connotation. Anyway, whatever the reasons and hard feelings may be, my main conclusion is that women can and need to play a bigger role as leaders in society. 

If you look at both emerging and developed market statistics, you will see that women on average have better education rates, they are more committed to their jobs, and worry more about quality and long term. We have all that it takes to compete with men in the professional sphere but somehow many of us are left behind.

So back to Women Empowerment. I became an ambassador for Gender Equity at my company (project aiming at inspiring women (Which are only 13% of our workforce) and ensuring they have equal opportunities for success as men). I also have been receiving different information about initiatives aimed at encouraging women to participate in innovation initiatives (ex: singularity university’s project on increasing women participation in technology).

I want to do something about it.  I want to make women feel more confident to be leaders and inspire them to make a difference in their professional careers. All of you, as successful and smart women, have this responsibility (of course you may disagree but I will not change my opinion about this point). 

WHAT DO I NEED FROM YOU?

I started a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Women-Leaders/155746767939517,  where I want to put all the relevant information and articles about this issue. It would be great if could participate and do the same whenever you see anything related that we could share with others.

Hope I could you at least a bit interested or excited. Please share the idea with other great women you know. WHO IS IN???

The Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur part 6 – On to the challenges

Continuing my saga, which I last described in part 5:

I recently read a book called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely, and he was talking about how difficult it is to change behavioral patterns. One interesting example he mentions is about bloggers that tackles issues through blogging about them to the world, and creating a support self-motivating community this way. The common objectives are to stop smoking, save more money, repay credit card debt, etc. I figured that perhaps I could follow the same pattern in order to keep motivating myself about the business (as some of you may know, motivation is one the most critical ingredients of start-up road which is full of potholes and curves).

Having said that, I thought I would share the progress I had had this week:
  1. Spoke to an advertising professional and a retail professional to get some new contacts at fashion brands
  2. Had dinner with a local entrepreneur veteran who said she will introduce me to her contact at FIRJAN – an industry association, which apparently among rest is investing in promoting Rio as a fashion capital.
  3. Started preparing materials in Portuguese for a digital marketing agency targeting high-end retailers
  4. Helped a friend to make a valuation model for his start-up business. Thinking I should invest in it based on the numbers I got..
  5. Met an entrepreneur who is working on software tool to recruit IT professionals for projects and discussed potential collaboration options. Offered my help in getting investors.
  6. Started collecting a group of people to invest in setting up a hostel in Rio (got 4 people excited, now only need to find a property).
  7. Talked to a designer in Russia to help me create a logo for the website.
  8. Decided I need to find an intern (no luck yet but asking everyone)
  9. Went to visit some fashion stores and got business cards of the management office
  10. Carpet bombed some retail professionals on LinkedIn to see if they would want to talk to me
  11. Started a social movement to empower women to take leadership roles in business. The facebook page is up so obviously the sky is the limit! I realized lately that it’s a cause I care a lot about and have a chance of making some difference in. So hope everyone joins and shares inspiring stories of women leaders.
  12. You can read about what happened with it in part 7.

  13. Made a presentation to a group of USA MBAs visiting Brazil. They seemed to enjoy it. I hope I inspired at least some of them to try something else aside from consulting or banking in NYC or SF.
I suppose I also got some sleep, did all the other stuff that I normally do: went to work, gym, met with friends, went to a house party, read my book, watched Mad Men. I guess time really stretches when one multi-tasks.
Looking forward to the next one..