Latinx In Power
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Latinx In Power

Visions of a Remarkable Mind

Based on an episode with Juliana Lisboa 🇧🇷

Welcome to Latinx in Power, a podcast which aims to help to demystify tech, the way we do that is by interviewing Latinx leaders all over the world to hear their perspective and insights.

We talked with Juliana Lisboa (she, her), the Global Strategy and Operations of a Google project called #IamRemarkable. Juliana took an unusual path by working in technology across multiple countries and cultures in the Asia Pacific.

In this episode, we asked Juliana some questions about this amazing project that she leads. For those who don’t know, #IamRemarkable is a Google initiative to empower women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.

At the end we’ll have a surprise for you, stay tuned!

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How did everything start?

Oh, yeah, that’s a big question. I was born in a city called Campinas, which is southeast of Brazil. My mom was 15 when she got pregnant with my sister, 17 when I was born, and 18 when she was divorced and broke. Thankfully, in a typical Latin family, we had a lot of family and friends’ support. I was raised surrounded by very strong women. I could see my mom, my grandma, even my great-grandma really working hard to give us a better opportunity than they have. I think at a very young age, I already felt empowered to create my own path and encouraged to be always curious. With that in mind, my first scholarship may have been when I was nine, my first informal job when I was 11. By 17, I already moved along to São Paulo, which is a 20-million city, to work and study.

I found my way to get to graduation, I ended up with graduation actually in a top university. I even had a year abroad in Milan due to another scholarship. By the age of 24, I had already a very different life from where I started. I was a manager in a big corporation leading marketing and digital strategy with a sizable team. I was checking all those boxes of success that I created for myself, and some of those were don’t get pregnant, do well in school, get a job, all those things that we tell ourselves what success looks like.

Somehow, I was not feeling fulfilled. I was actually more insecure as time passed, but I would try to hide that at all costs. Then that made me feel even more stressed. After several years of that cycle, although I was getting great feedback at work and everything looked right from the outside, I simply was not okay. Eventually, I got the courage one day and quit my job. It took a while for me to articulate why I left such a successful track, but today, I can understand that I was due to much imposter syndrome, value clash, sexism that it really became unbearable.

Anyways, after that period, I opened up my own business, which was another big learning curve, but gave me much more joy than I was having in the corporate world. I was leaving a more authentic and flexible lifestyle. I started realizing that checking all those boxes didn’t mean success, I just had to respect my true self and who I really was.

When I saw that my career path was as an entrepreneur, another big turn happened. A dear friend sent me an opportunity to work at Google and insisted that I apply.

How was this process for you because you’re working with something that you truly loved?

I didn’t think that I was getting the job. I literally did it for the sake of, “Okay, done.” I never really thought it through, “Okay, I will leave my job,” or anything like that. My friend insisted, I said, “I’ll give it a try, they will not call me,” and that’s done, but they did call me. I ended up starting at Google.

Again, I was sure that I was not going to stay for long, so I didn’t close my business or anything. I tried to keep both for a long time. Based on my experience in the past, I didn’t think I would ever fit in. Here I am, seven years later still working at Google. In the end, I had to close my business, it was impossible to keep both. During those seven years at Google, I worked in different roles. The past three years, I’ve been based in Singapore leading product strategy and operations for 15 Asia Pacific countries.

Working in different cultures and roles made me even more aware and interested about social inclusion. Luckily, this year, I was able to make another move. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been leading strategy and operations, but now for #IamRemarkable, this global program that fights those biases that made me quit my first job to start with.

What does it mean to be a Latinx for you?

This is a very interesting question, because to be very honest, I didn’t recognize myself as a Latinx for a long period. Growing up in Brazil, I felt just a Brazilian. I didn’t label myself as a Latinx. When I saw all the Spanish-speaking countries, I felt they were so different from the reality I lived in. Their story, their culture, I could not really understand how anyone could actually cluster us as one. After studying more,working in global companies and living abroad, that perspective changed. I got to learn so much about our shared colonialism, and experience a weird connection that truly happens when you meet someone from Colombia, Venezuela, or even other Brazilians on that setup.

Now, I truly consider myself super Latina. I totally recognize myself in that label. I think also living in Asia can be super challenging, how different the culture is around you is, and having Latinx friends around me made me feel at home even so far from home. It can be just showing up, showing that they care, doing a small kind act, or my favorite, sharing food, small things that make my experience here much more comfortable.

For me today, being a Latinx is having a part of our identity rooted in Latin America, which has an amazing history of resilience, creativity, and a big sense of community, and how that shaped our culture. At the same time, there is a part of me that indeed believes that we are a group of uniques and it’s important to recognize the uniqueness of each country, each culture or even each individual. Yes, I’m a proud Latina, and also so many other things. We have a huge diversity in our community, and we should celebrate it as a way to fight stereotyping. We need to celebrate with each other and this is a great opportunity to do that. It’s so important to hear stories. That’s what I love about this podcast. I think we need to have more Latinx stories being told, so we can recognize this uniqueness and diversity in the same thing, those amazing characteristics that make us so much proud of our identity.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the #IamRemarkable initiative?

#IamRemarkable started in 2016 with two women named Anna that also worked at Google. They participated in a leadership program where women were asked to do a simple exercise of talking about their accomplishments, and so many struggled to do it. With that insight, they looked for literature and it was proven what they intuitively know. Women and other marginalized groups often struggle with lack of confidence, and that has an impact on their perceived competence, their careers, or even at home. Then, they started #IamRemarkable that at its heart is this 90 minutes’ workshop that makes people reflect and act on modesty norms and biases.

Today, this program counts over 8000 trained volunteers delivering workshops across the globe. It’s really an impressive example of the power of community. Together, we delivered workshops for more than 230,000 people across 150 countries, but I personally find most impressive number is that half of those that answer our surveys, said they had a job or a career growth and attributed some of that to #IamRemarkable. This really shows and proves the importance of sharing, recognizing each other, and finding the sense of worthiness, and increasing your confidence.

Another interesting fact is that over 800 companies now use #IamRemarkable as a tool to increase diversity inclusion in their organization. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but I feel proud to be a key part of this initiative in trying to make a real impact, a positive impact to change the corporate world and people’s life in general.

At Google, we have a concept of 20% projects, which is a project that you can dedicate time to. Today, we have over 100 people at Google that dedicate one day of their week to the program which makes a huge difference. You can imagine the power of having those brains working to roll out such an important initiative. This scale that we achieved, it really happened in the past few years, but the concept was something that is earlier than that.

What are usually the main barriers to talking about our own accomplishments?

We don’t talk about our accomplishments, because we fear. We fear being judged and not being enough or simply not fitting. It’s that inner voice that holds us back from sharing ideas in a meeting, applying for a job, or even having a tough conversation at home. The issue is that as with any other skill, if you don’t practice talking about your accomplishments, you’ll be more likely to lack confidence when those moments show up, and this cycle continues. We need to build this muscle of self-promoting and with practice, it becomes much more natural.

What many people don’t think about is that self-promoting has a lot to do with social norms. I think Latin cultures are an amazing example of how we can be taught to be modest, and taught that this actually is good, that we shouldn’t brag, that bragging is something bad. But if your peers, for example, update their manager in their project, and you don’t, you very easily fall behind on perceived competence. This is not about bragging, it’s simply stating the facts. As we teach at #IamRemarkable, accomplishments do not speak for themselves.

Your actions do count, but you have to let people know what you did. I think another element of this equation, which for me, and this was very impactful when I started learning from, is the role that unconscious bias plays in how people are perceived. We also have to remember that unconscious bias tends to benefit dominant groups and discriminate against minoritized groups. Research has proven that, for example, women tend to self-promote less, and when they finally do it, they tend to suffer criticism from men, and sadly, other women. It’s a classic thing that when a woman says something, she’s bossy, and while the men say the same thing,they’re decisive. As we were saying at the beginning, if we are all afraid of suffering backlashes, those unconscious biases and those learned behaviors make women be more modest.

This goes much beyond gender. Another study showed that white-sounding names got 50% more callbacks than job applicants with the same qualification but with names that sound from other ethnicities. If you take an intersectional approach on this, analyzing multiple identities that we can have, a white man, for example, tends to be judged by their expected potential. Women of color, for example, or Latinx nonbinary, have to actually prove their accomplishments and be judged by their historical, instead of their potential. The playing field is really unfair.

Therefore, developing confidence and self-promotion is a much more complex issue than we first look at. I think our gut reaction as Latinos, Latinas and Latinx, sometimes can be, “Oh, this is bragging, this is bad.” But when you see those dynamics, you can understand that you have to develop those skills, not only for yourself, so you can have a better change, but also to not perpetuate these kinds of models in societies that keep making that playing field so unfair.

How did the #IamRemarkable project change you?

This journey about building confidence and getting awareness about social perceptions is very, very personal to me. I have now been working with business and technology for over 13 years. Many times, I was “the only”. The only woman, the only Latinx, the only non-native speaker and so on, but I didn’t connect that at all with my lack of confidence. I thought those topics had nothing to do with each other. Like many, I personally also felt that self-promotion was a bad word, and it was just not for me.

I was used to working harder, I had really no motivation to be better at this particular skill. What really triggered me to care was when I stopped being the only, and witnessed heartbreaking examples of other women, Latinx and non-native speakers that were very modest, and suffered real consequences because of not speaking up.

I’ve always cared about equality and understanding that by not talking about my own accomplishments, I was helping to endorse an expected modesty from those people, so it moved me to get those people comfortable to speak up, I also had to start doing it myself. So, it became a personal goal to develop that skill. I used #IamRemarkable to first develop my own skill of self-confidence, self-promotion. Later, I started teaching others on the importance of biases and getting awareness to these topics. Now, it’s a pleasure to help to scale those learnings and hopefully accelerate the removal of the systemic barriers that prevent equal opportunity.

There are so many simple things that we can do in our daily lives to create that awareness and just ensure that people feel more comfortable. Ensuring that you give voice for people that are usually not so proactive to speak up. When they do speak up, you can endorse their ideas, making sure that they feel heard, listened, and embraced. Other things that you can also do is challenge and attribute ideas at the right place, like when someone says “we…”, you can ask “Hey, what exactly was your contribution to that?” These are very small things that help the environment to be more inclusive, and people more inclined to develop this skill.

Can you share more about your experience doing the TEDx Talk and how we can apply curiosity in our daily lives?

Doing TEDx was one of the scariest things I have done. I struggle a lot with confidence and self-promotion. On top of that, I think TED has a format that makes it so comparable and there’s so many great names and examples. I just kept thinking about those things and got terrified and immobilized, to be honest. It was a big shame storm.

When I finally was able to discuss this idea with friends, I was like, “What should I share?” I had no clue where to start. It became clear to me as they helped me to understand what stood up for them, was not the “what”, the things that I’ve done, but the “how”. I took that unusual path. Most often, I created opportunities by merely being very curious. My nerd self had to double check if the hypothesis of curiosity helps you to learn more and open new opportunities. I did some research, and there’s plenty of studies that proved that initial insight and curiosity then became the anchor of my talk. Beyond that, I shared a bit of my story, which I definitely struggled with, and today still struggling by talking to you. I tried to summarize what I learned and how I tried to go by in three very simple tips.

The first one, and maybe the most important to me is to be present. The word today incentivizes us to multitask, to think about the future, to be in this mindset of aspiration of self, instead of here and now. If we are able to simply focus on one thing, it’s like getting the noise down, and you can actually think more clearly and, honestly, just get more joy out of a simple task.

The second tip is about making more open questions. This is an important technique to get people to bring their gifts to the table. We can be surprised by what people can share when you allow them, when you give them space.

Last, but not at all least, is to actively listen to people. This has a lot to do with what I share about biases. If we don’t pay attention to what we are listening to, our biases can shut us down, that inner voice that comes and says, “I got this, move forward,” what I’m going to reply instead of listening, purely listening to what people are saying.

With these three simple steps, anyone can actually become more curious. I can see the impact of curiosity in my life, so I would strongly recommend anyone to try, either because they want to expand their possibilities, they want to change careers, or simply they just want to empathize more with people and be more inclusive.

Talking about resources, do you want to share with us which resource helped you in your journey?

I am personally a big fan of therapy. It really helped me to become more comfortable in my own skin, have a better sense of who I am and where I stand. I think there’s a lot of stigma about seeing a therapist, but actually anyone can benefit from it at all times in life and not only when things get really tough. I definitely recommend it for your self-confidence and,, wellbeing.

I also have been very intentional lately on how I spend my time on social media. I think especially during this period of pandemic where we are more isolated than ever and what we see in the digital world reflects so much of what we believe is real. Selecting digital content that empowers you and reflects a more diverse set of people and good influence in your life, instead of insisting on those mainstream profiles that sometimes we don’t even know why we follow. These are simple things that actually make me feel that I belong more, that I’m less imperfect, and make me accept myself more. So, I definitely recommended those.

Something else that has been helpful for me in these last few years, I think especially, again, with the pandemic, has been books. Growing up, I was not the one that reads all the books and things like that, but it’s been interesting to see the impact that they have been having in my life lately. Some authors that I love, ladies like:

  • Djamila Ribeiro, Brazilian author who talks so much about black feminism, she’s amazing.
  • Brené Brown, who talks so much about shame, and how the sense of belonging that we crave is important.
  • Bell Hooks, who is so honest and the way she expresses herself, and she is able to put words on feelings that I could never.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert, has an amazing story of a bunch of struggles, but she looked at that in such a light away.

All these things really inspire me because these are some of the names that I recommend. And last but not at all less important, is do a #IamRemarkable workshop.

#IamRemarkable workshop.

We are excited to invite you to attend to a free 90 minute #IamRemarkable workshop. In this session, you will develop the confidence to promote yourselves in the workplace and personal life, thereby breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings.

We’re so excited to share with this community the power of those workshops. We are going to be opening slots, especially for those that listen to Latinx in Power, and we hope that you can join us in one of the sessions and just experience what we talk about today.

If interested, please fill out this form and wait to get your confirmation by email!

  • DATE: June 30th
  • TIME: 6pm — Pacific Time

We want to end this podcast with a quote from Juliana’s TEDs Talk that is so amazing:

“Be present. Make more open questions. Take the time to actively listen and be curious.”

I hope you enjoyed the podcast. We will have more interviews with amazing Latinx leaders the first Tuesday of every month. Check out our website Latinx In Power to hear more. Don’t forget to share comments and feedback, always with kindness. See you soon.

I hope you enjoyed the podcast. We will have more interviews with amazing Latinx leaders the first Tuesday of every month. Check out our website Latinx In Power to hear more. Don’t forget to share comments and feedback, always with kindness. See you soon.

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Insights and exposure to Latinxs leaders around the globe. In each episode we feature insightful conversations about their journey, stories behind their trajectory, plenty of laughs and learnings.

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Thaisa Fernandes

Thaisa Fernandes

Problem solver and perfectionist in recovery willing to stretch myself and risk making mistakes to achieve innovative solutions and validate my learnings

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