From London to Shanghai to Lisbon: Giovanna’s Lessons from the Road
“Where does the story begin?” Giovanna asks herself.
“I’m half-Italian, half-Egyptian. I was born in Rome. I lived in England for 20 years. I lived in Shanghai, And I’ve now moved to Lisbon. It’s been quite a trip so far.”
In our first post with Giovanna, Head of Engineering Operations at OLX Group, we learned about operational excellence and how she spins with vinyl! In this second post, we focus more on Giovanna’s personal journey. She has some great insights that you can take with you, wherever you may roam.
Each mini-story section centers around a city or country where Giovanna has traveled or has connections. We hope her insights from these places inspire you to be who you are, build resilience, break down barriers, and pursue your calling.
What Giovanna has learned from London:
“We all hide our insecurities. We’re not all as comfortable as we sound. Knowing this has made me successful in my own career.”
Born in Rome, Giovanna has lived in London for much of her life. It’s a city that’s taught her to live life on her own terms.
“You don’t have to fit in to find space in London. You don’t have to buy into belonging, both in terms of materials and your personality,” states Giovanna.
“London is all about individuality. Individuality is great. That’s actually something I wish I would’ve realized earlier as a young child.”
Giovanna’s career path and adult life began in London and it’s where she learned to be true to herself. She’s taken that lesson with her to all her destinations.
“This lesson even helps me as Head of Engineering Operations. Day in, day out, I ask my teams whether what we do today is in line with where we want to be tomorrow. Doing this with a sense of knowing who you are and where your limits may be can be quite challenging.”
What Giovanna has learned from Shanghai:
“The amount of old people enjoying their life is amazing. In China, people enter retirement and begin hobbies and spend lots of time with family and friends. It really showed me the value of soaking up our time on this planet. I also saw the importance of taking time to understand a culture before forming opinions.”
Giovanna lived and worked in Shanghai a few years ago. There, she made a point to study Mandarin and local Shanghainese, and immerse herself in the culture.
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“I threw myself into a society where much is different from England. I lived in an old building with other families. I found Shanghai and the people to be incredibly friendly and giving. It’s also a place of rapid change, which made my days there exhilarating.”
Indeed, the digital transformation in China has been “rapid and extreme,” as an article in Nikkei states. When it comes to apps, the country is full of super users, with even the elderly ordering groceries to their door.
“Tencent, with apps like WeChat, is miles ahead of much of the world. In China, users are used to seeing many opportunities in the same place. China is full of super users who can navigate that complexity and use one platform for everything from messaging to shopping to booking a ride. It’s a different way of being a digital native.”
Now at OLX, Giovanna uses those lessons from Shanghai to help her.
“At OLX, our mission is to shape the future of trade to unlock the hidden value in everything. We want to give people the tools to enhance their lives. To do that best, we have to take time to understand our users, their culture, their personalities, and their dreams. With things constantly changing, this should be an ongoing process.”
What Giovanna has learned from Lisbon:
“In Lisbon, the city is based on seven hills and the old people are moving up and down the hills. The city hasn’t been designed for them but they confront the difficulties head on. Seeing this has shown me the value of resilience and grit. The elderly are eating the city up!”
After living in Shanghai, Giovanna returned to London. But then decided she needed a move.
“My husband and I decided to leave London as we felt Lisbon was just perfect for us during this stage in our lives. I had a job offer to work in consulting there,” tells Giovanna.
Lisbon, with a thriving tech scene, cinematic hillsides, cobbled alleyways, and bustling atmosphere, has energized Giovanna. It’s here that she eventually found work with OLX Group.
“While working in consulting, OLX Group was a client of mine. So, my relationship began as someone from the outside. I fell in love with the attitude of things at OLX. Much like the old people in the city, the team has lots of resilience and grit.”
During free time from her work at OLX Group, you’ll find Giovanna taking a cue from the elderly in the city, climbing up and down the hills.
“Eat the city up and enjoy what it has to offer!”
To Lisbon and beyond…
“We have to change the way we talk about the other. We need more empathy and we need to establish connections. When I’m in a meeting (virtual or not virtual) about, say, the migration of a system, I’ll first talk about life, music, and hobbies with others to create a human connection. We’re human beings first. Who we are goes beyond our roles and our company.”
At Domain Driven Design Europe, Giovanna gave a talk about the bias of the other. She discussed her background as a half-Italian, half-Egyptian woman born in Rome, and how she’s lived all over the world.
“To which nation do I belong? It’s almost impossible for me to figure out. But I did play table tennis for the Women’s British League!” she said.
Using her experiences, Giovanna elaborated on the importance of having a chat, of getting to know the other.
“In meetings people use the words:`The Business’. A business isn’t a thing. It is real people, real lives. To work with each other, we need to identify our biases and recognize, respect, and celebrate the differences and similarities between us. It’s worth the effort.”
For Giovanna, we must talk and approach work in ways that don’t put up barriers and exclude others. After all, businesses are made up of a lot of different people.
“We all have unique value to provide. People need to know what each team member brings and can give.”
That completes our talk with Giovanna about her journey and all the lessons she’s learned along the way. We hope the places likewise inspire you to be yourself, stay resilient, break down biases, and enjoy life.
If you’d like to read about Giovanna’s work as Head of Engineering Operations at OLX Group, click here.
When Giovanna isn’t at work, you’ll find her DJing, studying new things (like Art History and Art Curating ), and having fun in Lisbon. We’re excited to see all that lies ahead for her.
So, the adventures continue for Giovanna…