Inês Santos Silva
When I had the idea to create the reinvention.space project, Inês was one of the first people I asked for feedback. Why? She balances a sharp mind with an even sharper way to give “tough love” feedback. It’s handled with care but straight to the point and without sugar-coating.
It’s not rare to cross paths with people that Inês has inspired to create positive change. The impact of her projects is by itself astonishing for someone in their early thirties, and some of them generate ripples that contribute to systemic changes.
So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the journey of a very special lifelong learner.
Bird’s Eye View
Can you give us a glimpse of your life story?
Born and raised in a small city near Porto, Portugal. I always loved to learn and play team sports. Studied management at the University of Porto, fell in love with entrepreneurship and innovation and since then my life has been about creating environments and contexts for people, aspiring entrepreneurs, and ideas to thrive.
These days, I’m the co-founder and CEO of Aliados Consulting, an innovation boutique consulting firm, and a co-founder of Portuguese Women in Tech (PWIT). At PWIT, we want to support women in technology by providing visibility, networking, mentorship, and by creating training opportunities. But we also want to attract more women and girls to tech.
What does diversity mean for you?
Diversity means representation and inclusion. When I think about diversity, I think about a world where everyone has the same access and the same opportunities, no matter their social and ethnic backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
What are the major challenges to gender equality nowadays?
There are so many, that I don’t even know where to start. The work I do is focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in a technology context. If you look at the Gender Gap Report 2020 from the World Economic Forum, you see that the gender pay gap is increasing and that has to do with the lack of women accessing tech careers, the problems women have in accessing capital, and the fact that women’s jobs are being replaced with technology faster than men’s.
If you look at unemployment due to COVID-19, you see that women are being hit the hardest. 100% of jobs lost in the USA, in December 2020, were held by women. This tells us a lot about the world we live in.
But this goes much deeper. We live in a world designed by men for men. If you want to learn more about this, read Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. It’s heart-breaking.
How do you see the current state of the social and environmental space?
The more I learn about the topic, the more concerned and pessimistic I am. I truly believe we are in the dawn of a social and environmental revolution. And like all revolutions, it won’t be easy or painless. The system that got us here won’t be capable of dealing with all the social and environmental challenges that lie ahead. With all the bad things that COVID-19 brings, hopefully this will also be an opportunity to transform our thinking about the world and our relationship with each other and the environment.
Learning and Reinvention
What does learning mean to you? And how do you learn?
Descartes said “I think, therefore I am”. For me “I learn, therefore I am”. Learning is my main purpose in life. I love to learn about anything and everything, even though, over the years, I’ve focused my learning mainly on entrepreneurship, innovation, diversity & inclusion, and climate action.
I mainly learn through doing, reading, and talking with people. The sweet spot is probably a combination of the three. I love to read, then discuss what I’ve read with others. My best ideas always come out when talking with others. And then I try to apply whatever I read to my work. That’s not always possible, but if possible I’ll do it.
How many times did you reinvent yourself?
Probably a few. Even though, if I look back there are always dots that connect. When I applied to Management School I thought that one day, I would work on Wall Street. Very rapidly, I understood that wouldn’t be the case and ended up falling in love with entrepreneurship and innovation. I’ve co-founded several projects and companies. I’ve worked for startups, as an advisor for the government, as a community manager, and have had many many hats. I spend my days juggling between managing a company, sales work, project management, advising other entrepreneurs, and making sure that I stay relevant in a world that’s going faster.
Being an avid reader, how do you pick the next book to read? And how do you retain what you read?
At the end of 2020, I published an article with a list of the books I read and a promise to myself: in 2021, my focus would be on reading as much as possible on climate action. We are in early February and I already broke my promise. I read a book about the climate emergency, but I also read about innovation, gender equality, and some sci-fi. Right now, I’m reading a book on Systems Thinking. This shows that the way I pick my next book it’s quite unpredictable. I just pick the one that at that moment makes the most sense.
For retaining, I highlight and take notes. Sometimes I take notes on paper, other times on the computer. I use Readwise to save my Kindle highlights and every day it shows me a “Daily Review” of highlights from the previous books I read. It’s a great way of remembering what I read in the past.
But, I’m not one of those people that can quote books by heart and will remember everything about the book. The value of reading comes from the collision with my own thoughts on that topic. Sometimes I will disagree with the book. Sometimes the book will reinforce my own opinions. Other times it will confuse me and will require some more digging and exploration.
The future of work
How do you envision the future of work?
I envision a future where work and social status will no longer be connected. The transition years will be painful and confusing and I’m not sure what is on the other side.
What’s your take on remote work?
Over the years, I’ve learned to take new trends and panaceas with a pinch of salt. I believe there are lots of advantages to working remotely — the savings in commuting, being able to eat homemade food every day, being able to organize my time and work to what best suits me, and being able to work from wherever I want — it’s great.
But, from what I’m seeing there are lots of challenges to it. The most visible has to do with the replication of the bad office habits, online. There are meetings for everything and anything. People are being interrupted all the time. The expectation is that you are always available. And most people have a hard time switching off. This is the recipe for disaster and burn out.
The less visible challenges have to do with the dehumanization of work. People become faceless cogs of a big machine that picks, selects, and replaces based on obscure algorithms that no one controls. We get a glimpse of that future when we look at the gig economy workers, working for food delivery and transportation apps. I’m afraid the whole economy is moving in that direction, without necessarily noticing it.
What do you think about the idea of a universal basic income?
Great idea. I’m all for it. My prediction is that in the next few years, we’ll finally see the productivity gains that the information economy hasn’t delivered yet and that we’ll see a significant increase in structural unemployment. UBI is the solution for that.
Past and Future
Can you share some of the major lessons you’ve learned in life?
1.Understand the idea behind compounding
Many people look at what I’ve done over the years and get very confused. How was I able to do so many things? Many ask me how many hours a night I sleep and get even more confused when I say on average 9 hours.
What people don’t see is that I’m building my body of work, pretty much since I turned 18 years old. Over the past 13 years, I’ve been doing more and more work in the areas I’m passionate about and these many years later it looks like I’ve done a lot. Compounding is not only for interests, but also for work, reading, reputation and many other areas in our lives. Do something, every day, no matter how small. 10 years later, it will look like a lot.
2. Sleep, Exercise, and a healthy diet
These are my priorities every day. It took me a long time to really understand this, but if I sleep well, eat well and exercise every day, the gains are exponential.
3. It’s much easier to move something that is already moving
This might sound weird, but I think about this many times. When I want to explore a new area or idea, I just start doing something. No matter how small, I just get started to get my foot in the door. Then, once immersed in that area, you start seeing opportunities and things that otherwise you wouldn’t and it’s your choice what to do with them.
4. Do the reading
See past the headlines, find better sources, and deep dive into the topics you care about. The amount of times I end up talking with entrepreneurs that know less about their market and competitors than I do, it’s heartbreaking. You don’t need to know everything about everything. But if you care about something, go the extra mile.
5. Surround yourself with the right people
Make sure that you are surrounded with positive people that want your best and will help you grow as a human being and a professional. We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Be careful.
Which big questions do you have on your mind currently?
Am I being too pessimistic about the future? Or am I just being realistic?
What am I not paying attention to, that I should be?
How do you face the future? Do you make plans for it?
At the end of each year, I look at what worked well, didn’t work so well, and what needs to be improved. I also look at the year ahead and set a few goals (personal and work-related) that I want to accomplish. I don’t do much more than this. I just try to make sure that I have developed the habits and routines that will help me succeed in whatever I decide to do.
What should I have asked, but didn’t?