Unicorn also needs to slow down, explains Fernanda Weiden, from VTex
- May 24, 2022
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the executive Fernanda Weiden was hired, in January 2022, as CTO of VTex, a Brazilian multinational unicorn, digital commerce platform for large companies and retailers. The achievement of the position would put her in evidence in the Brazilian innovation scenario under any circumstances – but the novelty became even more striking because she was at the end of gestation at that moment. Fernanda often says that the construction of her professional roadmap mixed attention to opportunities, willingness to try new things and maintaining a strong network of contacts.
Attention to the opportunity set her on her current course. She was studying mathematics to be a teacher, but in 1995 she realized that the internet would transform Brazil and the world even faster than expected. “I started my self-taught journey in the area, as I don’t have a degree in computer science”, she says. “Later, my insecurity ended up helping me. I didn’t feel confident and decided to do a certification program at Red Hat, which works with open source software enterprise solutions”. She became the first woman in Latin America with this certification.
From there, his career took off. He worked at tech giants such as IBM, Google and Facebook. One of its current causes is to bring more women to the area. He wants to change the rules of the corporate game, still very masculine, but he doesn’t think anyone needs to wait for that to happen. “I know that conditions for women in the workplace are not ideal, but this cannot be the focus of the discussion. It is more powerful to occupy spaces, make the change and open people’s minds regarding the theme”, she says.
EPOCA BUSINESS – Many women are still afraid of getting pregnant and put off motherhood because of their careers. His trajectory shows that it is possible to reconcile both roles. Before being hired pregnant by VTex, you had already received an invitation to the board of Único when your first child was one year old. How does one role affect the other?
Fernanda Weiden – Motherhood brings an important and new motivation for professionals, because we know that there is someone else depending on us and for whom we want to offer our best, provide quality education and diverse experiences. The fact of serving as a model also has a huge weight. I want my daughters to see me as a fulfilled, happy person who challenges herself to reach new heights. I want them to be inspired to also go after their goals and dreams.
Regarding skills, in my case, I feel that motherhood has greatly reduced my anxiety to solve everything as quickly as possible, especially at work. When you’re eager to deliver something soon, you can hardly get the best solution. I see myself much more balanced after I became a mother, and thinking about my professional life, as my work depends a lot on decision-making, having more balance for this is a big difference.
BUSINESS – What needs to be done to increase the number of women in leadership? A survey by the International Labor Organization (ILO) shows that although 87% of companies think about increasing diversity among employees, only 60% actually promote inclusion.
Fernanda – I always say that we need to get out of the corporate cliché of ‘let’s create a diversity program’, as if that were enough. Many companies think that just developing a program is enough. Diversity is not just an action or goal. There are several actions, some simple, others complex. It is continuous and constant work, which will never end. How is hiring thought out? How do you hear the quieter voices in the room? How have you worked to make teams receptive to different opinions and different perspectives? Are there women, blacks or LGBT+ in leadership roles?
At VTex, we work to show that anyone can grow. In addition to myself, there are five other executives on the technology leadership team: Renata Lorenz, Vice President of Product; Letícia Faria, vice president of Technical Operations; Anaterra Oliveira, Director of Engineering; Laura Lessa, Design Director; Michelle Ribeiro, Head of Security; and Paula Fonseca, director of Tech Workforce Expansion. Diversity is essential. If you put only like-minded people in a room, no one evolves.
Throughout my career, I participated in many training sessions that explained how to play this corporate game, which is predominantly male. What we need is to change that logic. And when you introduce more female leaders into companies, you start to change those rules. You are no longer telling all women that they need to adapt to male logic, but changing the way the game is played. This needs to happen so that corporate environments are more receptive to women and diversity in general. It is important that women see themselves in these spaces and realize that this possibility exists. That thing about the girl who sees a woman becoming president or a black girl who sees Maju on TV with the same hair as her. It’s about being able to see yourself in places.
BUSINESS – VTex’s technology team has doubled in the last two years and the company has plans to expand its operations beyond the Latin American market, to regions such as Europe and the United States. What is your role in this expansion?
Fernanda – The first point is to take care of everything internally. The team needs to feel cared for, seen and part of the growth strategy. This is how we have productive and engaged professionals. It is the focus of the beginning of my work. The company has hired a lot of professionals in the last two years and my role now is to encourage the team to slow down a little to breathe and, thus, get back on track. My proposal is to generate more intentional growth, that is, to reflect on what we are doing and the pillars we need to work on to get where we want to be. Hiring is not always the solution. Often, it is necessary to improve processes or the software infrastructure, in addition to enhancing the productivity of the team with tools that help this happen.
Regarding the expansion to other countries, our team is now focused on issues such as trust, privacy and security. The American market, for example, is very demanding on these points, as is the European market, which has privacy legislation that is a model for other countries.
The work now is to build balance. On the one hand, the technology and the product and, on the other, what the customer wants, what is important for the company and what are the points that we are bringing to the table and to the market. Thus, we were able to define the team’s priorities, generating a discipline of trust. Reliability is a crucial topic for us.
BUSINESS – What is the buzzword, catchphrase or corporate cliché you can’t stand to hear anymore and why?
Fernanda – There are some… one of them is “we want to be a big tech”. Reaching this level is not just a wish, you have to think about what you are doing to get there in terms of investing in culture, engineering, people… How do you see the employer value proposition? What is delivering value to people that makes them want to be part of your company? Today, everyone wants to be big tech. And just wanting doesn’t get you very far. Sometimes, there is a little discrepancy in relation to the speech and the willingness to commit, in fact, to the changes that will lead to this level.
BUSINESS – What was your best professional decision?
Fernanda – The most contradictory, but which turned out to be the best decision I made, was to leave Google to work at Facebook, which was still at the beginning of the journey, earning much less. At the time, Google was already a company of 30 thousand employees, well structured and successful. Facebook, on the other hand, had only 5,000 employees and was structuring itself and in the pre-IPO phase. I learned a lot there as a manager and participating in the company’s growth.
BUSINESS – And the worst professional decision?
Fernanda – The worst is closely related to the Imposter Syndrome. I started three degrees and a master’s degree and dropped out of all courses. Sometimes I find myself asking myself “did I do this because I can’t commit to myself enough?” Maybe it was a little of that, but it was how it had to be. I believe that at some moments in life, the butterflies in our stomach are telling us to do one thing and our head another. In some, I didn’t listen to the butterflies and my decisions weren’t the best.
BUSINESS – What is your best and worst habit?
Fernanda – The best thing, which has always been natural for me, is that I care a lot about people in my professional and personal life. I’m really interested in everyone’s lives, I want to know what’s important to each one. My biggest passion is dealing with people.
BUSINESS – And the worst habit?
Fernanda – The worst is procrastination. I would like to be that person who organizes everything and finishes activities early, but I always leave everything to the last minute.
BUSINESS – Which TV series have you liked the most lately?
Fernanda – I watched two seasons of Ted Lasso (series available on Apple TV+) and I really enjoyed it. The story is about a small college football coach in the United States who is hired to coach a professional football team in England, but he doesn’t know the rules and has little experience. For me, there are many analogies with management. I just joined VTEX and I’m learning about e-commerce and the company’s culture. And I feel kind of Ted Lasso. In addition, this coach is very concerned with people, with the relationships he builds in the team. One cutscene shows him talking to a player who held a grudge against everything. Then he asks: “Do you know which is the happiest animal in the world?” The player says no and he replies, “The goldfish. Do you know why? It has a memory of 10 seconds. Be a gold fish!”. That is, do not hold a grudge and you will be happier. For me, it’s a relaxed and totally different way of looking at management.
Source: Época Negócios