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Q&A with Bianca Garcez

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Bianca Garcez , Chief Of Staff @Pollinate

How could you describe your career path in few words?

Always purposeful, but non-linear and at changing speeds. I’m an extremely curious person who is always learning something new and likes to jump from one new topic to another. From a personal perspective, I always need to feel that I’m growing and developing new skills and knowledge, even if I don’t see the immediate link between those and my current role - my parents raised me with the mojo ‘knowledge is power, never underestimate it’. As a pitfall of my learning thirst, in my first years, I quickly specialised and built a reputation in a very niche technical area - which I later decided not to pursue... I wasn’t happy, and when I looked up, I definitely did not aspire to have my bosses’ jobs one day. It took courage to go back to a learning environment and persist in jobs I did not love for the sake of building solid new skills while I was defining and planning my next steps. I took advantage of all the learning resources I could in my Consulting years, whilst making a lot of self-reflection on my personal values and working with a coach to identify what brings me joy at work and what drains my energy. My learnings from Consulting and from my MBA were extremely useful to my next role as a Chief of Staff to a Fintech scale-up, where I confirmed the speed and culture that really makes me excited and energised to get to work! From an international tax lawyer to consultant to Fintech Chief of Staff, it has definitely not been a linear journey, but it was never random - each step was thoughtfully planned in order to harvest better results in the future and bring me closer to the final destination.

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?

I actually made a TedX video pretty much about this topic! You can check it out here. I’m the kind of person who likes surprises and to experience new things. For me, ‘uncertain’ and ‘unusual’ are not necessarily bad, although sometimes we all tend to fear the worse when taken by surprise. Whenever I react like that, I try to take inspiration from the most optimistic people I know (my partner included) and look at it from the perspective of all the great possibilities that situation can actually unlock. As a simple example, the pandemic tested our nerves on many aspects, but it was the single event which completely normalised remote working and flexible hours to most of us - and with that, even unprecedented remote opportunities which were previously strictly tied to your geographic location. The uncertain/unusual breaks the mould, which can be fantastic when the mould wasn’t great to start with! The way we face those situations, with either a mindset of annoyance/fear or curiosity/openness can even influence their outcomes, and studies on positive psychology prove that when we expect and are open for better outcomes, chances are much higher we end up receiving those. So I would always try to see what good can come out of it, analysing and trying to influence the events as they happen, instead of just focusing on mitigating all possible negative scenarios that have not yet been confirmed. I find it also helpful to speak with people in my close circle who would have a different approach/reaction to the same events, so they may help me open up to seeing things from a completely different perspective - which is usually on the opportunity side

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

I believe there are three key factors. First, every female leader struggles at least in the beginning of their careers with finding the right tone, and making sure it’s the right tone for their business environment (i.e., not too tough or you’ll be perceived as aggressive and masculine, but not too soft or you’d be cheered like a golden retriever but never respected and taken seriously). I went through very extreme phases until I found my own tone, from being labelled as ‘too direct’ while being overworked and stressed to not being taken seriously for being too smiley and happy at work - when humour is actually my coping mechanism to still be able to enjoy work when things are tough... There is no rule to follow on this, and context matters a lot (different countries, company cultures and industries will require different adjustments). I did not have many female role models in the beginning of my career to look up to, so I learned it the hard way, but I believe nowadays. Second is finding a sponsor. A study from Harvard published in 2010 was my eye opener to how the lack of sponsorship is a serious career limitation to women. We are way more likely to believe in the fallacies of pure meritocracy and forget the power of relationships and how they interfere with company decisions, opportunities and visibility of your work. If no one (or most importantly, the right person) is looking at (and supporting) what you are doing, just hard work will not get you to your next step. Third and last is networking - doing it properly, consistently and using the power of your network to the right purposes. Women are a lot less likely to use the power of their networks and to nurture those relationships over time, for a series of additional barriers to us that range from family duties that typically conflict with those extra hours events (and the need to share those responsibilities with a supporting partner) to being misinterpreted for flirting when networking with men. Part of it is now softened by more flexibility at work becoming the general rule in most places, so it tends to be easier to fit in a coffee conversation or a lunch with a former colleague than it was in pre-pandemic times. I really enjoy talking with people who I met along my career journey so it comes naturally to me to reach out from time to time and see what interesting things they are up to, but introverts need a bit more discipline to keep those conversations going. You never know where those casual catch ups can lead to!

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