Fernanda doubles as part of the Community Support Team and the International team at Wattpad. I met her about a year ago, on the first day I started working at Wattpad. I have had the pleasure of sharing a work space (and many, many morning coffees) with her where we have discussed a variety of things, including life, career, relationships, and our mutual love for fashion. She was the second person I told about this blog idea and so featuring her as my first interviewee was a no-brainer. What I find inspiring about her is her resilience and thirst for learning. I was honored to chat with her about her move to Canada, exploring various career options, and her thoughts on tradition as a barrier to advancement for women.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your journey so far.
My name is Fernanda. I’m 27, and I work as a Community Support Specialist and also manage the Portuguese Community at Wattpad. I moved here from Brazil in 2011. I actually came to Montreal to study French for a month but then I fell in love with the country. At the time, I was working in Brazil in advertising as a copywriter. So I had to go back, wrap things up, and prepare myself for the big move. When I moved here, I took a course on writing for Film and TV which was really useful – I got to improve my English, meet new people, and network. After, I started looking for Copy-writing jobs here – for immigration purposes, I needed a permanent job. But then I got into Community Management, specifically content creation. Eventually, that led to my job here at Wattpad!
Do you have any role models that influenced you and guided you to where you are today?
This is going to sound so cliché, but my mum. My mum is very into sitting us down and giving us all sorts of life advice. She is a much more serious person than I am. For example, she is able to separate her personal life from her professional life whereas I’m friends with a bunch of my co-workers. But I do try to follow some of the things she taught me growing up, such as respecting people and hierarchy.
What is a saying that you live by, or that influences your daily life?
The dream still fits the plan. It’s actually from a song.
Interesting.. The dream still fits the plan. What does that mean to you?
What is one of the best decisions you have ever made?
Moving here. It was tough.. It was a process. It wasn’t like I got here and was immediately like – yes, I’m glad I did this! It took a long time and I had to learn new things, but in the end it made me more confident and independent. I used to care a lot about what other people thought. Actually, when I moved here I thought – now I can be whoever I want – which is actually not true – you keep being you. BUT, the fact that no one was there to judge me made me stronger.
I went through a similar experience moving here from Kenya, and I’m sure many others did. What would you say was your biggest challenge or struggle as an immigrant?
One big challenge was being patronized, constantly, because of my accent. Also, it’s hard to make friends which is normal because you make friends with people you relate to. But at first I couldn’t relate to anyone because we didn’t have much in common. The biggest struggle professionally was trying to prove myself over and over again. It’s a lot better now – I’m much more comfortable. Over time, it does get better.
What is one of the worst decisions you have ever made?
I feel like I made very logical decisions. I chose to go for advertising but I was really passionate about art. I don’t necessarily regret it because I know people who took the opposite path and ended up questioning their decisions, so who knows! In the end, it’s never too late – I do want to take a course in Art History or something along those lines to explore that side of things, even if it’s just as a hobby.
What drew you to your current position in tech?
I am a very random person and my job at Wattpad magically caters to a lot of my interests! I love technology, I love writing, and I was able to bring in my Portuguese language skills combined with my Community Management background to the table, which set me apart from other candidates. I love the community aspect of things because of my interest in psychology, understanding people, what makes them happy, and how to engage with them in various situations. I’m exposed to all this and more both in Community Support and as a Community Manager.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am in charge of Account-related problems, so in Community Support I have to answer related support tickets, do a lot of investigating around these problems, and work with the rest of the team to improve our process around Accounts. On the Community Management side of things, I work closely with a team of Portuguese-speaking Ambassadors who are passionate members of the Wattpad community that volunteer their time to help manage the community. They are constantly keeping me updated on great reads they find for featuring purposes as they are responsible for surfacing content in different categories. They keep an eye out for up-and-coming writers, any relevant information outside of Wattpad that appeals to the Portuguese community, and generally help me keep the community safe and positive. I also work with other International Managers at Wattpad – Allen (Wattpad CEO) calls us the CEOs of our countries! We basically work with other teams in the company such as data, growth, and product to strategize and work towards Wattpad’s international growth.
Thinking back on your career so far and the roles you have held, what are some of the challenges/obstacles you have faced?
I had more challenges with Advertising because the culture is very different – it’s very demanding, and not as encouraging. I felt like sometimes, even when I provided good options, it was never enough – they always wanted more. In my current role people trust my decisions and experience a lot more. So if I say that is the best option, they are not looking for more.
Looking back at your life, what career goals did you have while you were younger and how have they evolved over time?
I have always been a very random person [laughs]. When I was younger, I had a notebook and on each page I had a drawing and a story based on the drawing. I remember my mum found the notebook once and told me I was adorable . I never said I wanted to be a writer – it just kind of happened. Going into university, I was really into Physics and Math, but my mum thought it wasn’t for me for some reason. Everyone has different sides, and I guess she never saw that side of me. I kind of wanted to be an architect too, but I wasn’t as confident when I was a teenager. There are a lot of architects in my family so there was lots of pressure – I didn’t want to be the worst architect in my family! And then I ended up in advertising because it mixes logic, creativity, some psychology and I liked that advertising agencies are generally open-minded. I knew I’d never be something like a lawyer – I’m not the super formal type.
Would you go back to do Math and Sciences?
I think my mum was right – it wasn’t for me. I was just really good at it in high school but I think I’d get bored.
What advice would you give the younger you?
Be more social – interact with more people. In the past, if I really admired someone, instead of talking to them and trying to learn from them I would avoid them – I’d physically be way across the room from them! And it’s really the opposite – the more you get closer, the more you can learn from them. I never wanted to be seen as the apple-polisher, but now I realize that it’s not such a bad thing.
What do you want to accomplish with the next phase of your career?
I want to know what I want [laughs]!! The problem is that I want too many things, so I want to be able to pick one and stick to it! I like what I’m doing now as I’m learning a lot from the different aspects of my job, so I know that I want to continue to learn from people. I don’t have a perfect plan for the future, but I know what I don’t want.
What is success to you?
Not depending on others…financially, emotionally. And having enough time for myself. We spend so much time working to make money but there’s no point if I don’t have time to spend that money! I think success is also being proud of what you do – I feel like I have a sense of purpose now. I’m helping emerging writers from Brazil and that’s my small way of giving back.
What is your definition of a feminist?
To me, feminism is fighting for choice. We need to get to the point where we have the same rights, and from there you can choose whatever you want. It’s unfair to say, for example, that a career-focused woman is more feminist than a stay-at-home mom. I think we just need to have the right of choice.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female advancement?
Traditions in general, such as religion. There are lots of misconceptions that we have to change. I’ve heard people say – there aren’t that many women in tech because we are not good enough. There’s people who tell girls that science or tech is something they should not be doing. It just creates this vicious cycle, this snowball effect. Another thing is that there are a lot of women who are not feminists and I think that’s ridiculous. How can be against yourself?
What role do you think women play in our advancement?
I think that we are more united than we used to be – we treat each other better, we are more supportive of each other – and this needs to continue.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women after you?
I want to be optimistic, but I think they’ll face similar problems as we do now. It’s a process – we aren’t going to fix everything right now. We still have a long way to go as far as bigger issues like equal pay, violence against women, to other issues such as the Free the Nipple where we would be able to express ourselves in various ways.
What advice would you give girls/women looking to pursue a career path similar to yours?
Do the best that you can today, and it will pay off. Keep learning about the things you are interested in even if it feels like there’s no immediate pay-off. Everything you learn is a valuable addition to who you are, and who knows when it will come in handy! Learn a little bit of everything.
Do you have any book or blog recommendations that have inspired you as a woman in tech?
Your blog [laughs]? I don’t have book recommendations, but I would recommend watching the movie Thelma and Louise.