Beyond Predictable #3 – Overcoming career challenges with confidence and integrity
Making decisions about life-changing matters can be a daunting exercise, but it definitely doesn’t need to be a paralyzing one. The sign of a dynamic businessperson is the sense of discretion to tell when and how to take a chance and embrace risks in order to grow. Fortunately, that sense is something that can be honed with practice and persistence, and, here at VTEX, those experiences are enthusiastically encouraged.
Reaching out to form partnerships, exploring new markets, accepting some job offers, and declining others – those are all decisions that require a clear view of what the future is meant to be and what can be done to get there. At VTEX, every deal we sign is a commitment to shape our present choices into steps towards a common goal that transforms things for the better.
The third episode of Beyond Predictable brings Daniela Jurado Jabba and Juliana Meyer to talk about making bold decisions with confidence, overcoming career challenges with personal integrity, and bringing female leaders to the forefront of the tech industry.
Juliana Meyer is currently a Technical Writer at VTEX. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration at Universidade de Brasília and has previously worked with social impact organizations in Mexico and Panama and in a digital animation studio in London. Currently delving into the e-commerce universe as a tech writer at VTEX, she was also one of the founding members of the tech writing community in Brazil. She co-hosts a podcast called The Manuscript that explores the intersection between writing and technology.
Daniela Jurado is the Western Europe General Manager at VTEX. Since joining us in 2015, she has had experience in partner program management, including creating the partner program for Latin America and then leading the program globally. Also, she has worked as Sales Director in Brazil and Country Manager in Italy before leading all our Western Europe operations. Prior to VTEX, she was a commercial business analyst for Paragon Decision Science. Daniela has a degree in International Affairs from Universidad Externado of Colombia and an MBA from the FIA Business School in Sao Paulo.
This thought-provoking conversation can be listened to below:
These are the main insights from our conversation:
- An unpredictable future starts with a bold move. Always taking safe bets when a big decision must be made feels comfortable, but it leaves no space for different outcomes to life. It is only by taking risks – calculated ones, but risks nonetheless – that reaching new distances becomes a feasible possibility.
- The network of relationships that supports your progress also depends on your performance to stay strong. It is much easier to take bold steps when there is someone who’s got your back – your family, your peers, your company. But never forget that is a two-way street, since your reliability and dedication to common goals are what will drive people to give you a boost when you need it.
- Take the reigns of the narrative around you and build your vision into the future. Even the most unexpected turns of events can serve as opportunities to insert your way of doing things into a bigger picture, as long as there’s commitment to both personal integrity and authenticity towards all partners.
- Removing debris from outdated world views requires focus on what today could be. Some obstacles that get in the way of a more desirable future are things that belong strictly in the past, including bigoted and exclusionary behaviors that people normalized earlier in their lives. The best way of chipping away at this kind of roadblock, however, is to shine a light on how such ignorance seems displaced and pointless when put side by side with the active integrity and competence of the people it would marginalize.
- Self-improvement goes far beyond education. Skills and abilities are valuable and should never be overlooked, but the most important decision-making processes depend far more on an honest and resilient mindset than on book smarts.
Beyond Predictable is now a bi-weekly podcast, so stay tuned for even more instigating talks about the VTEX way of building an unpredictable future!
You can read the full transcript of this conversation below
(Juliana Meyer) Hello and welcome to the third episode of Beyond Predictable, the podcast where we talk about the future and how we are building it here at VTEX.
All of our episodes can be found on your preferred podcast service, so you’ll get a notification of our new uploads every two weeks–if you subscribe, of course! If I were you, I wouldn’t miss the conversations we’re about to have.
My name is Juliana Meyer, and usually, I’m part of VTEX’s Tech Writing team, but today I’ll be your host as we talk about taking leaps of faith, overcoming career challenges, and the importance of female narratives and representation in the industry.
Our guest couldn’t be more perfect for this conversation. It’s my pleasure to introduce Daniela Jurado Jabba, our Western Europe General Manager: besides her honors degrees in International Affairs and Business management, Dani’s career has spanned all over Latin America in client prospection, partnership programs, sales management… and then she went and did it all again from scratch, by herself, in Italy. Forgive me if I’m gushing a bit, but I’m a fan!
(Daniela Jurado) Haha, c’mon Ju, you’ll make me blush here.
(Juliana Meyer) No, seriously! I first got to know you at one of our All-Hands internal events, where you were a speaker sharing the progress you were making in VTEX in Italy, and I was just amazed; your work was really inspiring.
(Daniela Jurado) Well, it makes me happy to know that.
(Juliana Meyer) But we’re giving out spoilers about the rest of the episode here. Before I get ahead of myself, though, let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell us about your path that led you here? What has your career been like?
(Daniela Jurado) I guess “eventful” is a good way to describe it. There’s been many turning points where I had to make a big decision and honor it through and through. But let’s start at the beginning. I’m Colombian and I first came to Brazil for an exchange program at USP, then I decided to stay. I had a job that I liked and I also met my husband in São Paulo.
That’s when our co-CEO Mariano Gomide came in the picture. A friend introduced us at a congress and he found something in me that he wanted for VTEX. At first, I shot down his job offer, since he wanted to send me to Colombia, and I didn’t see myself moving back there at that point. But he was determined that I was going to be important for his company’s growth, and he kept in touch for weeks until we set up a meeting for us to talk in person again.
I remember it clearly–it was super informal, at a bakery right across the street from VTEX, and he insisted on hiring me even though there was no job opening for me in the Brazilian offices at that moment. Mariano had such a clear vision of where the company was headed that I decided it didn’t matter that my position within it wasn’t just as clear yet. I would have the opportunity to make my own position here.
(Juliana Meyer) Would you say that that was the first shot in the dark that you had to take?
(Daniela Jurado) Definitely, and it’s probably the biggest one, too. I had an offer for a position at Michael Page at the same time, with a very well-defined job description and a nice and predictable progression within its ranks, but I chose to take my chances with VTEX. The freedom to explore business my own way seemed better for me then, and it still does now. My husband thought I was crazy when I told him I’d chosen to work for a company where they didn’t even know what I was going to do for sure, but he gave me his full support to see where I could run with it. That’s why he’s my husband, after all–it’s so important to surround ourselves with people who give us a foothold to take this kind of step.
(Juliana Meyer) I’m glad to hear that. And from what you’ve shared, that risky bet has been paying off well! But I’m still curious to know more about how you have gone from a position with no specific job description, to the key role you play in the European front of our operations? What has helped you keep on track along the way?
(Daniela Jurado) With a lot of discipline and focus on what we needed to do to reach our goals. In 2015, when I first joined VTEX, we still had to strengthen our reach into the Latin American market, so that’s what I decided to tackle. We needed qualified partners, so I started making new contacts, prospecting agencies, creating our certification program. I flew all over LATAM for almost two years–Argentina, Colombia, Mexico (you name it, I was there) finding partners that match our excellence standards and our fast-paced results, that speak the same future-creating language that we do.
That approach was very successful for us, so Mariano talked to me once again and made me Global Partner Head. It was under my watch that this kind of partnership became the standard of VTEX connections to agencies and clients worldwide. After about a year and a half with that task, though, I was ready for new challenges, and I decided to quit VTEX.
(Juliana Meyer) What a plot twist? Really? What happened? I mean, you’re here now, so…
(Daniela Jurado) Mariano happened, that’s what! I’d just told Nubia, one of our Directors at the time, that I was quitting VTEX for a higher position at LinkedIn when the phone rang. She answered it and a second later just handed me the phone and said, “You tell him,” so I broke the news to Mariano. He seemed stunned, but he wished me the best, reassured me all doors at VTEX would remain open, and hung up amicably. Five minutes later, he called again and told me, “No, I don’t accept your resignation, come to Portugal and let’s talk.”
For a few days, I even tried to say that it didn’t make any sense, my career shift was surely happening, I had all the paperwork ready to go… but in the end, I wanted to listen to what he had to say, so I took a plane to Portugal and met Mariano. As soon as we sat down at a restaurant, he pulled out a napkin and a pen and started to sketch out the next plans he had for VTEX. Then, he asked me what would it take for me to see myself being a part of those plans. That’s how I was promised to be the Country Manager in Italy in the near future, after I picked up some skills as the Sales Director in Brazil that I would need for this role.
(Juliana Meyer) Wow, this napkin should be kept in VTEX’s museum of prized items, talk about a leap of faith on both sides. You left a confirmed position in a giant company to keep investing in your career at VTEX, and Mariano trusted your competence to take on such a huge task. I really appreciate how your path at VTEX is filled with those leaps and bold decisions.
(Daniela Jurado) It was a big decision, for sure, but I don’t think it was bigger than the first one, joining the company in the first place. Commitment is the way I reach everything I do, and that second time I already knew that VTEX honors these values. Making this kind of jump is a little easier when you know that you’re backed up. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way at some point working here, haven’t you?
(Juliana Meyer) That’s so true. Besides my main work as a Tech Writer, I’ve recently started hosting our Demo Fridays, this weekly ritual that joins almost 500 VTEXers live, to align everyone worldwide. At this event, everyone in the company is invited to deliver presentations that showcase VTEX’s strategy and demonstrate collective progress towards a better VTEX. Just speaking in front of that many people on a weekly basis is already incredibly daunting, let alone making sure that every single word that I choose to say is relevant, adding to the future that we’re building. And the event itself has been turning into something more refined and structured than it used to be when VTEX was smaller, so that’s some added responsibility as well. It is a task that could overwhelm me, but VTEX has this environment where the decision to put myself out there is just part of my growth process, you know? “Be bold” we say. Plus, I have a really strong purpose connecting me to the host position, since having more female voices in the company that feel heard is something that matters a lot to me, and that’s how I can do my part. I guess courage is a planned effort, right?
(Daniela Jurado) Exactly. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have been able to start as Country Manager in Italy with a month of forewarning, that’s for sure.
(Juliana Meyer) Just a month? What do you mean? This conversation is continuously blowing my mind.
(Daniela Jurado) Our initial plans gave me a little over a year in Brazil to get ready for the change, but we needed to start approaching the Italian market six months earlier than that. So, in December 2018, I got the news I’d have to live in Milan by January 2019. That was another day when I went home, and I barely knew what to tell my husband, but he was fully in support of me taking on the task and us finding a way to make things work.
That’s how I found myself hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb for a few months (by the way, don’t try to book anywhere decent in Milan during fashion week, it’s not going to happen) and operating out of a co-working space for a while. At the time, we didn’t have any Growth Ops department, so I had to do all the grassroots work once again: discovering who could be our clients, our partners, our team here; overcoming the communication barrier from speaking entry-level Italian to giving full presentations in the language three months later; learning to navigate a different culture with different business habits.
After all of that, when things finally started looking up, the pandemic hit Italy like a bomb. The market retracted into its shell and, suddenly, it became ten times harder to consolidate VTEX as a reliable player in the country. It took committing to our goals and resilience to see things through when nothing seemed to go our way, but I can say I was very satisfied with the results I had to show by the time I went on maternity leave.
(Juliana Meyer) You mean that half of those things happened while you were pregnant.
(Daniela Jurado) Yes. I got promoted to Western Europe Head of Sales in April 2020, two weeks before I had my baby. According to Mariano, if the Yahoo CEO can do it, so can I. I think he’s right, too. It was my choice to work until 7pm the day before I had a C-section.
(Juliana Meyer) Talking about your current position, in your opinion, what is essential when tackling the challenges that come with a rising career?
(Daniela Jurado) Every time you move to a new place, as a new player in a different market or as a new leader in a different office, one of the things you can’t do without, but you have to build from the ground up, is trust. When people don’t know what you have to offer, you have to show them why your work is as good as your word-building. That recognition takes time and effort, it’s earned, and it cannot be taken for granted. People have to know they can rely on you so any real connection can be established.
(Juliana Meyer) I know what you mean. I used to work at a startup in Panama who supported female entrepreneurs all over the country, so we provided business education and tools to all sorts of women, from young graduates with startup plans to grandmas who sell cakes in their neighborhoods, and that experience taught me so much about the importance of reliability, and the networks of people that have your back. I think it’s impossible to really make things change without having that support system and trust.
(Daniela Jurado) That’s such an interesting experience. It also makes me think of the lengths we have to go to change things that shouldn’t really be happening anymore, you know? Like sexism in the workplace, and everywhere for that matter. It’s overdue that female leadership be normalized, so we can see equal numbers of men and women in prominent positions, but sometimes it seems that being a woman with a successful career is somehow revolutionary. It’s a little disheartening to notice that I’m the only female speaker in a day-long event, or that no women applied for a job opening we posted.
(Juliana Meyer) I’m actually relieved you decided to bring this topic up. I think it’s so important to raise awareness about the inequalities that women keep on facing in the industry. My previous experiences, besides my time in Panama, made sure I knew them very up close… We have to raise our voice about those issues. But at the same time, it’s really annoying when we’re asked for the millionth time, “what is it like to be a woman in tech?” or things like that. I believe it puts us in this space where that’s the only subject that we can add to interviews, instead of normalizing strong, female leadership, and exploring our achievements, competences and challenges. That’s why I’m enjoying our conversation so much. But still, I would very much like to get your perspective on this, so to make it a question, how do you deal with gender inequality at work?
(Daniela Jurado) I think that, at an individual level, the best I can do is to know my worth and let my work do the talking. For example, once, during those chaotic first months in Italy, I was working with a consultant in order to get in contact with more potential partners. He got us a meeting, but I told him I’d arrive a few minutes late because of a previous appointment. He almost ruined my day when, as I joined him and a board full of men who were to be my business partners, he introduced me by saying, “Didn’t I tell you she is worth waiting for?,” clearly indicating my physical appearance. I felt like doing a hundred bad things at that moment, but I kept my cool and delivered the absolute best, the most convincing, most professional presentation I could. My vindication came when one of the participants decided to say, by the end of the presentation, that I was definitely “a business partner worth waiting for,” with emphasis on my professional performance. Later, I also let the consultant know why I would never work with him again.
(Juliana Meyer) I’m sorry you had to go through that whole situation, but I’m glad it ended up on a positive note for you. Going back a little bit, earlier you mentioned you were getting few female applicants for job openings if any at all. Do you think that is a tech industry issue? How could we solve that?
(Daniela Jurado) I’m not sure it’s something that happens only in our field, there are many male-dominated areas out there, but this is the one I see directly. I wonder if women feel intimidated by the certainty that they’ll be outnumbered by men if that on itself is discouraging. If so, I’d urge more women to put themselves out there and apply for the positions they want. We will only even out those numbers if enough of us make a move to occupy the same space men do as equals. That, and, of course, it is a sign of true leadership when a company makes sure that its workplace is welcoming to every member of a team, regardless of gender or any other diversity trait. Diversity is key to keeping a company authentic.
(Juliana Meyer) Shifting gears a bit, I’d like to ask you what is the future you see going forward for VTEX in Western Europe?
(Daniela Jurado) Right now, our sights are set on consolidating our Western European operations. We are active in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, and we need to expand our teams to meet the rising demand of our products in these countries. Finding, training and certifying more like-minded partners, who start their work from the future, is also part of the picture. After that, we can extend that model to other European countries, or even to another continent.
(Juliana Meyer) Alright, so that brings us to the last question of the day–since we’re on the topic of expanding our teams, is there any hint you would like to give to people who are looking for a career upgrade?
(Daniela Jurado) As I see it, choosing a person to join our team always comes down to a matter of attitude. Of course, it’s important to invest in your education, in knowledge and skills, but at the end of the day, information can be taught to you by someone else. Nobody but you can make you disciplined, resilient, reliable, or willing to listen. All of those qualities are a result of personal effort on your part.