Women in Leadership #2: Daniela Jurado, EMEA General Manager at VTEX
We are back with yet another installment of our Women in Leadership content series, in which we celebrate the female leadership that has marked VTEX’s trajectory. Today, out of all days, on International Women’s Day, we are proud to discover more about Daniela Jurado Jabba, our recently-announced EMEA General Manager.
Daniela was born and raised in Colombia. Always a seeker of knowledge, she attended Universidad Externado de Colombia and graduated with honors in International Affairs after obtaining the highest grade average of the entire cohort. From then onwards, she had a variety of business-related roles and, in 2015, she joined VTEX. What came next is the definition of ‘climbing up the ladder’.
Hi Daniela! To get things started, please tell us more about your current area and responsibilities at VTEX.
Daniela: Hi there! In a nutshell, as a General Manager, I am leading three distinct areas in EMEA. The first one is Sales, which is responsible for bringing growth. The second one is CX, namely Customer Experience, which has objectives such as keeping our current customers satisfied and increasing revenue per client through what we call same-store sales, not to mention avoiding churn as much as possible.
The third area is what we call Growth Engineering. It’s the most technical area and also the one I have the least experience with. Whereas Sales is my comfort zone, Product is more challenging, as I don’t have a technical background. But I love learning by doing and I also have the right people to help me with this, which I would say is one of the biggest challenges of being a manager!
And you’ve certainly done a lot! What do you consider to be your most important career milestones thus far?
Daniela: The first thing that comes to mind is becoming a mother at the same time as being promoted at VTEX. It was both a personal and professional milestone.
Generally speaking, growing quickly alongside VTEX has been an incredible opportunity, one for which I need to thank Mariano, VTEX’s Founder and Co-CEO. I was first a Partner Program Manager locally, then globally; then I moved into a Sales Director position and, soon after, I was trusted with opening up a new market in Italy, without even speaking the language. Now, having EMEA under my belt, with more than 10 countries, is another milestone.
I’m also very proud about my past academic achievements. During each of my eight semesters at university, I was able to get the highest grade average of the entire class. This meant I received scholarships, which greatly helped my parents and, in hindsight, my professional growth.
Talking about people that matter to you, do you have role models?
Daniela: I hate giving “trivial” answers, but my role models are my mother and sister, each for different reasons. My mom, for instance, is incredibly altruistic and she always puts family first. My sister, on the other hand, is an incredibly good professional that also takes fantastic care of her two children, which is an amazing combination from my perspective.
On the professional side, I admire Marissa Mayer. I identify with her because she also moved to Yahoo! as a CEO when she was pregnant and she was always trying to find the balance between being a mom and a CEO to the best of her ability.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve accumulated as a woman leader?
Daniela: I’ve learned that it’s impossible for all the people to like you. As women leaders, that’s what we usually aim towards, but our job includes difficult parts, like putting pressure on people, telling them they’re not doing something well enough, etc. It took me a while to understand that doing the hard things when the situation demands it is part of being a good leader.
A second lesson would be to empower people. You have to give them the freedom to experiment, to try new things and make mistakes. Of course, if you see a person make the same mistake multiple times, you have to step in, which goes back to my previous point — people won’t like that you’re doing it, but you need to do it.
The third learning is perhaps basic, but you have to lead by example. I’ve heard people say that the boss is the one that works the least, because they just need to delegate, but for me it’s exactly the opposite. If I want others to work, I have to work more than them. If I want others to be proactive, I have to be the most proactive one.
Those are some amazing lessons! What about when you zoom in on being a leader at VTEX, what are you most proud of?
Daniela: I’m generally proud of trusting my intuition. After I had started at VTEX, for instance, I received an amazing offer to join a well-known, multinational company. Back then, VTEX did not compare in magnitude, so everyone around me told me to accept it. But I chose to stay at VTEX and now I am where I am, a decision for which I’m grateful.
Next, I’d definitely say my journey in Italy. When I was first invited to be Country Manager, I was in Brazil, recently married, without knowing Italian. I didn’t have this in my roadmap, but I still said yes. Looking back and seeing how far we brought the company in just three years makes me extremely proud.
You should most definitely be proud, you’ve been a veritable Wonder Woman! So how do you apply work-life harmony on a daily basis, given you’re also a young mom?
Daniela: There’s no secret recipe to balancing work and family, I’m afraid. I’m still trying to find the sweet spot, but I can say I’m much better than I used to be.
When you become a mom, you start to realize that there are other priorities in life — and it’s not like the job is no longer a priority, because it will always be, but now there’s something that you need to place above it.
On a daily basis, I try to limit my working hours. I try to finish work between seven and eight o’clock and afterwards just spend quality time with my family, with my phone far away from me. I think quality also matters — sometimes you can spend hours with someone without being fully present, but that’s not what I want; I want to be there 100% in the time that I have available.
Another boundary is that I’m not working during the weekend. If there’s a client emergency, I’ll never say no to a call, but if it’s something that can wait until Monday, I’ll ask them to wait. Additionally, when I need to travel, I prefer to wake up very early to catch a plane instead of spending a night at the hotel, far away from my family.
Bottomline, I need to protect the sacred time that I have not only with my son, but also with my husband, because if you’re not fine on the personal side, it will undoubtedly reflect on your professional life. You need to be happy in your personal life to be able to perform professionally, and vice versa.
Have you ever embraced the unknown and were positively surprised?
Daniela: Generally, my history at VTEX has been about jumping in without knowing what’s going to happen next. Taking the helm of Italy and Western Europe, for example. Or receiving a team that I didn’t choose, which is always difficult for both sides.
Assuming the General Manager position for EMEA also definitely fits the bill, because I’m working with many different regions that are completely new to me, like Africa and the Middle East.
And what is something you believe is non-negotiable in your leadership style that not everyone agrees with?
Daniela: Oh, that’s a hard one! But probably the fact that I sometimes get in the middle of things when I deem it necessary. Some people call that micromanagement, but I call it making sure everything is on track.
Also, communication. Often, the problem is not that you cannot solve something, but that you create false expectations. If you promise to deliver something by tomorrow, you need to do it by tomorrow, regardless if you were relying on someone else or not. We cannot create dependencies as excuses in order to not deliver our best results and uphold our values.
That makes perfect sense. Any other advice for women that are about to embark upon leadership positions?
Daniela: I’ve learned that it takes time for people to admire and respect you, and that you have to give them that time. Women in leadership roles can’t be defensive about it. Instead, you need to give everyone the opportunity to start trusting you. That way, you’re able to position yourself as a leader by admiration rather than by imposition.
My second advice is to take the risk. We’re usually the ones putting barriers in our own journeys, as we underestimate ourselves just because we don’t fulfill 100% of the requirements. Well, you know what? Probably no one does, so take the risk!
Plenty of people admire you, so you got that right! That being said, thank you so much for sharing everything with us, it has been wonderful getting to know you.
Daniela: My pleasure!
Stay tuned for even more inspiring stories from our women in leadership.