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  • Claire Le Compagnon

CQ with Leaders #3 Mariana Camargo Head of Product Merchandising Vans

I'm so happy to introduce you to an exceptional leader in the fashion/retail industry. I had the opportunity to work with her at Nike years ago. Always smiling, always positive and bringing the Brazilian vibe in the meeting rooms. It's needed, it makes human relations more simple and natural, I personally love it!

Let's learn and discover what Cultural Intelligence means to her!

1/Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

I was born in the countryside of Brazil where I spent most of my childhood running around animals and nature at my dad´s farm before moving to one of the biggest city in the world: Sao Paulo. If you ask me, that was one of the most disruptive life change I´ve had so far. In a city where you are one of 16 million people, it gave me a thicker skin and made me a fighter. Classic "sink or swim" situation. With a Fashion Business degree, I got to work, right after college, for companies like Fila, Arena and Nike. Then I had the chance to work for 7 years in the US at Nike and then almost 2 in the UK with Gymshark.

We get too caught up with choosing the right and best move. The next move is the best and the right one. Keep going and you will get there, whatever "there" means to you. I don´t like getting comfortable. So, that´s my mantra. Keep moving. Even if it´s towards retirement, new job or a hobby..

2/Since you experienced both US and English cultures at work, which one did you prefer and why?

When it comes to work environment, I think I prefer the US culture (with all respect to my English darling friends). I stayed there longer and got to fully experience their work and life culture. Americans are extremely organized and great planners .Meetings start on time, they have clear agendas and they are very action oriented. One interesting point to me is that they can be 'too polite' to get to the point especially when giving a negative feedback or disagreeing So even if there's a chance that it won't be perceived 100% sincere, they master the art of indirect feedback and it creates a nice environment in the work place. One thing that I noticed though, the “follow the schedule” is sometimes applied in personal settings as well. So, they can lack a bit of relaxing and go with the flow type of moments.

On the other hand, with the British, you get 100% what you paid for. No need to “read” people to figure out how you will navigate situations with them, which I also love. They can easily separate the workplace and their personal life. When you sit down for a pint at the pub with a friend or colleague, you know that is not a networking moment. It´ s pure fun and you can be truly yourself.

3/One of your epic failure from a cultural intelligence point of view?

I was too afraid. Afraid I was “inferior” or didn´t know enough to speak up more often.Because I was not in my comfort zone in a foreign culture or simply because English is my second language. That is the biggest mistake I made and I regret it.

My advice is to find your voice! Just do it… and do it often. Hold your breath and try it.Blurt something out. You will be surprised how many times this is going to be brilliant.

4/ 3 advices for a Brazilian leader moving to the US in a large corporate environment?

Embrace their work and life culture...celebrate with them, understand how you can fit in, without losing your identity and core.

Dive in the company's culture. Read about it not just from their HRs playbook but also articles. Talk to people and ask them questions, it will make it easier to understand the matrix and the do's and dont's.

Show up, make a difference every single day. Do it with passion. Make connections, network. It will bring you better and faster results in the workplace, and maybe friends for life!

5/ What should an anglo boss know about working with a Brazilian talent?

Brazilians can be a great asset for any company. Besides the professional background, there is lightness and easiness in Brazilians because of our more relaxed culture. Every environment needs balance and diversity. We work hard by nature due to our current difficult or fast growing economy. Just give them a chance and they won´t disappoint.

6/ What would you advise the large corporate US companies when it comes to creating a global culture and bringing/retaining international talent?

Within the Diversity and Inclusion function, they should dedicate resources specifically for international acquisition and retention of talents, expatriation support ( beyond the family school/house set up). A lot of people and companies fail because of the lack of fitting in the culture and workplace. Listen to your employees, they will be the ones telling you what they need in order to give their 100% at work.

Thank you so much Mariana for taking the time to share your insights with me and the readers.

If you would like to participate and share your story, please reach out to me at

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