Henrique Saboia
  • Years in Tech


  • Current Role

    Revenue Program Manager, Twitter

  • Place of Origin


  • Interview Date

    March 3, 2016

I am an immigrant from Brazil who moved here by accident (legally), attended community college, and managed to complete a 4 year education and get a solid job in sales. Somehow managed to get into a top 5 MBA program years later. Almost 14 years later, I find myself in love with the west coast, and working for one of the best tech companies in the world. Also, a bassist.

Why don’t we start from the beginning? Tell me a bit about your early years and where you come from.

Sure. I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, born in Copacabana, like the song, which is a real neighborhood in Rio. Moved out of Copacabana to one of the suburbs of downtown Rio, but still within the city and lived there until I was 17. Had a pretty regular middle class upbringing in Rio. My dad is in the military. My mom was self-employed/artist, so she taught painting to middle aged women as kind of like almost like art therapy sort of thing. She always said it was a place for middle aged women to come and chat and kind of air their grievances, and in the meantime create something beautiful and then go home with it.


It was pretty chill. Went to private school, which is what we do in Brazil since the public system’s not very good. Spent most of my time playing soccer, avoiding homework. Eventually started playing music, so that changed a little bit. My teen years I started going more into—stopped playing some of the soccer, did even less homework, and spent most of my time in garages or with people who were into mostly American music in fact, and just making music, having a very typical teenage years until my family moved to the U.S. We can go into that in a minute, because I feel like those are no longer my early years. I want to give you a second to ask any further questions on that, but yeah, it was a pretty nice and safe upbringing, good supportive family, no plans of really living abroad at all. I come from a family of a long standing admirals and people from the Navy, so my father, my father’s father, my uncles were all in the Navy, and there was a little bit of pressure for me to go into that, but I quickly jumped down, wasn’t quite a good fit. Yeah. I can go into more details if you’d like to know more, but I think, yeah, it was a pretty straight forward upbringing, pretty happy one.

You kind of just touched on it, but what did your parents expect you to be or do when you grew up? Was their any family pressure?

Yeah. From my dad’s side. Nothing crazy, but there was definitely a certain level of expectation that I would go into the military. My dad was a one star admiral. My grandfather was a four star admiral, who eventually was the secretary of the Navy for the Brazilian president. I was named after him, so there was definitely some pressure of like following your grandfather’s footsteps, because I was named after him. I was really close to him obviously as well. There was a little bit of pressure there, but—Obviously I considered it. You don’t know, right? You always consider what your parents—or at least, I don’t know, I did. The more I learned about it I figured out that it wasn’t really the life for me, so I jumped out and decided—My mom never really had any expectations.

It was a very interesting household in the sense that my father was always strict, military strict, with nothing crazy, but obviously he liked order, and following directions, and making plans and following them, while my mom was an artist, still is. You can imagine very different ways to decide on priorities, and make decisions, and decide what to do, which is not a surprise that they’ve been divorced twice from each other. They got divorced for a while. They remarried each other, and now they’re divorced again. It’s not a surprise that that’s what happened. My favorite stat is that my dad is on his third marriage, but only second wife. Yeah. From my dad’s side some expectation that I would go in the military. Took some convincing to say that I didn’t want to, but eventually he got it. From my mom’s side not so much. She just wanted me to be happy and figure out what I wanted to do.

Yeah. Did you have any inclinations at the time of what you want to do instead?

I had no idea. I mean, the dream is always to go into music, right? A lot of my friends have in Brazil, which is awesome, super proud of them. I knew that I wasn’t quite good enough to do it, to cut it. I was good enough to hang out, and play, and make music, and have fun with it, nor did I really want to go through the lifestyle. I figured it’s kind of a brutal way to go through life. That was kind of the dream, right? Before that it was I want to be a soccer player. That’s what every single kid in Brazil wants to be. I was kind of good, but not good enough. Then after that I just kind of defaulted, was like, “I don’t know. I’ll work in corporate Brazil. I’ll get a business degree and work for a corporate or company and do something.” There was never a calling or anything like that.

Yeah, so you moved to the states by accident?

I did. I did. It certainly wasn’t my plan. My dad was in the military. He got transferred to Washington D.C. for a couple years. It’s very common. For two years he was essentially a diplomat. He was representing the Brazilian Navy in an American Defense Board where they discussed threats to the American continent. There was an Army, a Navy, and an Air Force guy from every country from Canada to Chile, except for Cuba obviously. Every two years they switched the roster a little bit. My dad got sent out. As I mentioned before I had no plans. It was never a dream of the family to move to America. We have no roots here or nobody in the family ever lived here, but it was an opportunity. It was a cool one, and I was seventeen.

Then that really set off a number of events that changed my life. That was in 2002. I’ve been here now every since. I’m 31, so I’m almost at the point that I’m officially half and half, which will be a strange time whenever that happens. A lot of things happened. We were moving halfway through my senior year of high school in Brazil, which would have been July, 2002. Our academic year is flipped, because our summer break is in December, so It was halfway through my senior year. A lot of families go through this in the military, so we knew that if I left halfway through my senior year, I would have—In the past when that happened they used to send you back a year, so you would get here in July and start junior year of high school. I was like six months away from going to college, and if I didn’t do anything, I would have landed here and been pushed back essentially two years.

What I did was I dropped out of Brazilian high school after my junior year. You’re told my the military like a year in advance like, “This is your next post,” get your affairs in order sort of thing. I dropped out, and I just took the Brazilian GED. Then I had my high school finished, and then I moved here and went to community college. The idea was I will be here for a couple of years. I’ll get an associates, learn English, and go back. That was the plan.

Wow. Walk me through the path you didn’t expect. You went to community college. There were some years in between, and then you ended up in a top five MBA program.

Yeah. Man, that’s a long time. What happened was I landed in D.C. I didn’t speak a lot of English. I spoke English as well as someone coming out of high school, in the US for example, would speak whatever second language they took.


Yeah. Exactly. I was a committed student, but even then I could understand about fifty percent of what people were saying, and I could probably order a burger and kind of get the basic stuff out, but definitely overwhelming. I got here, and I enrolled in community college. I went to Montgomery College, just outside of D.C. where we were living. I got this job, which was totally .. Should I say with whom? Well, we can talk about that later. It was with an ice cream shop and it was totally under the table, because I didn’t have the papers to work, but I was over two years. What are they going to do, kick me out? I’m leaving in two years. Who cares, right? It was something that other Brazilians had done before. It was actually very common that because military families were coming in and out every two years, essentially there would always be opening in these companies, the businesses, that were willing to hire illegal workers anyway. You would come and just kind of fill in for the other high school age person who just moved back to Brazil essentially, so I did that.

Turned out I made really great friends, and they were all American. Most of the people I worked with were American, although there were a couple other Brazilian military kids, but they were mostly American. We became real friends. They were all senior year in high school, and they were all applying to college the next year. A lot of them went to amazing schools like Wash U, Kalamazoo College, Northwestern University, which is where I actually ended up at for a masters degree. I figured out they were my friends and they were like, “Why aren’t you going to college?” I was like, “I don’t know. It was never part of the plan. I’m here for two years.”A year into I figured out a couple things. One is that if I got my associates and I went back to Brazil, none of that would have transferred, so I would have had to start college over again, which would have pushed me back five years. Whenever I literally have to start studying for the tests that are necessary to go to college in Brazil and so forth and so on. I was like, “Well, there’s another option, which is I can transfer here in the US and just study two more years and get a bachelor’s.

With the support of my friends, who were very well versed in the university application process in America, I figure out what I want to do and that I could do it, that I could transfer and I could complete it in two years. I decided that I wanted to do it. I sat my parents down and said, “This is what I want to do.” They looked at me and said, “That’s great, but we can’t help you really. Once we’re going back to Brazil we’re going to make money in reais again, which is the Brazilian currency, and there’s no way we can financially support you if you’re staying in the US for college for two more years.” I was like, “Okay. Well, let me think this through.” I figured out that a lot of universities around the U.S. give scholarships to international students, because they’re in places like Nebraska, or Omaha, or whatever, and they need to attract international students. What I did essentially was I bought a U.S. News college rankings magazine and I essentially called every university on it to ask, “Do you have an international students scholarship?” I figured out a couple that did and some that I was interested in.

I ended up applying to—and then I figured out later in the process—I knew I had to apply by like January 15th to be accepted for the fall, and then I was like, “Oh, there’s this thing you got to do. It’s the SAT.” I was like, “Ah, fuck. I had to study for the SAT in like two weeks, and take it, and get a good enough score to apply and build this whole application portfolio. I’m sure you know about getting your grades in order, get your SAT score, get your recommendation letters, write essays for applications, and all kinds of stuff. I did all of that and ended up applying to a couple of schools. I made some connections before since I called them with the international students affairs deans or whatever, provost, depending on the university. Ended up getting accepted into a small liberal arts school two and a half hours outside of Chicago called Illinois Wesleyan University, who gave me enough of a scholarship, it was about seventy percent, to go there for two more years. It was an easy decision. One of my best friends was going to Wash U. My girlfriend at the time was going to to Northwestern. I had a friend at Kalamazoo College. I was like, well my family’s leaving the East coast, I have no roots in America, so I might as well go close to where my friends are.

I got accepted and went to school for two more years. Graduated in 2006 with a sub par GPA, but in the green nonetheless and got a shitty job out of undergraduate. It was 2006, and I was doing customer service/sales support at Motorola, which even at the time was just after the Razr phase. Even then they were already starting to decline. I was working on the federal practice. It was really boring. Here’s the business that I was in. You know those radios that cops walk around with? That was the business I was supporting. You could not be more boring and stuffy. Anyway, it was a job, and it gave me a visa, and allowed me to stay. Eighteen months into it I was like, “I hate it. I need to get out.” I jumped ship, and I went to a company called Mintel. It’s a market research company, like a global company, and did sales from them. I jumped from customer service/sales support to doing inside sales, sales on the phone.

Then the biggest opportunity of my professional career up until that point happened, which was they had an opening for international sales, like outside sales. I was doing inside sales on the phone for like three months, and then it happened that they had an opening for their Latin American sales rep. Turns out it’s really hard to hire people who speak Portuguese, and Brazil was their biggest market. Although I had no experience in sales really, other than the three months that I had been doing their inside sales, they were like, “Well, we’ll give you a shot.” My job then went from being on the phone and just like repeating scripts to flying between Chicago and Sao Paulo once a month to meet with director of innovation and marketing of like Pepsi Co, which was nuts. I was completely unprepared. I studied business, but it was a liberal arts school. It didn’t matter. My senior year I was taking—What was I taking? Yeah. I was taking women’s literature in Afghanistan. Those were the level of classes I was taking, which was awesome. It was great, but I was not prepared for what I was jumping into.

It worked out that I was a quick learner and did that for like three, four years, which helped me put together an application, a portfolio, enough of a career portfolio to apply to Northwestern to get my MBA at Kellogg. Surprisingly they took me, even with my poor GPA, although I had some stories to tell of overcoming some challenges and getting to where I was and having a cool job, the international business, that’s always something that they look for. I had to be one of those guys that wrote an extra essay and was like, “Hey. My GPA really sucks. Here’s why. I was new to the country and whatever.”

They let me in, and it was the coolest thing. It was like going to college again for me, because—or actually going to college for the first time, because those first four years in America I didn’t really feel part of America. I was an expat and there was no really context or knowledge of what college was supposed to be. It was a lot about learning and just kind of getting through, meeting amazing people, but where as I go to Kellogg, I knew what the experience was supposed to be. I had been in America for almost ten years. It had been nine years when I started. It was 2011. I was much more comfortable with my environment and what I was doing, what I wanted to do. I kind of had a vision, as opposed to I just want to make it in this new country. It was an amazing two years. It was awesome. It prepared me for what I’m doing now.

How did you first get interested in tech, or were you even interested in tech?

Yes. I was always kind of techy. Even in the early mid-90s I was one of the first kids in my block to be online, and BBSs, and kind of testing it out. Ever since I was just kind of into it. Obviously I wasn’t a programmer or not a computer engineer or anything like that, but it was something I was excited about. I always spent a ton of money on it, so I figured I might as well get paid by them. When I went to business school I was like, “Well, I definitely want to get out of sales and do some more strategic work and do more marketing, although I’m still interested in revenue, so much so that I am in the revenue organization on Twitter. I’m not like closing the sales, because I didn’t want to live with a quota over my head anymore, although that was an incredible experience, and it prepared me to do everything that I did ever since, but I knew that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I knew when I went to business school, I said, “Well, I’m going to go to business school. I’m going to switch careers. I’m going to switch from sales to marketing, and I’m going to switch from services to tech.” That was kind of the idea.

I interned at Dell in Austin, tested Austin out. I also knew that I kind of wanted to get out of Chicago. I love Chicago, but I knew that if I didn’t get out then, I would stay there forever, which would have been fine, because I love Chicago, but it was a time to like, “I want to test something out and go to a new city.” I was really looking at Austin, Seattle, and SF. Went to Austin for a summer, and it was great, but I like to say there was a little bit too much Texas around it, so I knew that it wasn’t quite my scene. I decided to come to SF and CISCO was good enough to give me a job. Packed up and moved one more time across the country, from D.C. to Chicago, and then out to SF, and worked for CISCO for a couple years. Then today was just my one year anniversary at Twitter.

What were your first impressions of Silicon Valley, and what did you expect, and did it or did it not meet those expectations?

Yeah. It was definitely—I had two experiences. I had one that was landing at SF, and living in the city, and meeting a ton of new people. I felt like it was a very easy place to meet people, just because everyone here’s a transplant essentially, or it feels that way anyway. Here I am living in a new city, single. I just want to meet people. It’s going to be great. I was lucky also that after graduating from Kellogg eleven percent of my class moved to Silicon Valley. Not only was it easy to meet new people, but I was coming with a built in group of friends. It was a really active period the first six months. It was awesome. We were going out, like going to places and then walking out I was like, “Why would I ever do that again? That was a nightmare.”

Then next week I’d find myself there. It’s a weird place. It was an incredible six months. It was really fun, but at the same time I’m working for CISCO. It is an incredible company, but I would argue it’s not a very fast paced company, not anymore anyway, at least not the part of the business I was in. You felt like, “I come to the SF and I wanted to be on the forefront of tech. I want to be testing things. I want to be doing things really quickly and testing things, and trying them out, and launching, having impact. Then learning from them and then trying new things. CISCO really wasn’t set up that way at all. That was kind of a challenge. It was a great job. It paid great, and I worked with very smart people, but I wasn’t quite fulfilled professionally in the way that I wanted. That was kind of hard. That didn’t meet my expectations obviously, because I moved here, expected to be in the middle of it. After a year and a half I was like, “This has been great. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, but I feel like the learning curve has stagnated a little bit, and I want to continue to learn, so it may be time to try something new.”

What are some of the things in your work that really excite you now? What are some of your favorite parts of your work?

I love the immediacy of my work. I work on—What I try to do is I try to get—I guess the mandate of my job is to get more Twitter users to advertise on Twitter in the simplest way possible. How do we find businesses? How do we get organizations that are on Twitter and get them to spend money to advertise to reach more people on Twitter? I love the fact that we can come up with an idea today, build something in a week, and by next Monday we have a prototype out and we can kind of see, does this have legs? Does it not? We should stop, or maybe we should keep going. The fact that we can point to it and say, “I did this, and this is the result, and these are the people I worked with.” It’s really, really rewarding, and I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are much smarter than I am. I’m always learning from them, and I’m always challenged in a way that I didn’t expect and taking my initial idea and taking it to places that I would have never come up with on my own. That’s really fun. I love that part of the job.

What have been some of your biggest struggles? I mean, obviously we’ve covered quite a few of them in your process to this point, but what have been kind of the tough parts of your career that you’ve had to overcome?

My career, it was certainly feeling like I’m in a dead end job. That was really hard. That was before—this was in Chicago, my first job. That was really—It was really hard. I’m generally a pretty positive person. That’s the only time my friends at the time—I’ve had multiple friends come up to me. It’s like, “Dude. You’re really negative.” I say, “Ah, fuck. It’s getting to me a guess.” Although they never really told me until after I switched jobs, and then they’re like, “You’re in a much better mood these days.” Then we figured out that I had been really negative for a long time. That was really hard. It was definitely one of those things where it was really hard to get a job when I needed a visa. Not a lot of places sponsor you and so forth. I felt like I ended up taking a job that having all of the opportunity around like I normally maybe not probably wouldn’t take, but it’s something that you kind of jump in and you figure it out as you go. After a year and a half I figured out that it wasn’t for me, and I figured out a way to get out. That was hard.

I haven’t been in this stuff long enough to have true dark times or real stressful times, although anytime you’re looking for a job or you’re trying to—that’s when the city gets a little bit less friendly I think, is when we get a little bit more into the career side. Everyone moves out here. It is the true gold rush. Right? Everyone moves out here. At least most people move out here. At least especially in tech to make a mark for themselves, make a name for themselves. There’s a little bit of that—It’s obviously not everyone, but you do find people who don’t really care about hurting other people’s chances or being unfair to other people in order to get ahead. Luckily I haven’t encountered too many of those situations, but it certainly comes up, certainly some of that happens.

Yeah. I’m curious to know what your personal experience has been as an immigrant working in tech or just in your career in general? You mentioned you have a challenge of identifying role models you can personally identify with and little things like that. What is that experience like?

That’s really—There are a couple things that I can really point to that are positive and negative. On the negative side anyway it was hard because no one in my family went to college in Brazil, but even less so in America, so I was really lucky to be surrounded by people in D.C. who really took me under their wings, and were willing to help me, and study for the SAT with me, and write recommendations for me when they really didn’t have to. I find myself very lucky to have been in the right place in the right time, but I can completely understand how it would have been really hard if maybe I did land in D.C., maybe I landed in a more conservative area or a place where there isn’t that influx of expats so often that you kind of get used to kind of the challenge of an immigrant. I was really lucky in that sense, but for a while it was hard, because I have no idea what I was doing.

I was lucky that there was someone there to help me. I’ve been lucky to have friends that a couple times have been older to me and introduced me to the idea of an MBA. I had no idea that was an option really.—and see how people do it. It was like, “Fuck. That sounds like fun. That sounds like it would help my career and sounds like something I would want to learn about.” Again, I think I’m very lucky to have landed in places that are welcoming, mostly welcoming, to immigrants, really just open minded. That really helped me out, but you still always kind of feel like you don’t really know what you’re doing, even a little bit more than—I feel like most people feel that way anyway. At least that’s the way I felt. Should I be applying for school? Should I be getting my MBA? Should I be trying to get this job? There’s not a lot of people around you that have gone through the same path.

“That being said, I’ve had a really, really strange experience as an immigrant because—this is weird. Hopefully it doesn’t come out the wrong way, but I’ve been able to blend in in a really strange way. I’ve been at tables, just lunch tables, and I make a comment like—We’ll be talking about minorities or whatever and—It’s always on the news and we’ll talk about something. I’m like, “Yeah. We’re all minorities here.” Then someone will look at me and is like, “Well, not everyone,” as in they assume I’m a white guy, which is a strange thing. In a lot of people’s minds, until they get to know me or know a little bit about my story, they think I’m a white, American dude called Enrique, which makes no sense in the world. When they hear I’m Brazilian a lot of people ask, “Oh. So like your parents are Brazilian?” I’m like, “No. I was born and raised in Brazil. I’ve had the immigrant experience.” In a sense it hasn’t …

I guess what I’m trying to get at is I’ve been able to kind of hide in plain sight and avoid some of the immediate sort of reactions that—It was really surprising to me that someone was born in America, but was Mexican—I had friends like that that suffered way more prejudice than I ever did, because I have lighter color skin, and I have light eyes. It was a strange sort of—I’ve always kind of struggled with that identity that I’m called white very, very often. Obviously that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad or a good thing. It’s whatever, but it’s certainly not my experience, or at least maybe it is, because I’m considered white when people kind of in passing treat me in any kind of way. It’s definitely not my human experience of growing up and moving to America, and figuring things out. It’s been a strange experience a couple times to be confused for a suburban white guy that happens to be called Enrique. That doesn’t quite compute. It’s been strange, but I think overwhelmingly my experience has been positive. As I said, I’m really lucky to have landed at the right places surrounded by the right people completely by chance. Yeah. I think that’s as much as I can talk about that.

Yeah. That’s interesting. I’ve interviewed a couple of girls in this project who are black, but have lighter skin and have gone through really similar experiences where people will literally say some really racist shit in front of them, and they’re like, “Uh. You know I’m black right?” They just don’t even know, because they’re not black enough that it doesn’t register in their mind that this is a black person that they’re making a black joke in front of. It doesn’t register. That’s mind blowing.

It’s strange. Sometimes you pick up that fight. Sometimes you’re like, “Dude. That’s not—You probably shouldn’t be saying those things, and not because I’m Latino, it’s because that’s a racist thing to say. Nobody should say that.” Sometimes you’ll find yourself in that place—for whatever reason you’re in an environment that you don’t want to pick that fight, or you don’t want to be the person who starts a thing, and you have to kind of sit there and kind of play along. It’s like, “Well, I’ll play along for now, but good to know that you’re not a person I probably want to trust. You’re probably not a very good person if you believe what you’re saying.” Yeah.

It’s a strange thing. As I said, at least in my opinion it’s come as a blessing, because I’ve been, as I said, like hiding in plain sight, and people don’t treat me very differently. I feel like although I’ve had a lot of the immigrant experience, I haven’t had the minority experience, if you can split those two, and maybe you can, maybe you can’t, but I’ve had a lot of the immigrant experience of I just don’t know what I’m doing here, and I’m going to try to do this thing, but I have no idea how to get there, but I haven’t had the minority experience of being pulled over often or—I don’t know. That encompasses so many things, but I think you know what I’m saying.

Yeah. I think it’s a unique position to be in honestly, just based on what I’ve heard from all these interviews of like you are going to experience many, many micro-aggressions or aggressions that weren’t intended for you, but you are definitely affected by it. You know? It’s a really interesting thing where for me if someone makes a racist joke in front of me, I know it’s not for me, but it’s still like, “Dude. Don’t say that shit.” You know what I mean? I’m not even affected in the same way as—My sister’s half black, and she deals with this shit all the time, this like, “Uh. You didn’t know? I’m black.” It’s just like a funny situation.

Yeah. It’s one of those things that’s just part of life. I don’t know. It’s certainly been an interesting—how long it’s been now? Fourteen years? Yeah, in that sense of—Yeah. When I lived in D.C., traveling through Virginia and being just different enough that people kind of look at you funny—Maybe I was still tan enough that when I came from Brazil it was still soon enough when I moved here.

And it’s Virginia.

Right. That’s what I mean is anytime—I’m white enough to blend in urban areas, but when you leave those areas you definitely notice that things change a little bit.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. There’s definitely a—I’m from North Carolina, so there’s definitely a tighter set of requirements for being normal. I was too pale so I was weird. You know? It’s dumb.

It’s culture. It’s hard to generalize. There’s obviously a lot of good people, amazing people, in all places in America, but the norms change.

Yeah. For sure. What would you say are your biggest motivators? What drives you?

Man. Let’s see. I want to give you an answer that’s not really lame.

Well, it’s kind of a hard question. A lot of people are like, “Oh, shit. I haven’t even thought about this.”

I know. I don’t want to default to motivated by becoming a better person, whatever. I want to come up with a real answer. I’m motivated by two things. Well, I can think of two things that motivate me. One is actually the fact that I do like to learn and moving to SF I’ve been exposed to—I’ve started working with engineers and working with people who studied very different things from me, and I love learning what they know and adding those skill sets to my tool belt, if you will. I love that in the two years I’ve been here I’ve learned full programming languages. Not programming, but I know how to do SQL. I know how to do R for analysis. I like that kind of stuff. I like to be able to point to something and it’s like, “I learned that thing. I couldn’t do that a year ago, and now I can do that.” That’s really cool. I love to be able to do that.

At a personal level though what motivates me a lot is the experience of my grandfather who I was named after. He’s an interesting guy, because he was born in a very poor city of the Northeast of Brazil. He didn’t go to school until like he was in his teen years. At that point he moved to Rio, like the big city if you will, and lived with his uncle, or aunt, or something like that, and tried to get into a private school, because it was an issue for—You really try to avoid public education in Brazil.—and got turned away by the principal. He took a test and he’s like, “You’re never going to make it.” In a way it was the sort of regional you see in Brazil, which sometimes you see a different kind in America as well. In Rio it’s like, “Oh, you’re coming from the country, and you’re never going to make it here. You took a introductory test, and you’re so far below the bar you’re never going to make it.”

He went back, and he studied his ass off, and went back months later, and took the test again, and had the highest score. After that he was number one in his class his whole career, enrolled in the Navy, became a four star admiral, became a direct advisor to the first democratically elected president in Brazil in 1995. He had this stellar career. I really look at it and see how far he came and how he was able to bring his family out of poverty really in the Northeast. Maybe not poverty, but not a lot of opportunities to have kids that were able to get good educations and we’re able to have careers in Rio, and travel, and really open up the opportunities for his family. I look at that and say, “Okay. Well, because of him I was given a much better shot at having an opportunity to make a difference and to take my family from point A to point B.” I guess he did from point A to B. I guess I’m looking at point B to point C or whatever that is. That always keeps me in check and motivates me.

My grandfather went through much harder things and because of his hard work I don’t have to, so what can I do with that. What can I do with the hand that I’ve been dealt. I cherish being lucky. I find myself to have been very lucky since I moved to the U.S., being around good people, landing in good places. I never turn down an opportunity for that reason, because I try to appreciate the hand I’ve been dealt. I know personally what my grandfather had to go though to kind of impact the hand I was dealt in a way. That in a personal way that motivated me a lot. I try to keep track of that and stay on top of it.

How do you feel about the state of tech in 2016? What really excites you about it? What frustrates you about it? What would you like to see change?

“Yeah. I mean what excited me about it is something that has excited me for a long time. This is where the innovation that will impact the next twenty, thirty, fifty years, that’s where it’s happening, whether we’re talking about self-driving cars or whether we’re talking about new ways to communicate and affect revolutions and whatever, that’s really exciting to me. The way that the world is being transformed through technology, and a lot of that happens in Silicon Valley. The same thing that excited me twenty years ago—Although I didn’t understand it as to what was happening, but I was excited about the fact that things were changing, that’s what excites me.

The frustrating thing is even though we’re on the forefront and—Well, let me think about that. One of the things that frustrates me is that technology as a whole has been a driver for change within the technology world and within the business world as far as we’re—The tech companies, a lot of it is what’s driving the economy these days. Two out of the three most valuable companies in the world are tech companies. Right? We’re talking about Google. We’re talking about Apple. If you go to the top five, we have Amazon and Facebook, so we’re driving a lot of the changes.

I don’t think we’ve been able to impact policy. We’ve haven’t been able to impact culture, other than in big cities. Yeah. Mostly in big cities. We haven’t kind of been able to really become a mass appeal. Obviously it’s a slow process, but I’m frustrated by the fact that it’s been slow and the fact that—That shows itself in a lot of different ways, but I think policy has been a point of frustration for me, that there’s so much more information there and technology has tried to make efforts to make that available to people, but people still don’t have enough information to make the big decisions they have to make every day and/or every four years, or every two years, or whatever. It’s a really big challenge for people to have the right information at the right time. I think that’s frustrating that we haven’t been able to make that happen.

On a personal level it is frustrating to look around and see most boards of companies, most executive teams of companies, don’t have a representation of Latinos. There’s a big focus on adding diversity, but that’s just so hard. Twitter made it public last year that thirty-five percent—Whatever. I forget the number, but it is minority is diverse and the goal for this year is to increase it by one percent. I get it that it’s hard, but Jesus, like one percent. We can do better than this. That’s definitely a frustration. I feel like we haven’t—I don’t know. It feels like we haven’t really so many times put our money where our mouth is a lot of the time. I feel like we are so worried about the little Silicon Valley world of who has the highest valuation, who sold It for the biggest amount of money, who’s the new darling of VCs? We have all this cash, all this impact, we  can make such a big difference. We choose not to, because there’s all these other competing priorities. That being said, I’ve never been in a position where I had an opportunity to be a darling of a VC or sell it for hundreds of millions of dollars, so maybe I would have made the same choices. I’ve never had that experience, but looking from the outside it is certainly something that you look at as like it just looks like a missed opportunity.

I agree. My last question for you would be what advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds to you who are hoping to get into tech? What kind of lessons have you learned that you’d share?

My advice is that it can be done. It can be done. You can’t be afraid of failing. One of the things that I learned by moving to America and—Maybe that could have happened in any country, because it’s really based on—because I’m speaking a language that I don’t have command of you just fail every twenty-five seconds in the most basic level. You just speak poorly or don’t understand something that’s around you. You can react a couple different ways to that. You can either shut down and say like “I’m just going to hang out with my Brazilian friends, because it’s easy,” or you can, “You know what? Screw it. I’m going to fail a ton, but I know that I can learn from it, and I can get better.” One of the reasons why I think I went with the latter was because I knew I was leaving in two years, which ended up not happening, but I was like, “Who cares? Right? I have nothing to lose. I’m going to leave in two years anyway.” That really made an impact. It kind of really changed the way I was wired in the sense that failing was totally okay. It’s the only way you learn. It’s the only way you can try, but you have to understand that—It’s kind of like career or …

Most of life really is kind of like baseball. If you can hit it thirty percent of the time, you’re doing really well. I guess my biggest advice is that it can be done, but you’re not going to go one for one or even one for two. You might have to try a few different times and reach out to people, try to find people that could relate to you, or try to reach out to anybody. I feel like most people would be willing to help you. You don’t have to pull on the racial string or similar experience, although that could be helpful. I think it can be done. I think people here are more welcoming than most places in the world, because like I said, we’re all transplants. We’ve all experienced in some sort of fashion being an outsider in SF, because most people came from outside of SF. I think people are more open than in most places. That would be my advice.