Happy International Women's Day!
Mar 12, 2021, 5 min read
Mar 12, 2021
5 min read
In a memo to the team this Monday I wanted to celebrate the amazing achievements of women across company and take a moment to share a story about a woman who has shaped my life. Thank you Mom.
Subject: Happy International Women’s Day! (Brex Weekly Update)
Happy International Women’s Day! Today is a day to come together and celebrate the amazing achievements of women across the world. I know you will all agree with me when I say we have some truly amazing women at Brex, and I am so honored and humbled to work alongside each of them.
To celebrate this day, the Women of Brex (WOB) Community has some incredible events planned for the week. The first, which I am very excited to see, is the Women of Brex Wall of Fame. I am so inspired by the 557 unique shout outs we collected giving gratitude to our women colleagues. There will also be a series of community building sessions starting today.
To celebrate today’s date, I’d like to tell you a story of a woman who completely changed my life: my mother, Luciana. Since my dad passed away when I was a kid, my brother and I were raised by a single mom. The short version of the story is that my mom did a phenomenal job raising us. Despite many adversities, like being single and unemployed for several years, my mom never let these challenges affect us, and never took her role as a burden. Instead, she navigated the circumstances that life threw at her with naturality, perseverance, grit and warmth that to me became the hallmark of great women from a very young age.
But the reason I want to tell you the story of my mother is because she shaped my life and my career in very specific ways, which I’m forever grateful for. As you can imagine, I wasn’t a very normal kid growing up. I had few friends, didn’t play sports, didn’t go out, and spent most of my time in front of a computer. As I started to learn how to code, the amount of time I spent in front of the screen increased exponentially.
Right around this time, an article came out that Bill Gates’ daughter was only allowed 45 minutes per day of screen time. My mom read that article, and soon was faced with an important decision: if the guy who invented the modern computer tightly controls how his kids use it, why shouldn’t I? The conventional wisdom would say that what I was doing wasn’t healthy or productive for a kid my age. But instead of following it blindly, my mom decided to dig deeper into how I was using the computer.
The conventional wisdom would say that what I was doing wasn’t healthy or productive for a kid my age. But instead of following it blindly, my mom decided to dig deeper into how I was using the computer.
She realized I wasn’t simply playing video-games or chatting with people online, but actually building things that could be useful for other people. Counterintuitively, she decided not to cap my screen time and incentivized me to follow my curiosity, which created the environment that allowed me to learn how to code. That single decision she made changed my life forever.
A few years later, I started using my coding skills to hack iPhones, and some of the programs I built became quite popular in the iPhone jailbreaking community. I started receiving job offers to work for startups, and when I told my mom how excited I was to work with other people, she was shocked. There was no way in hell she would allow a 12-year-old to work with a bunch of adults. But as she started thinking about it more, she thought: why not?
There aren’t a lot of playbooks on how to get your kid to work at this age, so my mom followed her gut. She came with me to my first job interview, and was very clear with my then-to-be boss: “Even though he wants to work with you, he’s just a child. He’s not a regular employee. I need you to understand that different people should be treated differently.” My boss nodded in agreement, and we figured out an arrangement for me to work with them part-time. My mom’s decision was criticized by friends and family, but I learned so much by working with professional software engineers and I’m so grateful she didn’t give up on this. The unexpected, yet natural and caring way in which my mom dealt with the situation taught me a valuable lesson: embrace your differences, and don’t worry about being misunderstood. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Lastly, around that time I was invited to give a TED talk about jailbreaking the iPhone. I was quite introverted, and was supposed to present something to 1,000 people. I had no idea where to start. My mom worked with me to put together a script, talking points and the slides for the talk. She practiced it with me several times, gave me feedback and we improved the presentation together. A few months later, I gave my talk and it was a success. Everyone loved my presentation and cheered me on.
With so much recognition from so many people, for a moment I thought I was really great. But when I finished the talk and looked at the side of the stage, I saw my mom. There she was, proud and excited about what I did, but little did she know it was all her. She didn’t ask for credit or recognition for all she did, and yet deserves all of it. It was never about her, and always about me and my brother. Her selflessness, generosity, and how she embraced our differences shaped us in unimaginable ways. Today, almost 11 years after that day, I know I wouldn’t be here without all my mom did for me. Thank you. ❤
Please take a moment to tell the women who shaped your life how grateful you are to them.