My name is Fernanda Piedra. I am originally from Colombia where I graduated from Economics. I came to the US to do my MBA. I have been working in the financial industry for more than 15 years. I currently work in the Financial Crime Prevention unit at a large asset management firm.
How has your background influenced your success?
In terms of my background, I think the values I have learned from my family, my friends, the places I have studied or I have worked are hard work and passion. I try to do my best in every project, every new initiative, and every new job. But I think working in teams with people from multiple backgrounds have also helped to shape my career and my personal life even more.
What challenges arose due to your background and how did you overcome them?
There are multiple times when your background has an influence on what you do and also may generates issues. I saw one of these issues when I started working here in the United States. In one of the meetings I had been presenting a project, it was mentioned that some participants couldn’t understand me and that I was having communication issues. My response was, immediately thinking about how to address it. I approached my manager who was not only an excellent manager but an excellent mentor. She suggested a couple of places that I could go and improve my pronunciation. I went to those classes I used to at night, I used to go on weekends, and in a couple of months when I finished the training, I think I had improved a lot. I know I still have my accent and I am very proud of it, but I think now I can have better communication especially when working with people, groups that don’t have expertise on the topics that being discussed. I think I am now able to express my ideas better.
Which of the P.O.L.I.N.G. Principles do you identify with?
I identify myself with all POLING principles, but the one that I feel I identify the most with is the ‘L’, the ‘lead’, taking the initiative and being very proactive.
I have taken the initiative and taken risks many times in my career and they all have paid off. The first big risk I took was a career change. I was working in the food industry and decided to move to the financial industry where I didn’t have the experience or the knowledge. But I started doing research, doing a lot of reading and an opportunity came up, I applied to the job and I got it.
Years later, I took another risk. I was working in a bank and I wanted to move up in my career. I knew that if I speak English, and if I do an MBA, I would be able to move up in the company. I decided to come to the US to do both. Coming to another country, where you are not proficient in the language was a very big risk, but at the end it paid off, and if it wasn’t for taking this risk I wouldn’t be what I am today.
What are your top accomplishments?
I will say my goals and accomplishments, have always been short term. I always set the goal that I want to accomplish and after I do it I set my next goal.
My first personal goal was to finish college. I am the first one in my family to finish college. Being able to go to school and graduate was my first big accomplishment. Once I did that I did a specialization in finance two years later. When I graduated from finance I was determine to do my master and learn English. This is why I came to the United States to learn the language and to do my MBA.
Lately, I have been focusing more on my personal achievements. Last year I ran the NYC marathon. I had never ran a race but I started running in the summer. I was given the opportunity to run for a non-profit organization I support. I wasn’t sure I would be able to accomplish it but I I trained hard, almost every day, and I was able to finish and complete it. I am still running.
Who are the people who have influenced you the most?
When I think about the person that has influenced me the most, I will have to say that it is my mom. My mom as a single parent raised my brother, my sister, and myself on her own. She used to have a full time job and in addition she would take extra work on nights and weekends at home so she would be able to support all of us. She never complained, she was very proud of investing in us. She always says education is the best gift she could give us and I and very grateful appreciate she did. I agree that education is what makes us better.
My mom has always help others. In many cases, she will give out her food, her bed, if others needed it more than we did. I had always been trying to be as good as her which is difficult because she is really an amazing person. She has always been my role model and my example to follow.
What kind of advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to work for others and help the community earlier than I started. I started volunteering and helping communities when I had already graduated from college. I worked with schools and children in very poor communities. Since then I have been working in multiple non-profit organizations and I have seen the impact I have made on these organizations and the people I have met through those organizations. I think that if I had started earlier I could have made an even bigger impact.
What is 'community'?
When I think about community, I think about family. I think about the groups you relate to and that you want to be involved with. Community is formed by the different groups that you belong to friends, family, and the people that you work with, the people that you went to school with and you meet through different events you participate and volunteer. But at the end they all are part of a big group sharing similar ideas on how to help each other and help everybody to make this world better.
Why do you think Inspiring Diversity ('iD') is important?
When I heard about Inspiring Diversity I was pretty surprised to see that there were no other organizations already working on this space. This is so important nowadays. I see an amazing opportunity for everybody – not only for people with lot of years of experience, have made a career, and have working in diverse teams, but also for new generations. Coming to a place where who can hear stories about people who has or have had similar dreams or struggling with the same issues, where they can be understood and relate to is very inspiring and reminder that dreams can be fulfilled if we really want to do so.