by Sofia S. 09 Aug, 2017

Today, 9th of August 2017, marks ten years since the beginning of the financial crisis which had devastating effects in the life of thousands and thousands of people around the world and filled the pockets (even more) of a few privileged people.

Back in 2007 I was about to become a freshman at University as classes were about to start in a few weeks’ time. I was 23 years old, determined to give my absolute best, focused and motivated.

I went to University a bit later than most people do but life happened that way for me and that’s fine. What matters is that despite all the adversity, I went and I graduated.

In July 2007 I was partying hard in Ibiza with three of my friends and we had the best time together. Memories I will cherish forever. 

However, I don’t recall having heard anything about a financial crisis, all I knew was something about a Wall Street crash back in 1920-something and obviously, that subject was completely outside of my radar. Investments? Banks? Nah. Not a subject for me. It wasn't until Lehman Brothers collapsed that I remember the general panic and that things really started to look bad. Or maybe I was just not paying attention before.

I completed High School with a Diploma in Pottery and Ceramics. At University, studied Marketing, Advertising and PR because at 23 years old I finally decided I wanted to be a copywriter.

I wanted to be the person that writes ads and creates content; I wanted to surrender myself to my artistic vein, to allow for my creativity to fully blossom and develop. I had come to the conclusion that my path was an artistic one and it was time to embrace my future. I had it all figured out. Even when I got pregnant with my daughter during the second semester at Uni, I carried on.

I took a gap year (school year of 2008/2009) because birth was scheduled for December so I couldn’t attend the January exams relating to courses beginning in September. It was the wise thing to do.

When I returned to Uni for my second year (2009/2010) my motivation was stronger than ever. I now had the cutest tiny little human who would be looking up to me and to everything I’d do, she depended on me and it was my duty to ensure all her needs were taken care of. I started to do everything with her in mind and solely having her best interests at heart. And that’s when things changed.

Things were not good at home and that’s as far as I will go in relation to exposing that part of my life. The only thing I’ll say is this: the worst things got, the stronger my motivation to succeed would get.

As part of my course, I needed to attend a Business class. It was only one semester but that Professor gave us two separate classes so in some ways they were linked. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say I had two business classes the same semester.

A few lessons into the class and I felt like I had seen God. What on Earth had I been doing studying arts all my life because that was so not the right path for me.

I landed a job at a Bank shortly after that and from there on, I became determined to learn as much as I could on my own because switching courses to Business or Economics was not an option. I didn’t had the funds and didn’t want to feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life. Especially when I had to take into consideration that I went to Uni later than usual.

I did countless online courses on platforms like Coursera and some of them were so daunting and full of jargon – not to mention the fact they were all in English – so I actually had to repeat a few of them until I could grasp what they were on about.

I started reading the Financial Times so I could understand what was happening in the financial world. I took advantage of a few colleagues that were much more knowledgeable than me to ask questions and learn from them. I became an avid reader of a Portuguese Business newspaper and slowly things started to fall into place and words I had no idea what they meant before, I now recognized and understand them.

I did all of this while looking after a new born, whilst working and whilst attending University. Talk about will power. Looking back, I have no idea where I got the strength from but I did it nonetheless.

I have been working in this industry for nearly 10 years now. I have seen people come and people go. I am blessed to be able to work in an industry that I genuinely love. There is not a single day that goes like the previous one. Everything changes at an incredible pace and if you stop, you become obsolete.

Ten years on since the beginning of the financial crisis, have we learned anything?

I hope so. I see firms committed to give the example from the top; there is more regulation; there is more awareness.

Do I believe that it will happen again? Unfortunately yes but maybe not as the ones we’ve seen before. The financial services industry business is the money business and the goal is to make even more money using someone else’s money. It’s called an “investment” and it can go right or wrong. You risk what you can afford to lose.

The problem with that statement is that the majority of people that cannot afford to lose are usually the ones that end up losing everything even though they have never placed a penny in an investment.

It starts with a family member losing its job. Then, one bill gets left behind, then another and by the time you realise you’re receiving a letter from the Bank saying you’re facing your home is being repossessed.

It’s scary to witness how the financial crisis has long been forgotten by the industry and yet it’s the complete opposite for consumers. People  that ten years on, on a daily basis still worry about a new potential crash and what effect will it have – again – on their families and how will they cope.

It’s a cruel business the money business so I guess it’s totally legitimate for people to ask me why am I in it? How can I associate myself with such practices? The answer is simple. I genuinely believe I can make a difference. No matter how small. I believe in fairness and in righteousness. I believe in doing the right thing so I don’t mind being associated with such industry because if more of us believe in the same thing as me, maybe one day, thinking about a financial crisis where people are left to starve and homeless for no fault of their own will sound surreal and impossible.  

Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in this. I have met so many great people, so many professionals that are a tribute to this industry and profession.

I act in a way I know I will never have to bow my head in shame and in a way that it won’t disappoint my family and have their values judged by others due to my actions. I will never act in a way that will make Diana ashamed of being my daughter. I will always do what my heart tells me is the right thing to do. 

One can dream and, so far, all my dreams have come true.

Like I said. Motivation.

 

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Francisca (EN)

  • by Sofia S.
  • 23 Feb, 2014
Today I saw a video called "Cuerdas" that in Spanish mean ropes.

It's a Spanish short film that won the Goya Award in 2014 and left me in tears from the start because I remembered Francisca.

My mother worked for EDP which is the Portuguese Electricity Company and she worked there for many years. Therefore, me and my brother were entitled to Summer Camps that were to 6 year old children up to 16 years old. I am fortunate to have gone every single year. Those two weeks were always lived to the fullest! Sometimes we went with friends from previous years and with whom we exchanged letters during the year (no e-mails back then) and matched up the where and when we wanted to go the year after.

There were several Summer Camps  throughout the country, Castelo de Bode - which is a part of the country - was definitely my favorite and I went for 3 or 4 years in a row. Castelo de Bode had a characteristic that was the only one we could go more than once and (depending on age), we could go to the area with tents or villas.
The villas were for the senior year and it was unforgettable for all the right reasons. I knew it was the last time that I would have that experience and my summers would never be the same, because we had more freedom, because the curfew was always later and because there was always a way to sneak out and go for a fag Lol

I had just turned 16 (my birthday is in July), was on vacation from my 1st year in Antonio Arroio (High School) that had been quite intense in every way and was starting to live my life as a young adult.

But I'm diverting a bit. This often happens when I'm writing. Twists and turns to other topics and then have to focus to go back to the beginning. It always makes sense but when I write there is something that takes over me and I talk about everything and anything lol

Well, back to Francisca. That Summer (cannot remember if it was in Castelo de Bode or Árvore, which is another Camp), one of the projects for the day was to do volunteer work. There was a bit of everything but I chose to go to the hospital for newborns to help nurses. Me and another girl who was also called Sofia.
I do not remember what time we arrived, I do not remember how we were presented to nurses, I can’t remember precisely nothing! It’s blurry in my memory. I remember that I met a newborn baby girl named Francisca who had been abandoned by her parents at the hospital and had cerebral palsy. There were tubes everywhere and it's was through one of those tubes that Francisca was fed.

My mother always tried to protect me from certain things. I was (and still am) easily impressionable. There are things that shock me too much and I keep dwelling on that on and on and on. It is a trait of my personality. This was one of those situations.

I was (if I remember correctly) about 13 years at the time and I had never seen anything like that. And to see such a tiny baby, so helpless and to know she had been abandoned was being confronted with a painful reality that just seemed way to harsh to even be true. Result? I didn’t leave her for even a fraction of second.

I could not get away for a single second and spent all day stroking her, looking at her, ensure that the diaper was clean and whenever I heard a strange beeping from the machines I panicked and immediately called a nurse. Then came lunch time and I didn’t went. I didn’t want to eat. I knew my time was limited and therefore I couldn’t waste it on food!

Deep down I had a secret hope that the parents of Francisca suddenly appeared and saw in her the beauty that Sofia and I had seen! I didn’t want to miss that moment that, unfortunately, did not happen. That day ended with tears. I didn’t want to leave, did not wanted to be away from Francisca and this story quickly spread throughout the Camp. We were divided into teams and mine was especially careful with me at that stage because I wasn’t emotionally able to cope with the situation. Sofia was the only person who could understand what I was feeling!

It is curious that has seen this movie today because lately I've been thinking a lot about Francisca. Actually, I thought about her last night and did my math. I am 30 years old. Francisca will be 17 or 18 by now. And I know nothing of her.
When it was time to go back home, it was given us a book with the names and addresses of participants and where we could write dedications to each other. I don't know where mine is but what Sofia wrote, it might was well be written on solid rock as it's marked in my mind “Don't you ever forget: Francisca will always be ours."

I know how much I love my daughter and how much I loved Francisca that day and during my life until today. Even away, even not knowing anything and even not having contributed anything to her life. I judge no one but I cannot understand how anyone could have chosen not to have that little angel in their lives.
This video made ​​me cry and made ​​me wish that Francisca was hopefully fortunate to have had a Maria in her life and wherever she is that she is loved and able to smile.

Check out the video. It is 8 minutes length but I promise you that they are worth it. Really shows the best that there is in humans.
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