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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Demons and Angels

  • by Sofia S.
  • 17 Apr, 2017

It’s the little things in life, you know?

The smell of spring in March, the feeling of your toes curling into the sand in May, the warm sun shinning in July, the days when you wake in the morning and you just know it’s going to be a good day. It’s when your heart skips a beat when he leans over for a cheeky kiss in your neck, when you can smell his true self behind a fancy perfume and deep down you know “he loves me”.

 If you are anything like me, this is the part when your mind begins to race, demons take over and you can’t help think: “Does he really love me though?” and “Why does he love me?”.

Surely there has to be something wrong with him if he loves someone like me.

I have been broken so many times that I’m full of invisible scars. They become visible when I allow him to have a glimpse at my insecurities. They become visible by my actions, words or questions and when I sometimes behave irrationally. Yet, he remains. For how much longer I wonder. How much longer can he put up with me? There are far too many girls out there, prettier, skinnier, smarter, and funnier… “Why me?” I wonder.

Feelings of confusion and anxiety take over me but he leans over for another kiss. He tells me “You are looking very pretty today” and you know he means it because the eyes are the window to the soul and his bright blue eyes allow you to take a deep dive into one of the most beautiful souls that God has placed in your way.

You know you have something good going on when you find comfort in silence. There isn’t any awkwardness and you can be still. Be still my soul, for I have found what I have been looking for.

Your mind races but your heart is quiet. Your heart tells you “It’s all good. Breathe” but in your mind there are a thousand thoughts happening at the same time at the speed of light. You try to catch one but just as you think you can focus on one, it immediately seems to fade away and blend in with all the other nine hundred and ninety nine. You are left trapped in this whirlwind that is only happening in your head. You have your eyes closed, it’s all too real for you, you don’t understand what is happening and you want for all of it to go away. You so desperately want for these feelings, thoughts, doubts, anxieties, goals, dreams and memories to just stop because it's just too much.

Just as you feel you are about to scream, suddenly, everything stops. You believe you are able to focus again, you breathe, open one eye slowly to make sure it's safe to do so, open the other one and all is still around you.

You look everywhere to make sure you are no longer in your mental trap and next to you, there he is. The anchor that keeps you grounded. Your very own angel.

He has a little smile on him and you know he is lost in his own world. A world he created for himself while he allows losing himself in the words of the latest book he bought.

All is quiet. The last rays of sunshine invite themselves through the windows, creating beautiful shades around and you feel comfortable in your sofa. You slowly return to consciousness by moving your fingers, by feeling your own breath. You look around and your coffee is still warm. You look to your side and there he is. Completely oblivious to the fact that your whole existence nearly collapsed inside your mind. It doesn’t make it less real for you though.

 The palette of colours created in your living room by the sunset make you look at him like you are seeing him for the first time. You are paying attention. The details of his face, how his skin moves when he smiles and you realise how he is getting old and choosing to grow old with you.

I have been broken so many times and I am full of invisible scars. He tells me it’s ok and kisses it one by one until they heal. “We all have them” he tells me.

I find comfort in his arms when I allow myself to be vulnerable. I give happiness a chance and I am the happiest when I fall asleep in his arms.

 It’s the little things in life that make it grand.

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