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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Edward Colston, the 381 year-old man making headlines

  • by Sofia S.
  • 28 Apr, 2017

It’s a fact of life. You can’t unsay what you’ve spoken, you can’t go back in time to change things you now regret and most certainly you cannot re-write or erase History.

Bristol is currently a divided city over a great piece of its History, or better say, a man who is a big part of Bristol’s History.

Allow me to introduce you Mr Edward Colston, a born and bred Bristolian who arrived at this planet in 1636. He was a member of Parliament, a merchant but he also a man who transported around 100,000 people from Africa to the USA and other destinations. If you don’t really see an issue with the word “transported” allow me to clarify. In other words, Edward Colston was a slave trader.

If you ever come to Bristol or if you have ever visited the city you will notice streets named after Colston, buildings, pubs, several schools, a statue in the city centre and you will even find a bun in remembrance of the man who was once named a great benefactor of the city of Bristol.

So why is this relevant?

Well, one of the biggest music venues in Bristol opened doors in 1867 and the building is called Colston Hall. There is now a massive row between the people of Bristol as the Bristol Music Trust that runs Colston Hall has announced that in 2020 it will change its name to something that no one knows what. They justify their decision by stating that the negative connotation of the Colston name goes against the “forward thinking” of the Trust.

Mind you that Colston Hall is not just any venue. In its repertoire has names such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Ella Fitzgerald and Elton John but is also the home for the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival and hosts nights of stand-up comedy. It's part of Bristol's heritage and people are proud of it.

If you’re wondering why a man like Colston was named a benefactor, before becoming a music venue, back in 1708 the building was also a school which was funded by the one and only… (Guess who! Yep, I think you’ve got it) Mr Edward Colston.

Here, he established the Colston’s Boys School to educate the poor and even after his death in 1721 the school continued at this location until 1857 when it was moved to a different location. There are several schools in Bristol, both for boys and girls, founded by him. He donated around £10,000 for charitable institutions. If £10,000 is a lot of money today, imagine how much it was back then.

So why I am writing about this? Am I just informing the world about what’s happening in Bristol? Not exactly, because you can pick that up from any newspaper.

As you will probably know, politics is one of my big passions and the political correctness that we see nowadays – in my opinion – has reached a level of utter madness where people get offended by another person’s views or opinions.

Basically, the current level of political correctness goes something like this: you are entitled to your opinion because we live in a free society, however, if I don’t agree with your opinion, I can just state I feel offended and that is the end of it. Instead of promoting dialogue and exchanging ideas, the people who get so easily offended are trying to inflict their points of view in others. It’s not very democratic is it?

I even think that most people who even state “I am offended” don’t really know what the word means. They are somehow trapped in this illusion that if they say that, other will have to shut up and act according to what the offended person is saying.

If you feel offended is usually as a result of an insult. Not agreeing with someone’s opinion is not a synonym of offense. Look it up if you don’t believe me. I’m not making this up.

I have my opinion. You are free to disagree with it because that’s your right but I am also free not to take your views on board. What ever happened to the good old “we’ll have to agree to disagree”? My freedom stops where your begins and vice-versa.

As a teenager I used to listen to a lot of trip hop. CD’s from bands like Zero 7, Thievery Corporation, Martina Topley-Bird, Portishead and Massive Attack were always on my backpack along with a couple of extra batteries for my Sony discman.

Funny enough, the last two are actually bands from Bristol (Portishead is a town close to Bristol) and Massive Attack is one of the bands that refused to play at Colston Hall due to its name.

I am not condoning people’s perceptions or opinions in relation to the matter, we all know that what he did for a living, morally, is incorrect. However, I do find it complicated to comprehend that political correctness is actually trying to impose current standards and way of life to something that has happened over 300 years ago and trying to scrap pieces of History.

We as a society have move forward (some would argue that not a lot but that’s a different conversation). There is way to sugar coat this but back then slave trade was acceptable. It was normal (it feels weird to actually write this).

Is it acceptable today? Absolutely not. At least not in the way it was back then but I don’t see anyone actually boycotting countries like China where child labour is very much alive and other Asian countries that enslave women and children for prostitution. And this is happening NOW.

We can’t change History but we can change what is happening TODAY. People like you and me living in inhuman conditions without a decent salary. Children taken away from their families for slaveryàla 21st century mode.

However, and this is what upsets me, most people don’t mind spending their time, focus their energy in boycotting something that happened over three centuries ago but refuse to to do something to change what is in their reach today. People, you cannot change what happened.

These are the same people that if they go a shop to buy an item and the tag reads “Made in England - price £20.00” but right next to it is another one that reads “Made in Taiwan - price £10.00”, I can almost guarantee that 99.9% of the people would go for the cheapest option and won’t even think about the consequences of their purchase or what industry their helping to thrive. Far from sight, far from heart, right?

This doesn’t happen only with clothes. How about coffee, for example? Or jam? Or chocolate? One has a Fairtrade stamp and costs £5. The other one has no stamp and costs £4.

For those of you who don’t know, in short, Faitrade is an organisation that ensures that farmers and workers of Fairtrade products receive a fair wage and have decent working conditions. This may not seem like a huge deal but if you take in consideration that these are developing countries where in some plantations women’s wages were paid to their husbands and were pennies, this is a huge deal. Fairtrade makes the world where you and I live a better world. It’s actually within your reach to change the world to the better.

If you tell me that spending an additional £10 per month on your groceries so you can buy Fairtrade is not affordable but you spend money on a bus fare or petrol to go to a protest over a man who died over 296 years ago and most certainly isn’t turning around in his grave over what you think of him, then I regret to inform you, but you sir/madam, are a hypocrite.

I wish people would acknowledge that we should focus on our brothers and sisters that are alive and breathing the same oxygen as you and me and that desperately need our help. We can make our world a better place for ourselves and our children.

Colston is long gone ladies and gentleman.

Changing the name of a venue won’t erase neither the wrong he’s done (according to current standards), nor it will erase the good he’s done. It’s not a history that you can re-write to suit your needs or wants. This is History. And the latter my friend, that you cannot change.

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