“Being offered the job in Canada was great,” says Claudia, “but I thought that it might be too early for me. I’d only been in my previous position for a year, my children were young and moving from my home in Brazil would mean I had no family support network. And my husband Alexandre would have to pause his job as a PhD molecular biologist. But we sat down as a family and realized it was too exciting an opportunity to refuse!”
One year later Claudia Silva is not only responsible for overall financial management and profitability for VFS Canada – one of the company’s largest markets – she and her family are having a great time.
“Some women doubt that they can do the big jobs – but they can, we just need confidence!” she laughs. “The whole experience of working in Canada has been amazing. We were worried about my eight year old son starting in school and not speaking English. We should not have worried – he’s good at soccer and that made him instantly popular. My other son is happy and my husband has an interesting position at the University of Toronto.”
With the family settled, Claudia has been able to focus on the most challenging job of her career. She may have doubted her readiness for the role, but her impressive professional track record left everyone else in no doubt.
“Working in a country is different to being a tourist,” Claudia says. “I had my background in VFS Brazil, but in Canada the operations are slightly different and there is a greater focus on capital markets – not to mention the cultural differences. Luckily the Canadian team is very experienced – some of my colleagues have 20-or-more years in VFS Canada. They have been very supportive, and I’m not afraid to ask questions or for help. It’s uncomfortable to feel vulnerable so I tried to learn fast, but sometimes we just need to trust ourselves and the kindness of others.”
Most people would be satisfied with a first degree in Business Administration, a second in Accountancy and an MBA – all from respected universites in Brazil. But not Claudia. At 24 years old, and with a great job as an auditor with global consultants KPMG, Claudia decided that if she was going to realise her dreams of working abroad she would have to learn English. So she stunned her boss by resigning from her job, packed her bags and spent a year in Vancouver, Washington, USA being a nanny. And learning English. And meeting her soon-to-be husband, another Brazilian in the US. “It was a pretty fruitful year,” Claudia laughs.
“My drive comes from my parents,” she says. “They didn’t have many opportunities, and showed my brother and me that without education achieving your dreams is very difficult. We understood that and followed their advice.”
Now 38, the successful married mother has worked for VFS for eight years. “During that time I’ve had four roles and lots more opportunities,” Claudia says. “VFS is very supportive – but sometimes the one holding me back was me! So instead of telling myself ‘This role is not for me now’ I should have more confidence in my abilities – and go for it!”
Claudia believes that VFS recognizes employees are the key to business success, and does everything needed to develop people. “There are always opportunities,” she says. “If you can’t see them you’re not looking in the right place. No one is going to force you, you just have to step forward and let people know you are ready.
“I’m proud to be a woman of VFS.”