The People Project with Ricardo

Interview with Ricardo Pessoa, USA


Hi Ricardo, tell me what you love about the country of your birth?


I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and moved when I was very young to Barretos. This was a small town, by Brazil standards, of a 100,000 people. When I was 15, I spent a year in Saskatchewan, Canada. After that taste of North America, I decided to emigrate to the US at age 17. Similar to the United States, Brazil is a melting pot with people from all over the world. In the south of Brazil you have people who originally came from Germany, like my great grandmother. There are lots of Italians, Japanese, Africans, and many other nationalities. My last name, Pessoa, is actually Portuguese. I love the diversity found in Brazil, the warmth of Brazilian people and, of course, the food!


Is Brazil like in United States in that people identify themselves by their ethnic background, even if they are first or second generation Americans?


Not so much! The topic may come up in a conversation, but it is not as common as it is here. I often hear someone say "I’m Italian American," but they don’t speak Italian themselves. It was their great great grandparents who had migrated to the United States many decades earlier.


Do you think people in the U.S. use these cultural identifiers to connect or separate themselves?


I think most people do it to connect. I find that people will look for things that they have in common. It shows some identity and roots, which I always find interesting. I do it, too. When I’m speaking with someone, I often find myself mentioning that I am originally from Brazil, especially if that person is also a foreigner. Sharing this commonality helps us connect.


Since we're on the subject of culture, what do you think about the US work culture, if we can generalize for a moment?

Sometimes this causes you to lose a sense of purpose -- "Why are we here?" and "Why does it matter?"

I’ve experienced very different company cultures here in the US. But if I were to generalize, I’d say that the work culture in the States is more transactional with a focus on getting things done. When compared to Brazil, where people tend to have more interpersonal focus, but with that, speed suffers. You've got long lunches, more hallway conversations, people get more sidetracked and involved in personal conversations and consequently, you're slower in getting things done, but that’s ok! In the U.S. I've had both experiences. I worked with a group where it felt like a family at the G.E. Learning Center. We all went to lunch together, went out for drinks and connected on a personal level. Actually, in that case, being connected also helped us to get things done. There was a high level of trust, cohesiveness and absolutely no hidden agendas. I've also experienced "just get things done" cultures where the focu