Vivian joined Wonolo as the Head of Talent in 2018. She was the first recruiter at Wonolo, and now leads a team of three focused on scaling all teams in San Francisco, Nashville, Toronto, and remote locations. Prior to Wonolo, Vivian led the Talent Acquisition organization at Rappi and owned Recruiting Operations at Wish. She is originally from Cartagena, Colombia, and has been in the US since 2013.
What are you grateful for today?
I’m grateful that I get to do what I love, and lucky my job has a tangible impact on the business. Finding Wonolo is something I’m quite grateful for as well. I held off for a while before deciding my next role and didn’t want to settle. Wonolo was so worth the wait! Here I get to help an underserved population. Being from Colombia, I witnessed how lack of opportunities makes it virtually impossible to escape the poverty trap. I’m thankful to be part of a mission-driven team made up of smart, hard-working, and driven individuals, who are also genuinely nice, humble, and supportive. It feels like a home away from home. I’m especially grateful for the superb women leaders at Wonolo who’ve mentored me and encouraged me to be bold and take risks.
When you were in high school, what did you dream of becoming?
Latin Americans are practical when it comes to career choices. I considered a short list of usual suspects: engineering, medicine, law, business, and finance. I decided to become an engineer in large part because of my dad, who is a civil engineer. He has an accomplished career and is passionate about his craft. I was good at numbers and always enjoyed solving complex problems, so I figured electronic engineering was the way to go. Two years into it, I took a couple of business classes by chance. I quickly realized I would much rather spend my time learning how businesses are run and teams are built, than electromagnetic theory. I switched majors to Business Administration and have never looked back.
What events in your life have led you to your current role/job today?
There are two common themes throughout my career, 1) is the commitment to growth and 2) purpose.
Commitment to growth.
I’ve been deliberate and intentional around my career. Every new role has included a healthy dose of risk-taking: I’ve looked for opportunities that push me to my limits and allow me to exercise new muscles. I thrive in environments where I’m constantly learning and uncomfortable. I love that in every role, I have been surrounded by people who are better than me and inspire me, as well as had the opportunity to build from scratch (processes, teams, and functions, you name it). Every new role has included a healthy dose of risk-taking: I’ve looked for opportunities that push me to my limits and allow me to exercise new muscles.
Ensure that the work has purpose.
Growing up in Colombia had a major impact in the type of purpose I seek out. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It is also challenged by inequality, little access to opportunities for a large part of the population, and an unemployment rate of more than 10%. Every company I’ve been a part of roots for and helps the underdog.
Before coming to the US for business school in 2013, I worked as a consultant in a firm specialized in small and medium sized businesses. There I helped family owned companies become more competitive so they could flourish. While at Rappi, a Colombian on-demand delivery startup, we successfully built a team from scratch and scaled operations to many countries in Latin America. More importantly, through what I did, I helped provide work opportunities to people who needed it most, much like at Wonolo. Helping others gives me a strong sense of purpose and a reason to strive to be the best.
When things do not turn out the way you planned, what is the first thing you do?
This is a pretty general question. Thinking about it for a minute I try to follow a framework. I take a deep breath and a step back: perspective and time to process are important. I share my thoughts: usually talking through the situation with a sounding board helps me look for alternatives on how to best approach it. I focus on incremental improvements, rather than perfection: my natural reaction when things don’t go as planned is to slow down and over analyze the situation. I have now shifted my efforts to just getting things done, and iterating later.
When you have to make a difficult decision, what do you lean on?
I try to be fair, sensible, and consistent with my values when I make difficult decisions. If this decision affects other people, being fair is very important to me. To ensure that’s the case, I figure out who I’m affecting with my decision and pretend I’m them for a moment. It’s akin to do unto others as you would have them do to you. I ask myself how I would feel if I were every person affected and take that into account.
I also try and define what my underlying assumptions are. What do I have to believe for x to be the right decision, or for y to be the wrong one. This usually helps me avoid making stupid decisions. Think about it: what would you have to believe so that jumping off that cliff would be a good idea?
What is one life advice you can give to anyone?
I’ve gotten to meet many very successful people throughout my life. I’ve always been interested in learning about how they got to where they are. I’ve thought about this a lot: Why so many people I knew from childhood have grown up to have successful careers and others have not? At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, my best advice is *embrace failure*.
In the career context, most people fear failing. When faced with an opportunity such as a new job, a move to a different state, vying for a promotion or starting a company, what holds people back is usually the fear of failure. More precisely, to be viewed as a failure by others and feel like one yourself.
When I came to the Bay Area I realized a big part of the success of this region is grit. There’s no stigma attached to failing. Some of the most successful people I know fail A LOT. They embrace it. They understand that the higher the risk the higher the reward, and that if you remove judgement as a concern, the worst outcome is that you grow personally and professionally.
When I first came to Silicon Valley I knew I wanted to be a recruiter but struggled to break into the industry. No one wanted to give me a job because I didn’t have previous experience in the Bay. To make matters worse, when I finally landed the internship of my dreams, my manager told me recruiting was not a career for me. She said, my introverted personality would hold me back, plus she didn’t have time to train me. I didn’t get that full-time offer I badly wanted.
That didn’t feel great but I stuck with it, took everything I learned from my internship to the next job and have thrived ever since. Interestingly enough, my introversion has become an asset and self-awareness a tool for growth. I recently heard from this manager asking me to join her in her new adventure. I’ve found my home though :).
Please finish this sentence: If you really knew me, you would know that ______.
This was a scary exercise for me to do. I’m not a fan of the spotlight.
I have a keep it simple philosophy for most areas in my life. One peculiar manifestation is I tend to wear the same outfit to work everyday.