5 min read.
Pi people

My path to PI: Head of Product Delivery, Giovana Zortea

14 December 2020

Our path to PI series gives a candid insight into the people behind the positions at Project Imagine (and its customer product Dozens), and the meandering journeys that have brought our team together. 

This week Giovana will get a tube to get to a plane to get another plane to get a bus to get a cab to get to her family in time for Christmas.

While most are familiar with major cities like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, the municipality of Ijuí is one of Brazil’s lesser known destinations – but for Giovana, it’s home. It’ll take a full twenty-four hours to get back, but the travel time feels like small beans considering the world of difference between her busy life in London and the quiet countryside town she grew up in.

Giovana currently lives in London, and it’s the perfect home for someone whose natural energy reflects the hundred-miles-an-hour nature of one of the busiest cities in the world. Her role as Head of Product Delivery at Dozens reflects this, too.

I’m a midfielder, accountable for ensuring the efforts of my intelligent, skilled and diverse team come to tangible outcomes aligned to the company's values

An average day for Giovana consists of many hours video conferencing with her team (who are based all over the world), creating, developing and driving timelines, road maps, task lists, designs, presentations, documentations, as well as many (many) stakeholder meetings to ensure goals are aligned, knowledge is transferred, and feedback is communicated. On top of all of that, she also has to make sure that she’s constantly adapting to the ever-changing technical systems she works with and is, in her words, “finding simple and elegant ways to handle complexity.”

Despite having seemingly every hour of her day filled, Giovana still finds time to set up Zoom coffee-dates with people outside of her team and lead tech demos of the latest and greatest things in the Dozens app. It would be easy to assume that the most challenging part of Giovana’s role is the sheer amount of responsibility and activity she has to squeeze into a day, but this isn’t how she sees it. Instead, she says her biggest challenge is “the constant need to change my mindset” in order to keep up with all the unexpected changes that inevitably pop up more often than not. It’s a challenge she’s more than willing to rise to, though. Not just because she’s a self-professed “sensation seeker” who “will never avoid a situation because it might be tough”, but also because she sought out the startup life, which is infamous for being filled with last-minute changes, profound uncertainty, and abundant challenges.

It’s part of the startup deal that you sign up for uncertainty… It's like signing a blank cheque!

After living and working in Brazil her whole life, Giovana was inspired to seek out some such challenges. For her, “an interesting life is more important than a happy one”, so she was always going to be someone that sought out new experiences. The catalyst for this particular decision was her MBA in Strategy and Competitiveness. Not too long after completing it, she packed her bags and moved to London in the Summer of 2017. She was ready to find a new company where she could put her skills and newly acquired MBA to good use. 

Giovana’s career journey began in advertising, where she researched consumer insights focused on media consumption and digital channels. From there she got involved in ideation, planning and execution of web and mobile experiences related to media, games, payments, automation and finally banking services. It was this experience, combined with her true desire to be a part of something that aims to help people improve their lives, that got her the role at PI. 

When the PI team opened their doors to me with the opportunity to put design thinking, product management, project management and technology in service of a better world, I felt very fortunate.

Since joining, Giovana has definitely made her mark. She initially came on board as a Product Manager, but quickly worked her way up to Head of Product Delivery, thanks to her ability to effectively lead and motivate a remote team, drive projects to completion, and manage the expectations of an ever-ambitious startup. It would be easy to assume that she must be an innately confident person, to be able to take on a role like hers, but that isn’t the case. She’s open in saying that she wasn’t confident growing up, and while it was something her family tried to build in her (her mother sent her to theatre classes) and she’s worked on herself since, it didn’t come naturally to begin with. And it still gets challenged – since moving to London she’s had to contend with living and working in a second language. She says that something she took great pride in when she was in Brazil was the eloquence she possesses in her Portugese mother tongue. Though she’s fully fluent in English, she still isn’t as confident in it as she is in her first language.

I lost a lot of my tools. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity, because I was the person who could express herself so well…

Giovana doesn’t let it affect her motivation, though. She’s always trying to improve her language skills (she reads a lot in English and still takes lessons sometimes, too), and she draws confidence from her ability to keep learning, as well as from her experience; in reflecting on her successes and learning from her failures, and just trying to enjoy the journey. 

Speaking of journeys, what does Giovana think of her path to PI? Mostly she says she just feels so lucky to get to work with a team that lives and breathes supporting people’s financial wellbeing. She also mentions how much she has always loved, and continues to love, the alternation between the adrenaline of the fast-pace delivery and the slower-burn of strategy, problem solving and product modeling that she’s been able to experience since joining. She has always had a real passion for what she does.

In tech there is so much room to transform, improve, try and create. Tech is about lights on, lights off, it is simple and infinite, it is about a whole world you can dream and make real. 

While her London life is undoubtedly different to her Brazilian one, Giovana has managed to settle almost perfectly into it, while never losing herself. That said, we’re sure she’s excited to get off that last bus and walk along the familiar streets she grew up on to get home. 

It’s a good thing Giovana has mastered enjoying journeys, as it’s quite the commute to Ijuí...