Mosaic Stories

    Verena Ferreira

    “You need hard work to network and apply, but you also need to have balance. You need to have faith, hope, and good energy all the time.”

    Verena Ferreira has completely devoted herself to building a career in St. Louis since she moved from São Paulo, Brazil in 2015. She moved to St. Louis when her husband was transferred to work for Nestlé, but it was not an easy decision. While Verena was excited to have the opportunity to live abroad, she was hesitant to give up her career in Brazil.

    Verena is a food engineer with extensive experience in marketing and has worked with leading food companies in Latin America. Even so, she had a very difficult time navigating the application process in the United States.Verena realized she was at a disadvantage coming from a different culture, but she was not willing to give up her career. She described her experience:

    “When I came here, the first thing I did was to look for other Brazilians to get tips and to help me feel more confident and secure. But I ended up having the opposite feelings because I felt like there were two groups of Brazilians here. Most of them move here and the wife is happy to stay at home, and the other group was willing to accept any job, such as something in retail. I didn’t fit in with either of these groups because I really wanted to continue my career and I knew I wouldn’t be happy in a job below my qualifications.” 

    Once Verena realized that continuing her career in the United States would take some work, she began utilizing every resource she could find. She started with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, and her mentor there taught her the importance of networking and making connections within companies. After Verena received that tip, she started networking 24/7, even though it did not come naturally to her. She explained, “For Latinos it is a difficult process because in Brazil, you don’t have relationships just to discuss business. For us, it seems a little fake to have a relationship just to network, but here it is totally normal. This was hard to understand, but I learned you need to put yourself out there to meet people and talk all the time.”

    Networking was a learning curve for Verena, but she gave it her all and met with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and attended events through Network After Work, Venture Cafe, T-REX, the American Marketing Association in St. Louis, and the app Meetup. She found that St. Louis had many opportunities to network and meet people, for which she was very grateful. Verena also found ESL schools to be extremely helpful for meeting people and sharing tips. She explained, “ESL school is also a good way to learn about the history, literature, and cultural differences, because everything is linked from history and the influence of religion."

    In addition to networking, Verena found volunteering to be an excellent way to get involved and meet people. She volunteered with Viva Brazil and Girls on the Run, which was another way for her to network.

    “My schedule when I was looking for a job was very full because you have to be very proactive.”

    Verena also learned the importance of finding balance. For her that came from having faith. She explained, “In the middle of this project I did the Camino de Santiago (a religious pilgrimage through Spain) which helped a lot. It helped me feel confident and secure, and I believe that when you feel good, you attract good things.”

    Throughout the application process, Verena discovered many barriers and learned lots of tips. She learned the importance of knowing someone within the company when you apply, as well as the process of cover letters and thank you notes. Another cultural difference she encountered was the act of ‘selling yourself’. In Brazil, it is viewed as arrogant to talk about your skills and abilities, but Verena realized that in the United States you have to explain all of your qualifications and skills.

    “Another barrier is that people here don’t always recognize your university or previous employers. They may not know that it was a very good school or very impressive companies, so you have to explain all the details so they understand your experience very well.”

    In addition, Verena recognized that having an MBA and speaking Spanish, in addition to Portuguese, were extremely helpful when looking for jobs. Verena’s hard work and dedication paid off, and she is now working with Nature’s Variety as a Brand Manager Assistant. Verena is also writing a blog for Brazilians moving to the United States. She wants to provide others with the tips and tricks that she learned while looking for a job. Verena explained, “You take a lot of ‘no’s’ in your face, and you don’t always know why, but you have to play by these rules. I think I can help people with these differences. I didn’t find any resources specifically for Brazilians looking for jobs, so I created this blog.”

    Verena is very happy with her life in St. Louis. She loves the cultural attractions and Forest Park, in addition to the friendly people and pace of life. Verena explained, “I feel complete again. I was really missing a job, so I love the opportunities that I have now. I really enjoy living in St. Louis and now I think about studying somewhere here, like Washington University in St. Louis, because I want to build something here. The future of St. Louis is growing with all of the startups, and the St. Louis Mosaic Project has a very important role.”

    Visit Verena’s blog at