Hello my name is Lud and I want to try to summarize what I have done in Incorporadora RPF, (a construction and architectural firm in São Paulo that focuses on environmentally sustainable practices and fostering community relationships), and I want to say that this is an impossible task. It is impossible to write down everything that I have done, everything I have learned during these 10 weeks of interning, but I will give it a try.
Incorporadora RPF is divided in many cells: Obracil, AHA, Nihao, Eco5 and Incorporadora RPF.
- Obracil takes care of the engineering part of the company, the brains behind the architecture, the construction, calculation and expertise.
- AHA takes care of the ideas, the development of potentials and bringing innovation as creative solutions to demands.
- Nihao takes care of selling; advertising and making connections with other companies in order to constantly improve the quality of their product.
- Eco5 takes care of the social and environmental part of the company, making sure that there is responsible thought on every action and active engagement with the community
- Incorporadora RPF fosters good relationships amongst investors and cultivates meaningful and trustful connections with them.
During my stay I stayed in the Lúmen building, built by Incorporadora RPF. They allowed me to stay there at a much cheaper rent price. From the first day, my supervisor told me that at the same time I was renting the apartment, I was testing the idea of the 24th Floor, a system where we would take all these apartments and set a renting system to short term stays at the busy city of São Paulo, with cleaning, laundry, academy, co-working, and many other options and possibilities. During my internship I was a guinea pig of finding out how things could be improved, find out what was missing. But then I realized I could help out by using the connections I have made at Whitman as well as UWC to create research focus groups and estimate costs, address needs and research any other possible improvements. So in this way, the 24th floor would not be focused only on Brazilian demands, but open to foreigners and guests who come for lectures or on business travels; those who travel for a few weeks and want something similar to a hotel, but more homey yet also affordable and safe. We then started the process of connecting with companies that do just that and even considered turning it into a product. From the very beginning my internship already seemed to be much more than I was expecting and I have learned a humongous amount of skills and concepts. But let me start at the beginning, two years ago:
Everything started with the Project Zero in the summer 2013. Marcos Fantini, my friend, contacted AIESEC, (Activating the leadership potential of young people), an international non-for-profit that provides young people with cross-cultural global internship and volunteer exchange experiences and leadership development. They focus on empowering young people so they can make a positive impact on society.
He wanted to bring a German and an American student to the company to do an internship and give their feedback, a different cultural perspective which is useful for the company. But the experience would also be useful for the intern because they would gain work experience and learn more about how a company works; a company with strong social values that is dedicated towards sustainable development and responsible growth. I was also part of that team and it was really nice to spend 24/7 together. We worked together, we hosted the two interns, and we learned a lot from each other. This experience was called the Project Zero, a dedicated network, starting from zero. No monetary goals, just common and mutual growth.
The opportunity for me to come back to Incorporadora RPF is like Project One, a sequel to Project Zero. We are now using all that feedback and are finally applying it to build something new. It is even nicer for me to think about it because I am Brazilian, but everything I have learned regarding economics, finance and professional relationships is somewhat foreign to Brazil because I learned it in the US. So it was also the chance of understanding the Brazilian dynamics, these different perspectives complementing each other towards a real goal. This approach fits into my plan: at some point I would like to come back to Brazil and use what I have learned at Whitman in the Brazilian business world, the Brazilian environment.
I want to say that I am extremely thankful for this opportunity, one more time 🙂
AHA, which I mentioned earlier takes care of the ideas, the development of potentials and bringing innovation as creative solutions to demands, represents that epiphany moment when you have one idea, when you realize something and you see potential in it. Anita Prado Ferraro, whom I worked with this summer, created AHA with the purpose of developing those ideas. Looking at the potential of things and actually doing something about it. Looking at an area for sale and seeing a building that would bring sophistication as well as environmental awareness to the neighborhood; seeing an abandoned park and planning activities in it that would bring a sense of public ownership so that people will take care or it again.
Anita takes people with incredible and crazy ideas and connects those ideas in a way that make sense. Following their passions she puts everyone together and guides us towards what we have to do to make that idea come true. Thinking about how this idea would benefit everyone and the world. How this idea can develop each other, create more connections, open more doors and being self sustained while being able to stay with our feet on the ground. Dream high; stand strong, with a cool head and a generous heart. This is how I would define Anita.
I went to Brazil with the goal of learning mathematical, economical, and real estate market terms in Portuguese, a field I am used to encountering in English. I did, but I have learned so much more. Right now, Brazil is facing an economical/political crisis and the real estate market is not doing as well as it is used to. In this case it is essential to find new and creative ways of overcoming this situation, creating new products and coming up with new solutions. This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned during my internship.
One of the things I had the chance of doing was to introduce the company to the “every time check sheet,” which is something I am used to doing at Whitman for my job at the MDL, the Multimedia Development Lab. Our MDL supervisor can not be there all the time during student’s shifts to know what is going on. The “every time check sheet” came into place to address this situation: if, for example, I finish my task, I can look at the “every time check sheet” and see what else I could be doing, as well as keep it as a journal and use that time effectively to learn more skills that will be useful (and for free) not only for me as a person, but also for my employer: they will have a more skilled employee. With the “every time check sheet” I can get extra training and use my time productively. I can avoid wasting my time and my employer’s money. For this process of introducing this MDL resource to my internship supervisor, I contacted my MDL supervisor and asked him why they did it, what the outcomes were and if he had any suggestions on how to implement it at a company that was not used to using such a system. It was also relevant for Incorporadora to better understand the dynamics of their company. Which employees are overwhelmed by demands and how could they find a better balance?
One of my coworkers, David, based on that idea if increasing productivity as well as personal self-satisfaction with your own work, found an app called Trello. We then merged these two systems (Trello and the “every time check sheet”) to facilitate the communication between every cell of the company, to help set goals and also follow-up on them.
During my internship I also had the chance to set up partnerships with establishments in the Lúmen neighborhood. Lúmen, the building I was living in, is new and people are moving into their apartments. This is a great chance for the AHA team to find partners and I was given the chance of taking the lead on facilitating conversations, meeting managers, arranging agreements, as well as deciding and negotiating terms. That was incredible for me, especially because I was doing all of that in Portuguese! This project/product was also created by the AHA team and is called “Tudo mais fácil,” which translates to “everything easier”. A brief explanation for that would be a partnership with a local restaurant that would benefit from having us advertise their product, and in return our residents would benefit from having delivery at only 50% of the original price.
Lúmen also offers “DecorBox,” which is another innovation from AHA. It means that if you buy your apartment, you can choose if you want it “bare,” if you want it painted, if you want it with facilities such as bathroom box and air conditioner, or if you want it decorated. Even better, you can also choose to have pay per use services (e.g. dry cleaner, etc.) which are way cheaper than what can be found out there because all of these services have partnerships with AHA and our building.
Starting a business and the business world in general has always been something scary for me, and something I was skeptical about; but through my internship I have learned how important it is and how a business can be designed in a way that benefits every single part involved in it, as well as improve and develop a sense of community in the heart of a busy city. That is part of Incorporadora RPF’s principles and goals. With Eco5, everything they do is socially responsible and ecologically right, like the solar panel project I was working on this summer –but more about that next.
During my internship, Incorporadora RPF, motivated by AHA and with the engineering skills of Obracil, allowed me to lead and organize the construction of a solar panel made out of recycled material at an NGO called Casa da Amizade that I have been working with remotely for the past 5 years. They completely trusted me and used their own funds and workforce to help this NGO that provides assistance to and empowers the local community of the second biggest favela (slum) of São Paulo, Paraisópolis.
It was incredible to work with the engineers, having the chance to manage the temporary hiring of one community member for the construction. This allowed him to receive income and made the project self-sustainable. Once he knows how to build solar panels and care for them (e.g. future maintenance) he will be able to teach other community members how to build their own solar panels. This was also a way in which the NGO helped him develop his profession and worked together with the social and environmental purposes of Incorporadora RPF. Being able to do this project from beginning to end and finishing with a workshop about sustainability for the children that attend the NGO; it was incredible. Although this solar panel’s usefulness is limited to the sunny days, what it means is way bigger than that.
The material we used was material collected from the community, by community members. The engineers and “brains” involved in the structure were from Obracil and they taught the community’s children that yes, we can recycle, reuse, and use the energy of the sun. People from the community saw that they could have their own water heating systems.
Being part of all that and looking at all the work that it takes, getting over 50 people together, moving materials, making a contract and following deadlines, that was a lesson I could never have learned if it was not for this internship opportunity. I can’t measure how much I learned and gained out of that.
In addition to that, I had the chance of attending a lecture on “crazy innovative entrepreneurship and design thinking” at University of São Paulo. I took classes on financial mathematics with Ferraro, the owner of Obracil, and a professor for over 20 years! I learned how to use an HP Calculator! That was beyond words!
This all is a summary of Project One, and Project Two is already on its way. New buildings are being planned and through the before mentioned Trello app I am able to follow what is going on in the company as well as participate in idea generation, foster further connections and relationships, and simply think about how I can help and contribute. This Internship was not limited to three months in Brazil; it represents the potential of ideas and how to make them come true.
Thank you so much Anita, for being so wonderful, allowing me to work with you and for believing in my potential and encouraging me to develop it.
Thank you so much Ferraro, for your lessons, your wisdom, math skills and your patience.
Thank you Fabio for letting me be around your company, for your kindness and the lessons I have learned from you.
Thank you to everyone from the Obracil office, who made my days so happy, who fed me yummy food, my AHA team that will always work together.
Thank you Monica Mation, for trusting me on making a solar panel on the roof of your NGO!
Thank you to everyone who trusted me and for the lessons you have given me. Thank you to Victoria, Gayle, and Marisol for helping me so much and for believing in me.