In this episode of Brazilian Women in Economics’s podcast, Paula Pereda and Laura Karpuska interviewed Cassiana Fernandez. She took her bachelor’s degree in Economics from FEA-USP and her master’s degree – also in Economics – from PUC-Rio. She is currently J.P. Morgan’s Brazil Chief Economist.
Cassiana spoke of her trajectory from choosing to graduate in economics to her current position. She says that before entering college, besides being interested in history, geography, and mathematics, she also had a taste for photography, and when she discovered that the photographer Sebastião Salgado had graduated in economics at FEA-USP, this provided her an additional inspiration to choose the course. Already in her second undergraduate year, she falls in love with Economics while acting as an intern at Ideias Consultoria, gathering books and articles for Professor Delfim Netto. Cassiana continues her studies with a master’s degree from PUC-Rio, and, after this step, she starts working in the BNDES (Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development). A classmate then invites her to join the Fundo Mauá, and, after that, she joined J.P. Morgan, where she works nowadays.
When talking about the role of the economic analyst, Cassiana points out that there is some confusion about the real role of an economist in the financial market. The interviewee says that an economic analyst is not a public policymaker but someone whose role is to analyze and project economic scenarios.
Moreover, Cassiana says that, although macroeconomists tend to have a common goal of sustainable economic development, it is not every time there is a consensus on the means nor the opportunity costs involved. She highlights that we need to be careful with “big certainties” or “strong convictions”. It is necessary to study and assess models and data with attention to uncertainties and risks before taking a position. Furthermore, she points out that bringing together different opinions and debating them matters, even though it may not be easy to do.
Cassiana also spoke about her role as leader of the Women on the Move in Brazil, a support group for women at J.P. Morgan. She explains that the movement follows the women’s career in the institution and promotes meetings to identify and solve problems as correctly and rapidly as possible. Also, the movement tries to include more women in all spheres related to the company. Besides that, within the movement, she has a mentoring role for some younger women. Moreover, Cassiana highlights the importance of engagement, intergenerational debates, the training aimed at revealing unconscious biases, and seeking to bring men too as allies to the movement.
In conclusion, in addition to discussing the Brazilian economic scenario and highlighting the relevance of networking – and that network-forming activity should be inclusive –, Cassiana leaves a message to her younger self. She says that she would like to tell her to let herself be helped and be less afraid of exposing herself. She recalls the advice brought by Laura Karpuska in one of our episodes: “Don’t be afraid of your own voice.