Marianne Abreu (she/her) is a UX designer at YouTube/Google. She has 15 years of experience working at startups, agencies and fortune 500 companies as a design lead. Prior to her current role, she was a product designer at Samsung. Her work has influenced multiple generations of Samsung TVs, smart displays, smart home products, and smartphones.
Outside of work, she has been involved in art projects and exhibitions from painting to interactive installations. She earned a Master’s Degree in Design Strategy and Management from Parsons School of Design and a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from the University of Brasilia.
1. When did you know that you wanted to work in tech?
As a child, I was fascinated by computer graphics. I remember being mesmerized by screensavers. At the age of 11, I learned about design as a profession in a magazine and two years later, I found myself building websites. I almost feel as if I was born for this job. My dad had an influence on this as well, I remember him telling me that computers were the future. He was right. I jumped into the tech industry and let it take me to new lands, including moving to Silicon Valley in 2012.
2. Who is a role model that you look up to?
So many people have influenced me throughout my life! If had to choose one person who affected my career the most, that would definitely be my dad. He taught me how to use computers and how to code when I was still a little girl. He encouraged me to explore and to not be afraid to try. I owe him so much for teaching me those early lessons.
3. Where is your hometown?
I grew up in Brasilia, Brazil and later moved to Rio. Now I have been living in San Francisco for 5 years.
4. What is a struggle that you’ve faced and how did you handle it?
What’s life without struggle? The first truth of Buddhism is: life is suffering. I can’t challenge Buddha on this one. Struggles have appeared in my life several times. I have had to learn to be feisty and resilient to continue on the journey. I have encountered struggles in almost every mile: as a woman in tech facing sexism, learning a new language and culture, facing discrimination as a person of color. I see myself as a warrior that fights no matter how blunt the sword is. My self-confidence has been challenged every time people discouraged me, “I don’t think you would be able to do this” or “You are not ready for that” or “This is too complex/difficult for you.” I’m so glad that I never let them stop me.
5. What is something that you are immensely proud of?
“Inspire to be inspired” is my motto. One of the things that inspire me the most are TED Talks. I can spend hours watching them. It is such an inspiration boost. In 2009, I was fortunate enough to meet a group of people that were as passionate about them as I was, and together we worked hard to bring TED to Brazil. In 2010, we organized the first TEDx in Rio. It was huge! We managed to get sponsorship, which allowed us to bring in some brilliant minds. The event was entirely free and livestreamed. We later brought that experience to the favelas in Rio. I was astonished. Bringing inspiration and education to my community made me feel immensely proud.
6. What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?
I have been thinking a lot about how much we can bring our whole selves to work.
7. Favorite food?
Brazilian cheese bread and Açai bowl!
8. Favorite book?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Completely mind-blowing.
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
I would like to be a Yoga teacher for a day. Maybe I will do that one day.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?