We’ve all ventured down a new path at one time or another, uncertain of the outcome awaiting us. We’ve all traveled beyond our comfort zone and come face to face with our fear of the unknown. While the promise of a brighter tomorrow often inspires hope and encourages us to move forward, change, even when welcomed, can be intimidating. Meet Luciana Carvalho, MCR ’03, one courageous alumna who chose not to let fear stand in the way of her lifelong dreams.
From a young age, Luciana was determined to join the United States work force. Deeply ambitious, she had already completed three years of college in Brazil before making her brave move to Miami and diving into another four years at FIU!
Prior to starting her classes, Luciana’s first six months in the U.S. were spent at FIU’s English Language Institute (ELI). ELI is an intensive program that prepares students for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam, an English language proficiency test for non-native English speakers who want to enroll in U.S. universities. Although this could be intimidating for some, Luciana enjoyed the process. “This was my first exposure to FIU,” she says. “Going through ELI’s program was an amazing experience. I was able to make friends with other international students. Not all colleges offer this unique opportunity, and FIU brought that to the table.”
Luciana’s first year in Miami was wrought with transition. “My biggest obstacle was certainly the language,” she says. “I’m very outgoing and not being able to express myself was difficult. If I was not this positive person, willing to learn and open to change, I would not have been able to do this. I worked really hard, and still managed to graduate top of class, despite my language barrier.”
In 2003, Luciana was approaching graduation and she was ready to figure out a career in financial services. She used a dictionary to obtain her Heath and Life Insurance license. “By this time, I was dominating the English language grammar-wise thanks to a good education at FIU,” she says, “but I didn’t have enough of a vocabulary. Any time I worked in a new subject, I had to learn a new set of vocabulary words. I kept a dictionary with me to study.” After receiving her license, Luciana began working at a financial brokerage firm, helping clients with their business and individual financial needs.
Years of hard work were starting to pay off for Luciana. “Being part of the Miami business community was inspiring,” she says. “I was finally starting to feel like I was achieving my goals.” Luciana was actively participating in network events, engaging with professionals, and learning about new career opportunities. Near the end of 2006, she was introduced to real estate. “I fell in love,” Luciana says. “I saw this beautiful city in front of me, and I loved the idea of uniting the community and working with local businesses.”
So, Luciana got into real estate. “Unfortunately, it was around the time of the big recession and I was recently divorced,” Luciana says. “It was an incredibly difficult time to start a new career, moving to commission-based work was financially unstable. I often look back at the beginning of my career in real estate – it felt like the beginning of my time at FIU – I had all the odds against me. The market crashed in 2008, but guess what? 2009-2010 were my best years.”
The market wasn’t moving. Starting out in residential real estate, Luciana wondered how she was going to pay bills and survive. After seeing an ad in the paper for a marketing position at a commercial real estate company, Luciana made another leap. She spent 18 months working with this team, “I walked 101 buildings,” she says. “That means you go into a building, like a 30-floor high rise, and you move from floor-to-floor learning who the tenants are, who the building owners are and understanding the market.” Beyond her notable walk through numbers, Luciana made 100 calls a day and managed to schedule 88 meetings in 18 months!
After learning every aspect of commercial real estate, Luciana decided to become a broker and look for her own clients. “Today, I’m Senior Vice President of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm,” Luciana says. “All the companies I worked with prior were national. Blanca Commercial Real Estate is local, which is how I’ve always wanted to be working. This firm ties in with my values. I provide strategic real estate advisory services; I negotiate economic and non-economic terms of tenant contracts based on market conditions and provide a strategy aligned with their business goals and objectives. I watch the market very closely. I’m educating clients who may be new to market and connecting them with the business community.”
Although Luciana’s career journey is impressive, her work within our community really makes her shine. “I have such a passion for our city and community. Now, I’m in a position to give back and to mentor. I work with several organizations, including PACE Miami.”
PACE Miami is an innovative prevention and intervention program addressing the needs of young women ages 11-17 who have suffered trauma and are consequently failing in school or at risk of becoming involved in the Juvenile Justice system.
“I was lucky to have loving and supportive parents,” Luciana continues. “I feel that it is my obligation to do whatever I can do to help these girls. I have to do it. The way I felt I HAD to learn English, I feel I HAVE to do this. Being a woman is hard in this male-dominated industry. Now, I’m working with extraordinary women, teaching leadership skills. I believe women should help women. It is empowering to help them.” PACE Miami is just one of many impactful organizations Luciana is involved with. Most of her service centers on empowering and uplifting women.
· Board of Governors Member, The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce
· Board member and Annual Women’s Conference Committee member, Extraordinary Women Leading Change Leadership Conference
· Member, Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce
· Co-Chair, Young Professionals Committee
· Member of the Fashion and Lifestyle Initiative, The Beacon Council
Beyond her career and community involvement, Luciana is also juggling life as a new mom! She lights up when the conversation transitions to her son. “I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my career and be a good mom, but he has made me a better person. I can’t describe it any better than that,” she says. “He lights up my day and I am so proud of him.”
Luciana says 2016 has been her best year. In the midst of mastering motherhood, The South Florida Business Journal selected Luciana – among 1,600 applications – for the 40 Under 40 Awards. The 40 Under 40 Awards recognize 40 individuals under the age of 40 who have made significant impact in their field, at their companies and in their community.
Luciana’s parting words for students and young alumni: “If you can find pleasure in helping others, you’ll be so much happier in what you are doing. Maybe you had a negative influence growing up. Maybe your parents were always fighting or were unsupportive. It can be hard to break through that. But if you have the desire to become a positive person, work toward becoming that person. Challenges in life shape outstanding individuals. You can do it!”