Hispanic Heritage Spotlight: Rafael Fernandes

Bay Hodge, Intern at Lenovo

“No dream is too high to be achieved,” says Rafael Fulton Fernandes. “Be sensitive. Be intense. And always keep dreaming.” Fernandes, Sr. Order Fulfilment Specialist at Lenovo, never stops dreaming. His current dream? To visit all 50 states before he turns 30. “I try to visit a new state every month,” he says. “The next cities on my list? Chicago, Kansas City, and next year I want to go to the US Open in New York.” Fernandez’s cultural experiences are not limited to the US, however.

Born and raised in Brazil, he attended a German-speaking private school. Growing up, he entered various programs to volunteer abroad in Europe and the US before beginning college in Brazil. Still wanting to experience more of the world, Fernandez took advantage of his ability to speak German and studied abroad in Germany for his sophomore year. For his final two years of schooling, Fernandes moved to the US to study at Penn State University, where he graduated in 2017.

As a Sr. Order Fulfilment Specialist, Fernandes does customer and order fulfilment for Microsoft, one of Lenovo’s Data Center Group customers. His unique background and varied cultural experiences applies perfectly to the global nature of his work. “Today, at Lenovo, I can use multiple languages in just one day,” says Rafael, “I can interact with people from Brazil, China, and Europe every single day.”

Despite his passion for traveling, Fernandes makes sure to never forget his cultural roots. At Penn State, he helped create a Latino club with the goal “to create that sense of belonging that we have back home.”

Now Fernandes serves as the co-chair of HOLA, the Hispanics of Lenovo Association, with the same goal in mind.

“If I meet any person who speaks Spanish or Portuguese here [in the US], it’s going to turn into, it’s awesome to see you here, and it’s awesome to see the great things that you’re doing,’” Fernandes remarks with a laugh. Fernandes believes a community can exist anywhere in the world between people that share similar backgrounds and goals.

Being a foreigner has its challenges, and Fernandes says he has experienced a fair amount of discrimination throughout his travels. He says it might come in the form of a less-than-polite gaze, or a sense that natives reduce the populous and diverse country of Brazil to the stereotype of soccer and Carnival. He attributes this attitude not to racial prejudice, but instead to foreigners often possessing a lack of understanding about the intricacies of his country and culture.

“I think the best way to handle adversity is to be yourself,” Fernandes advises. “You are yourself. You come from a country. You don’t have to restrain yourself if you are laughing too hard or you are talking too loud.” Fernandes believes Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to remember what connects us with others, but also what makes us unique. “During this month, we stop to reflect how similar our cultures are in terms of language, dances, food, religion, but at the same time how different all of that can be.”

NAF panel discussion
Rafael Fernandes speaking on a panel about his Lenovo experience for NAF students

The relationships that Fernandes has formed have made all the difference in his career. “The relationships are sometimes more important than your actual skills,” he states. Fernandes credits getting his first job out of college to the fact that he shared a mutual friend with the interviewer. “It just clicked,” he exclaims. And when interviewing for his first position at Lenovo, he instantly bonded with employees who had visited or were familiar with Brazilian culture.

“We leave our countries with the hope that it’s going to be better somewhere else,” Fernandes says, “but you need to keep dreaming and you need to keep working hard to achieve this dream.” Fernandes accepts any opportunity to explore the world and the many cultures it has to offer—he is certain that no matter how unfamiliar he is with his environment, if he stays true to himself, he’ll always discover similar people to share a community.

That special sense of belonging that might only seem familiar to home, can in actuality be found anywhere around the globe. Staying put can be comfortable, but leaving the comfort of home is the only way to realize that home does not have to be a single place. “Hispanic Heritage Month is about a diverse and strong community celebrating the similarities and differences that empower us to support each other all the time, that make us feel at home every time we meet someone from our country, that make us have that sense of belonging,” concludes Rafael. “It’s about what makes us unique.”

This is part of our series celebrating National Hispanic Heritage month.

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