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  • Writer's pictureMariana Carvalho

Identity Crisis, Corporate Rat Race and Self-Worth

How to maintain work-life balance and remain your true self while working

In 2021, I received an interesting proposal from my mentor: to work directly with him and be the solutions engineer for one of Dell’s biggest accounts.

I had just returned from a trip to Brazil. And I have a certain superstition every time I come back: I bring good energy from there, and I arrive in the US refreshed to face everything that is in front of me. This time, it was no different.

I landed in Boston, connected my cell phone, and saw several missed calls.

A voice message: “I’ve been following your development over the last three years, I think you’re ready for this challenge. Get back to me when you can”. I weighed the pros and cons. I quickly grabbed the opportunity. Everything seemed perfect: new responsibilities, new learnings, new team. A total refresh to give me the gas I was looking for.

That was my second move within the company. The first was in 2019, when I started working directly with large clients. I loved the feeling of newness that area brought me. The same happened in 2021.

More and more, always with my eyes shining and the little carrot in front of me. In Portuguese, we have a saying for when people support the companies they work for more than anything: “You wear the company’s shirt.

I was proud and was “wearing the shirt” every single day. The shirt, the pants, the socks, the shoes, the cap, the gloves, the jackets. Literally.

With each new quarter, we receive something from the company. And communicated even more. If you follow me on LinkedIn, you know what I’m talking about.

I got to the point where people recognized me as: “Mari from Dell”. “This is very good, Mariana; you managed to establish your personal brand” — you think. Maybe. I am not so sure.

I set out so much that “being Mariana from Dell” was all I’ve become. And that started to get more and more ingrained into who I was and the things I was doing. Every day.

The work began to demand so much, so much, that I put aside my extracurricular work at the company. I paused my activities with the diversity and inclusion groups, and also within the women and Latino employee resource groups.

I was always seeking the next carrot.

I was simply… exhausted… of my own identity.

And that has a name: burnout. I wrote about that a few weeks ago.

How to not fall into this trap

Over time, I understood that I am not only “Mariana from Dell”, “Mariana from Brazilians in Tech”, “Mentor Mariana”, or “Writer Mariana”.

We are multiple, and this multiplicity is what makes us unique.

Paradoxical, isn’t it? (“My therapist agrees”).

That’s because, here, I’m only talking about the professional field — in the personal field, there are several Marianas. Many of them are still in the discovery phase (and if you’re going through this, I’ll hold your hand and say: “it’s normal to feel this way”).

Over coffee with a Brazilian friend who also lives in Boston and works with technology teams, we talked about our identity. Our identity as women. As leaders. As professionals. How these identities blend together.

Because they are so blended, they often prevent us from putting the right boundaries between who we are and the company we work for.

In order not to fall into this trap, I wish someone had taught me a few things that I wanted to share with you:

  • Your health (mental and physical) is the most important pillar of your life (go to therapy if you can).

  • Don’t put aside your passions within the company. Stay involved in extracurricular projects. Keep going in communities for women, Latinos. As another friend also in IT once told me: “That’s the emotional salary they pay me”.

  • You are not the company you work for. The only “company” you should fully “wear your shirt” is yourself.

  • You are just an employee number for the company (see recent layoffs). You supply your workforce, and they pay your salary. Your relationship will always be purely transactional. Any additional benefit you get from this (personal satisfaction, purpose, friendships, alignment of values) adds beautifully to the package — good for us! But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the company fulfills all your needs in your life.

And the last, and perhaps most important, is:

Your value as a human being will never be linked to your position.

Develop your skills, and focus on self-knowledge. Understand your career goals, and identify the values ​​that are important. This way, you will set boundaries with the company and with your co-workers.

You will know where to focus your energy and the reasons behind your decisions.

There’s nothing better than following a path that aligns with your values. The company you work for will never take care of you like you take care of yourself.

Build your identity, allow yourself to change and evolve, and be true to yourself along the way.


Mariana Carvalho is a writer, career mentor, Latino 30 Under 30 2022 by El Mundo Boston magazine, Mentor of the Year 2023 by WomenTech Network, with over 12 years of professional experience, the last 7 in corporate America. Connect: Mentoring | Medium | LinkedIn | Instagram | Threads | Website

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