He’s Living a ‘Perfect Immigrant Story’ in Vancouver
Gabriel Dias, MAS’16 (Van)
By Julie Kayzerman
In 2014, as Brazil prepared to host the World Cup, its economy boomed. Working in e-commerce at the time, Gabriel Dias, MAS’16 (Van), decided to study abroad in Canada for six months to learn English and then return home to Brazil with a new skill set to propel his career forward. But once Dias set foot onto Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Vancouver Campus to begin a master’s degree in administrative science, with a specialization in global leadership and administration, his plans quickly changed.
He stayed the full two years and completed his degree, grew a thriving digital marketing career and never left Vancouver.
“It’s like the perfect immigrant story,” he says.
New to the country and the language, Dias says the Vancouver Campus functioned like a lighthouse — “you knew that you had that place where you were safe and where you could count on everybody there,” he says.
Dias found himself at his “lighthouse” almost 24/7, even when he wasn’t in class, taking full advantage of everything the campus had to offer. He was eager to give a voice to his peers and make a difference on campus, so he took on a senatorial role with the Student Government Association and worked part-time in the student services department.
Forever hustling, Dias used the University as a hub to build his professional network, bringing local entrepreneurs to campus to meet with and talk to students.
Because of his constant involvement and leadership roles within the school, Dias became close with then-Provost Cecil Abrahams, who Dias says “always left his door open” and encouraged him to be a mover and a shaker at the school. “At FDU, I was empowered.”
Digital Marketing Mogul
Dias’ hustle paid off. One of the entrepreneur visits he organized on campus led to a job in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Although Dias became a much more proficient English speaker during his time at FDU, he was still a bit shy to return to the world of e-commerce, where strong language skills are necessary to succeed in negotiating and persuasion. That’s when he decided to take on a more behind-the-scenes role and immerse himself in the world of digital marketing, SEO and analytics.
From brief stints working in SEO and social media to campaign and data insights, Dias climbed the career ladder at warp speed, becoming the head of digital and growth at Vessi Footwear just over a year after completing his master’s degree. After four years with Vessi, Dias expanded his leadership in the digital marketing space to his current role as the director of growth for Extra Card, an American debit card company that helps consumers build credit.
Now, Dias says he uses the leadership skills nurtured at FDU to guide his own team of 10 employees, connect with stakeholders and investors and conduct strategic conversations with the CEO.
Dias became a leader in the digital marketing space in such a short period of time by truly understanding and embracing the market. He learned that about 80 percent of the industry changes every two years. Instead of being intimidated by the uncertainty, he sees it as an opportunity. “There’s a whole lot that you can’t control, but you can control your skill set,” he says.
Working in an unpredictable field — with new social media platforms constantly cropping up, increasing competition for consumers’ attention and growing privacy rules for tracking — Dias is now tasked with the challenge of finding creative new ways to remain relevant, without becoming an annoyance to his company’s audience.
He’s ready to rise to the occasion.
FROM PROFESSOR TO PAL
Dias is still close with his former instructor Sydney Scott, who teaches leadership and ethics, and the two still try to meet up every quarter or so. “She’s a rockstar,” he says. “She gets into your brain and flips it upside down, and she’s very impactful if you’re engaged in the class.”
PICK UP A BOOK
An avid reader — Dias recommends retired tennis player and Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open — it deeply resonated with him. “It shows how, even when the path is really rough or even full of imperfections, you can achieve greatness.”
A MISSION THAT RESONATES
A huge draw for Dias’ recent move to Extra Card was the company’s mission to “empower people for their financial freedom” through building consumer credit. “As an immigrant, that really resonated with me because I know how hard it is to start your journey