Written by: Gabriela Vasconcellos & Vivian Barbosa
Photo by: Almir Bindilatti
As a child, Núbia Maria Almeida used to play with dolls made of corn cobs and cloth. When she was still a girl, she dreamed of becoming a military police officer, because she thought the uniform was pretty. The eldest of the six children of Maria Vitória (Vivi), Núbia had to start working at an early age, helping her mother sell acarajé (bean fritters) on the beaches of Salvador. On their days off, they went fishing to feed their family and make up for her father’s absence. It was “Mainha,” as Núbia affectionately called her mother, who made her dolls.
Considered by her colleagues to be the personification of the Spirit of Service, Núbia, 46, is a receptionist at the Odebrecht Foundation. “Everyone admires her tremendously, including people from other companies,” says Daniela Ceccotti, her Leader. Núbia believes she gets all her good humor and charisma from her mother, in addition to her talent in the kitchen. But aside from the famous delicacies of her hometown of Salvador, what does Núbia have to offer as a native of Bahia? “Love, affection and a tremendous desire to help others. ‘Mainha’ was always like that. Even when times got tough, she’d share what little we had. She was a fighter,” she says, visibly moved.
It was December 18, 1985, her first day at work at Odebrecht S.A. The then-Manager of the Salvador Office had gotten her the job, which involved serving coffee and water on the third floor. “I had never carried a serving tray in my life! My hands were shaking,” she recalls with a smile. Despite her new job, she continued to help her mother out on weekends. During her vacations, at her coworkers’ request, she sold acarajé in a parking lot near the Odebrecht Building. She wore the distinctive attire of a baiana do acarajé and took her mother’s place when she could not be there.
With the company’s support, she resumed her studies and earned a high school diploma. She worked as a Server until 1999, when she was promoted to Receptionist at the recommendation of Hebe Meyer, Advisor to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Odebrecht Foundation, Norberto Odebrecht. According to Hebe, Núbia captivates everyone with her selflessness and willingness to learn. “One time, when the Odebrecht Foundation team was being reassigned, Norberto Odebrecht was emphatic: ‘Núbia is outstanding.’ According to the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO), that means she embodies the three main virtues: Simplicity, Humility, and the Spirit of Service,” she says.
As part of her daily routine, Núbia greets visitors, distributes mail and reserves meeting rooms, answers the phones and handles Members’ requests. Her responsibilities also include providing support for the sales program for books on TEO.
Always smiling and greeting everyone with a cheerful “good morning,” Nubinha, as her coworkers affectionately call her, contributes to a harmonious and productive atmosphere. Newly arrived Members get special attention. “When I was taking part in the selection process, she was attentive and rooted for me. On my first day, she helped me feel at home,” says Leandro Marcondes, a Foundation Trainee since March 2010.
After nearly 25 years with the Organization, Núbia has no thought of retiring. “Have you ever seen Norberto Odebrecht stop? He sets an example!” she says enthusiastically. She does plan to go to college, but she says she is postponing that dream for a while. In addition to looking after her home, her husband Germiniano – also an Odebrecht Member – and two daughters, Jéssica and Fabiana, who is on the team of Odebrecht Realizações Imobiliárias – OR, she also takes care of her grandmother, age 107, and bakes cakes and other delicacies to order.
Despite a tough childhood full of hardship, Núbia stresses that she never let it get her down. “I’m a victor, just as my mother was in name and in life. I didn’t want my daughters to go through what I did. I was able to give them real dolls.”