As a quadrilingual, Carina Brockl is a member of a very exclusive club; it is estimated that only three percent of the global population speaks four or more languages.
What’s more, she learned them pretty much without even studying.
“My parents raised me in a multilingual home, so I never really had to study too much when it came to languages,” she explains.
Raised in Germany with an Austrian father, Portuguese mother, and extended family sprinkled all over Europe, Carina’s life and work have spanned several countries and continents, including her current role as SVP of sales at Aurora Solar in the US.
We sat down with Carina to learn more about how to choose a career that fits into an international lifestyle, what it means to do meaningful work, and how to leverage your international study or work experience to boost your career — whether or not you’re in the three percent polyglot club.
A Career Compatible with Globetrotting
When it came time to choose a path of study, Carina considered a variety of diverse options that aligned with her interests in dance, mathematics, science, and international business. In the end, choosing business made the most sense because it would allow her to utilize her language skills and continue living an international lifestyle.
“I thought that business would give me a lot of flexibility and options of where to live. I wanted to have an open mind and see what was out there in the world. I felt that going into certain other disciplines that involve board examinations or local certifications would tie me to one place,” she remembers.
She took advantage of international study opportunities during university, which brought her to France, Brazil, the US, and eventually Ireland to conduct her thesis at an up-and-coming sales company. When her thesis was complete, they offered her a job, which definitely hadn’t been on her radar.
“It wasn’t in my plan. I was moving more in the direction of finance, but I decided to take a risk and do something I hadn’t done before,” she reflects.
Soon she was working, headset on head, as a sales development representative. The company had a robust training program, which allowed her to master each aspect of sales and move up the ladder.
“I call that job my ‘sales MBA’, because it provided me with a groundwork in sales which I often go back to. As a leader, I understand what my team is dealing with because I myself have done their jobs,” she muses.
In addition to building a solid foundation as a sales executive, she continued to have international work opportunities in France, Germany, and the US, where her priorities once again shifted as her family grew.
Finding Meaningful Work
When Carina became a mom, her perspective on work changed.
“When I had my first child, I realized that, really, the most valuable thing is time. It’s important to know where and how you spend it. I wanted to have enough time with my family, and use my time at work to get behind a mission that I really believed in,” she says.
With this in mind, Carina joined Aurora Solar, a platform that enables companies to design and sell solar energy products.
Carina feels she has found her place as part of a collaborative team of people who share her values and approach to work.
“Your colleagues matter, because they are the ones you’re working with every day. Having smart and driven people who care about a shared mission is special,” she beams.
Besides her colleagues at Aurora Solar, she credits the mission of the company — to create a future of solar for all — for the excitement she brings to work every day.
“From when I get up in the morning to the time I leave my workstation, I feel this momentum kick in because of the mission underneath my work. Knowing that helping our customers is, in turn, helping to attain global solutions for climate change is meaningful,” she says.
3 Tips for Harnessing Your International Experience
Carina points out that professionals with international experience possess unique hard and soft skills.
“There’s a lot of learning involved when moving to a new country, where you have to restart everything from scratch. The skills that are developed in that process strongly support the case for an international candidate,” she states.
If you’ve had international experience but aren’t quite sure how to use it to stand out from the crowd, here are Carina’s tips:
- Build excellent foundational skills. Carina compares becoming a strong international candidate to a layered cake, where developing strong foundational skills is the first layer, and building additional skills is adding layers to the cake. “Having a very solid foundation in the function or role is the first step, the first layer. It’s important to achieve mastery at each layer.”
- Be concrete in how you communicate the skills you acquired abroad. The skills you acquired abroad are the icing on the cake. Carina advises knowing which skills a job is looking for and being explicit about how your international experience has helped you develop those skills. Relating this to sales, Carina explains: “Sales requires putting the customer at the center of your interactions with them, and adapting to their needs. When you immerse yourself in a different country and culture, you get to know people from very different angles, which deepens your understanding of people.”
- Emphasize your adaptability and problem-solving skills. Moving countries requires a lot of effort, construction of new routines, and shifts in identity, all while being far away from family and friends. “There’s a cumbersome reexploration you have to do when you move to a new country. You are doing everything for the first time, including finding the grocery store or a new group of friends.” Each of these situations builds adaptability and problem-solving skills, which should be emphasized when speaking about your international experiences.
Though the pandemic and motherhood have changed the rhythm of her international moves, Carina is still curious and open to continuing on this trajectory.
“I'm sure that this will not be the last country that I'll be living in. I haven't decided yet on anything in the future, but living internationally is something that is a part of me,” she says.Carina loves working for a place that allows her the flexibility to be present as a mother and make a greater impact on the world. If you want to know more about Aurora Solar, check out their open roles here!