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!
Katharine Bailey’s media career started quite literally with a newspaper. “I ended up applying to jobs I found in the newspaper, circling them like in the movies from the eighties,” she recounts.
From these printed ads to major media networks to her current role as Global Head of Product & Design at Condé Nast, Katharine Bailey’s nearly two decades of experience in the media industry offers a trove of advice. She has seen with her own eyes how the industry has evolved along with ever-changing technology and times.
We sat down with Katharine to hear her story and how she leads her teams through this uncertain economy and pandemic.
Twists and Turns
After landing her first gig at a network, her whirlwind media career began and Katharine never looked back.
“During my first few years, I went from corporate communications to creative marketing to working in digital when it was brand new,” she explains. “So, I saw the ‘.com’ madness, worked as a web producer, which is effectively what they used to call product, and worked on all kinds of interesting on-air and off-air campaigns, and was part of emerging business teams where you felt like you were in a startup within a broader company.”
At this time, the importance of keeping up with technological innovation was becoming increasingly evident. Katharine recounts how she was involved in the digitalization process at one major network.
“The CIO I was working with at this network was really impactful in bringing technology solutions to a company like that, that hadn't thought of engineering or technology solutions first. He actually asked me to join the engineering team, but I didn’t know anything about servers or writing code. So, he offered to send me to school.”
Katharine ended up doing a program at Columbia where she learned to think like an engineer in how they approach problems while also gaining coding experience that she could then apply to managing software developers working on ad tech solutions.
This experience also taught her an important lesson about working and leading across teams.
“What I found working between the business and the engineers was the importance of trying to figure out what it is that we’re ultimately trying to accomplish. What does success look like? And being able to effectively translate that into a team that's creating workable code and all of the experiences you learn along the way was really impactful for me.”
Katharine continued to jump between roles at various renowned networks, a true jack-of-all-trades who has seen it all from the data warehouses of ad tech to launching local language sites in Asia and Europe.
Finding Your Passion and Making Moves
Sometimes life reveals a truth at pivotal moments. For Katharine, it was when she became a mother.
“When I had my daughter,” she recalls. “I had this overwhelming sense of clarity that what I wanted to hone in on and was passionate about was ultimately product.”
Katharine was lucky enough to have been at a company that allowed her to move within the ranks and could focus again on this passion.
Reflecting on her transitions within and between companies, she leaves us with this bit of advice about not staying in a place for too long.
“Media is funny in that it is really impatient,” she shares. “I think sometimes when you stay in a role, you can really be a dog with a bone about it, thinking ‘I'm going to keep trying to get this done. I'm going to keep pushing the boulder up the hill.’ In retrospect, there are positions that I should have left earlier.”
When it comes to deciding her career moves, Katharine has leaned into the idea of constant interpretation, instead of having a master plan.
“I think it's wonderful if you get a sense of what you want early on,” she shares, “but it wasn’t as linear for me. I took steps and interpreted, based on instincts and experiences, whether it was a good move for me or not.”
She advises continuously asking yourself, “How do you do well at the things you actually feel strongly about?” This question will help define what obligations you commit to with work and family.
Thanks to her many moves from product to engineering to editorial, she has led media companies through important initiatives that responded to changing technologies and times. She has developed subscription products in partnership with big tech companies, defined content and brand cohesiveness, and developed new monetization ideas.
Now at Condé Nast, a global media company with more than 1 billion consumers worldwide, Katharine appreciates the variety of creative projects she’s involved in.
As Global Head of Product & Design, Katharine manages a team of over 130 people who work in digital product and design worldwide. She’s been able to use her vast and multifaceted media experiences to further optimize her teams’ work processes and establish frameworks to help the company meet its goals.
With a passion for good journalism, she believes Condé Nast is setting smarter digital footprints throughout the world with their extensive portfolio, which includes major media brands such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveler, among others.
Leading Through Uncertain Times
Katharine reflects on the changes that Condé Nast has experienced due to the pandemic, as well as the current challenges caused by our uncertain economy.
One of the benefits she receives at the company is the hybrid-work model, which allows her to spend more time with her kids.
“I now get to have important windows into their lives which I didn’t before the pandemic, and it’s really wonderful,” she smiles. “Companies are realizing that the world has changed and so have employees’ expectations.”
Katharine’s vision for her work is to continuously improve and optimize the process of her cross-functional teams with the collaboration of others. Katharine uses OKRs (objectives and key results), which give solid frameworks for her teams. She emphasizes creating “a well-structured problem”, or in other words, a problem with an objective and success criteria attached. She gives space for people to figure out the problem and organize themselves to better deliver.
One of her greatest challenges now is figuring out how to manage a globally distributed organization effectively, prioritizing user experience while still retaining customers, and growing the company on a global scale.
7 Tips for Leading in Uncertain Times:
Having lived through the ups and downs of the ‘dot-com’ craze and evolving technology, Katharine Bailey has the experience to lead through the current pandemic and coming recession.
She leaves us with these 7 tips for leading through uncertain times.
- Offer solutions to problems. “Whenever you identify a problem to someone, especially above you in a position of leadership, always come up with a solution as well. One of the toughest things about being in a position of leadership is when people just come to you with problems all day. And I think the people who really stand out are the people who actually have thought through an angle or a solution, even if partial.”
- Never underestimate the importance of kindness. “Kindness is probably one of the more underrated things in corporate culture and there's something about kindness that really brings in an element of humanity that I think is really lovely. Years ago, it used to be very much that you would check your personality at the door when you would come into these corporate cultures. And I think it's become more and more acceptable that you actually bring your full self. I think with that should come a level of humanity and kindness.”
- It’s okay to take a break in your career. “When you’re moving up the proverbial ladder, you can get into a hamster wheel dynamic. And, sometimes you lose sight of what's really going on with you and what you really want to do. In my mind taking a break in some way, however long it is, or in whatever way, it could be moving into a lateral role, it could be taking a course. It could even be opting out of the workforce for a bit if you can afford it. I think those are really important to take a breath.”
- Cross-functional collaboration is key. “So much of the work that I do is predicated on that being successful. It is a constant evolution. The process in many ways is just as important as the final product. Be relentless about continuing to optimize the process, but don't browbeat if you don't have the final solution yet, because it's going to take time. As long as you're bringing people along for the ride and making them part of the solution, then I think you're in a good place.”
- Understand the moment. “There’s always a time and place for feedback. It’s important to not give the feedback too quickly, rather read the room and know when is the right time to give the feedback and how to do so.”
- Bring people along into the decision-making. “As a leader, I can’t go into a room and come up with something and assume everyone’s going to adopt it. You have to bring people along for the ride. You’re also going to get your best ideas by involving some of those people in smart ways.”
- Humanize the workplace. “If there is any time to really think about people as full human beings, it is now. And if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the bar's been raised in terms of seeing the humanity of people and really respecting that.”
When lifelong gaming industry enthusiast Shawn Soong realized someone designs all the games in every casino, his life — and career — changed forever.
Shawn was working at a casino in his home state of Colorado, where he was exposed to its day-to-day operations.
“That’s where I realized that someone has to make all the games, but few people know who or how,” he explains.
Now as the Senior Director of Game Development for Light & Wonder, Shawn finds great fulfillment in leading a team and overseeing all the game creation pieces as they come together.
We sat down with Shawn to learn more about the gaming industry, and how he fosters innovation and creativity on his teams in order to create engaging experiences for players.
From Casino Worker to Gaming Mathematician
Shawn was exposed early to the excitement of casinos during family vacations with his parents.
“Growing up, a common summer vacation would be a road trip to Vegas for a week. I was too young to join in on the gambling with my parents, but I remember thinking it looked like fun,” he recalls.
As chance would have it, he fell into his first casino gig in his mid-twenties, working on the operations side of things. It was there that he got curious about table games, and began experimenting with different variations of popular games.
He pitched one of these variations to Shuffle Master, a major gaming company. This turned out to be a life-changing career move.
“Shuffle Master liked my idea and bought the game from me. Then I ended up freelancing with them as a mathematician, helping them analyze the strategy and design of table games that other people like me had pitched to them,” he explains. Shawn has a background in math and science, so this was perfect for him.
His freelance work then led to a full-time opportunity in Vegas as a gaming mathematician with Bally Technologies, working on the mathematics of slot machines. From there, the rest is history; Shawn has been working on slot machines ever since and hasn’t looked back.
“I was very lucky to have Shuffle Master like my idea enough to want to do something with it, which got my foot in the door to where I am now,” he reflects.
A Culture of Internal Promotion and Employee Autonomy
Light & Wonder has gone through many acquisitions throughout the years — Shawn was brought onboard when it was still Bally Technologies — but it has always retained its culture of investing in current talent and internal promotion.
“Light & Wonder’s leadership has always been good about finding the next round of leaders internally and developing our internal talent. Internal growth has always been important,” says Shawn.
This mindset has naturally led to a culture of trust where individual contributors are given plenty of autonomy to shine, which gave Shawn the opportunity to continually push out quality work and move up the ranks. As he did, he developed a leadership style that gives his team enough space and support to do what they do best.
“It’s all about knowing how far to push your team members, knowing when to guide, where to stop and let them run with it because it's now in their field of expertise,” he explains.
Because of their focus on internal promotion and employee autonomy, Light & Wonder boasts a high retention rate.
“I've been here 14 years now, and we've got people who have been here 20 plus years,” reveals Shawn. “A lot of people, once they land here, tend to stay here. Which is unusual for game development,” he adds.
Creativity & Innovation in the Gaming World
Because casinos need to keep their players engaged as part of their business model, creativity and innovation are key to achieving that engagement.
“Casinos have to constantly refresh their floor in order to keep the players engaged, so there's always a new game to make,” says Shawn.
According to Shawn, there’s a direct correlation between creativity and innovation, although they are separate aspects of game development.
“The creativity aspect addresses how you put the game together in a way that helps players enjoy the experience. Innovation addresses what kind of new game mechanics we can introduce that players haven't seen before,” he shares.
For Shawn, innovation also means asking himself and his team how they can make things better, not only in terms of product but also processes.
“We are constantly thinking about how to create and innovate versions of games to prioritize and enhance the user experience, as well as how to improve our development processes,” he notes.
3 Tips For Leaders to Foster Innovation and Creativity on their Teams
Shawn recognizes that innovation and creativity are key aspects of gaming, but that leaders in any industry can benefit from both. Here are his top tips for leaders to foster creativity and innovation in the workplace:
- You don't have to be the smartest person in the room. “As a leader, you don’t have to have all the answers. It’s even better if you don’t because you’re letting other people become involved in the solution,” says Shawn.
- Leave space for your team to grow. Shawn knows that micromanaging is the quickest way to stifle growth. He prefers to present his team with problems and allow them to use their expertise to find solutions. “I could direct my team on exactly what to do when designing a game, but then it becomes very transactional for them,” he explains.
- Tap into talent from different spheres. “Some math majors don’t think that they can be involved in developing games, for example. You don’t realize how many different kinds of expertise and backgrounds you need in order to make a product until you’re in the thick of it,” insists Shawn. He has learned that having diverse backgrounds brings fresh ideas to any workplace.
Ceres Lisboa is the definition of a go-getter. Originally from Brazil, she spent a part of her childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While Portuguese is her mother tongue, Ceres quickly picked up native fluency in Spanish and English. Besides exploring the different cultures that come with these languages, Ceres was an avid dancer and pursued a bachelor’s in Business Administration and an MBA in Banking, all the while working, getting married, and raising two sons.
Today, one of her favorite activities is her family’s weekend walk in the city. As a ritual to break away from her work routine, Ceres’ family plans long walks throughout São Paulo that take them through the most beautiful areas, always ending at a new and exotic restaurant or cafe.
This favorite family activity is a perfect example of how, at 50 years old, Ceres pursues her life with intentionality and joy, which is easily reflected in her career as Associate Managing Director at Moody’s Corporation.
With a plethora of experiences and knowledge under her belt, we sat down with Ceres to hear her story of being a woman in finance. She also offers us a practical list of tips for women considering the hard but rewarding career of finance.
The Rewards and Challenges of a Working Mother in Finance
Ceres started working as an intern in a Brazilian bank during her second year at university. She quickly grew in that field and started working in financing for a bank that would later merge into Bank of America. “From there, my career flew,” she remembers. “I was invited to go from one bank to the next. That all consumed me a lot because, at the same time, I had kids.”
When Ceres first started, she was working from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM. She says, “I didn’t see my sons as much as I liked to. There were hard times, but there were better times, too. I don’t see anything with sadness because I also liked what I was doing.”
From the beginning, Ceres enjoyed the competition that comes with working in finance. Throughout the 20 years of her career, she has established a strong work ethic that encouraged those around her.
"You have a lot of sexism when working and having babies. People ask, ‘Oh, you’re going to have another baby now?’ But I moved past that and did it anyway. In the end, everything went well. I think it requires a lot of dedication to show that you have the guts and that you like what you do. Today, we can have kids, work hard, have the title, and the position.”
The Courage to Face Challenges
As one of her sons now follows in her footsteps, she gives him a lot of practical advice on how to manage the competitiveness of finance.
“‘You have to be tough,’ I tell him. You’re going to have to dedicate a lot of your time to analysis. You have to be curious, be brave enough to face the challenges, without taking things personally.”
As Associate Managing Director for Moody’s, Ceres is responsible for a portfolio of five to six associate analysts and seven junior analysts. Many of these portfolios include over 115 names in Latin America. “In my job, I tell the story of Latin America,” she explains, “which is not easy. Most of the time, volatility is found in our part of the world.”
As a global, integrated risk assessment firm, Moody’s helps reconstruct that paradigm. With their data, analytical solutions, and insights, the company helps decision-makers identify opportunities and manage the risks of doing business with others. Ceres’ job is to manage the teams that lead these initiatives.
Growing Professionally Takes Time and Effort
When Ceres was first invited to apply to become Associate Managing Director, she did not think she was prepared. However, she had been at Moody’s for about 15 years, working as a Senior Analyst. The managing director at the time was about to retire and invited Ceres to apply for the position. Ceres credits her for helping her have the necessary skills to step up to the challenge.
“I remember that she would put me in situations that I didn’t like,” she says. “And that was tough for me. But I realized that she was offering this as an opportunity.”
Ceres reiterates the importance of seeking learning opportunities, whether formally or informally. She also credits professional coaching as a way to better hone one’s skills.
“As a young woman in finance, I was very insecure. Coaching helped me realize that you’re not always going to be liked and that it takes time to build professional relationships and have the confidence to have tough conversations. It taught me how to be empathetic as a leader and gave me skills to better understand my team members.”
A Culture of Transparency
Ceres reflects on the impact of the company culture on her work ethic and the way she pursues professional growth.
“Our company values are teamwork, strategic thinking, and excellence in our service. To hold those values, you must be open. You must listen a lot. You have to explain and be transparent.”
They also offered Ceres a leadership program, as one of their many employee benefits, which she took advantage of and has leveraged in her day-to-day work.
Along with leadership programs, Moody’s offers commuter benefit plans, flexible work arrangements, and parental leave, among others.
“I really enjoy the company and how they value their employees. As long as they’ll have me, I’ll stay with Moody’s,” Ceres says.
Insider Tips for Women Seeking a Career in Finance
Reflecting on her life experience working in finance, she gives women six practical tips:
- Seek learning opportunities. “It’s hard to find people that are invested in finance. It’s necessary to have more than an MBA. You have to love analysis, you have to be curious, you have to be willing to raise your hand to volunteer for something, no matter how experienced you are.”
- Consider everyone equal. “Some of the hard parts of being a woman in the financial world is that there aren’t that many women. And there’s a stark difference between how men and women react or make decisions. While society wants to assign roles and responsibilities, we can modernize things, starting with what we choose to value in our life.”
- Be willing to work hard. “Some people want to go into finance because they think it’s the easy way to make money. But it’s not easy to make money or to have big titles or positions. You have to get real, be humble, and do the work.”
- Find ways to work as a team. “People are becoming more individualistic and thinking less as a team, especially in the financial world. It’s easy to set the goal of being the star of the group, but it’s better for everyone to have their equal part and work together.”
- Growth mindset. “Raise your hand and volunteer for learning opportunities, no matter what level you find yourself in on the work ladder. You will never have all of the answers, and that’s a good thing because that way you can always be learning.”
- Invest in yourself. “I would encourage women to pursue their hobbies and to make time for themselves. We can be women who both work hard, have a family, and have our own interests.”