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Meet Carolina Rodriguez: A Journey from the United Nations to Communications Strategist & Entrepreneur.




Join us on a journey through the inspiring story of Carolina Rodriguez, a dynamic individual whose career has traversed the realms of international diplomacy, mentorship, and entrepreneurship. With a rich background at the United Nations, Carolina has honed her skills in visual storytelling and strategic communication to drive impactful change on a global scale. In this blog, we delve into Carolina’s experiences, insights, and the path that led her to become a trusted mentor and successful entrepreneur.



1: Tell us about your time at the UN – you were the head of the International Geneva

Perception Change Project! What was it like working for the UN?


Michael Moller, who was Director-General at that time, wanted to change the narrative around

the UN. Often the media focuses on bad news because it tends to get traction so we hear about

UN meetings that don’t reach agreements or peacekeepers misbehaving. The reality is that the

daily work of the UN is massive and a lot of it is not visible to the general public. Setting

standards and giving policy advice may not be “sexy” but it has a huge impact on the everyday

lives of people around the world. One campaign that stands out in my memory was the 'Perception Change Project'. We took it on ourselves to create visibility to showcase this work. The challenge was to find creative ways to showcase how safety standards like seat belts in cars, clear food labels, and conventions that influence our access to imported goods were making a difference alongside health and social protection measures like paid maternity leave or disability benefits.

As for life at the UN, it’s got its pros and cons like every workplace. It’s definitely an incredibly

inspiring place to work. You’re surrounded by very smart and purpose-driven colleagues and

there is a collective passion and commitment to make a positive difference. The UN is by

definition very diverse and even though it still has work to do, it’s a place that actively promotes

gender equality and cultural diversity. On the other hand, it can be quite bureaucratic so you

need to have a tolerance for that.


2: Could you tell me more about your roles managing Dilucidar and Leidar Singapore,

providing high-end communication and design services? What are some of the

challenges and opportunities that come with your position?


I run two agencies. Dilucidar, is an award-winning creative agency. I started Dilucidar from the

ground up when I moved to Singapore to focus on carrying forward the work I did at the UN. We

help UN agencies, NGOs and mission driven corporations to make their work exciting to their

audiences and amplify their impact. Besides the accolades we have received, what I’m most

proud of with Dilucidar is the amazing talent we have attracted from all over the world.

Designers, writers, and specialists who are motivated by making a difference through their work.

Their collective helps us to put the best work out there.

When Leidar approached me to helm their Singapore branch, I knew it was a huge opportunity

to bring a solid set of expertise built on the work they’ve done within stringent EU standards.

With APAC still catching up to really taking action on ESG, one challenge is to find those

forward-thinking brands ready to lead the market. So many companies are jumping on the

sustainability bandwagon without really understanding the reputational risks. With my advocacy

background and deep knowledge of how impact works on the ground and Leidar’s private and

public sector track record, we’re so much more than a communications company. Media

narratives are only as good as the real actions companies are willing to take and we help them

with all of that from a hyper-local as well as global perspective.


3: We are interested in hearing about your career journey and the various roles you've

held throughout the years. Specifically, we are curious to know which positions you found to

be the most rewarding, challenging, and why?


My career has been a series of unexpected turns. I started off as an architect, then moved to

urban development and have ended up in communications. Looking back, I’ve always stretched

to qualify for any of the jobs I’ve been hired for because on paper my background was always a

bit different. This meant facing challenges that helped me grow. Having an appetite for learning

has been essential for success in each role.

I’ve been a lifelong expat and lived in seven countries. When I had to quit my job at the UN to

move to Singapore with my now ex-husband, I faced the hurdles that many trailing spouses

faced, of finding a job or setting up a company. So that’s what I did. At the time, I didn’t see

myself as an entrepreneur, especially since I had always worked for non-profit organisations but

I walked straight into it and it has been a very challenging but rewarding experience.

Starting up on your own means - at least initially - that you are likely to be taking on several jobs

at the same time. In my case the job I knew how to do well was to be a communications advisor

and designer. But, for my own company, I had to take on all these other jobs, from human

resources, finance and IT to business development and procurement. Needless to say I am not

passionate or even that competent in some of those areas! I required learning and most

importantly, building a dream team that shares your vision. I’m happy to say that I found that in

the Dilucidar team with outstanding professional women, including some expats, who are

spread all over the world.


4: What advice do you have for women looking to advance their career and work

internationally?


Be fearless and take the risk. If there is an amazing professional opportunity in a country you

know nothing about, where you don’t even speak the language, and even if the culture is

completely different. Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen.

The chances are you will have an amazing life experience full of learning curves. Tough

situations help you realise what you do and don't want. Self-realisation in itself is a lesson that will

empower you to make better decisions going forward and live a life full of discovery and

adventure.


5: You have worked as a mentor for the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative –

tell us more!


The African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative is an amazing one-year programme

designed to empower female entrepreneurs across Africa. Every year, they select 200 women

and match them to mentors from all over the world. I have been doing it for the past five years

and it's been a wonderful and rewarding experience. I have had mentees from several different

countries, building all sorts of businesses. I keep in regular touch with many of them even after

the programme has ended. As a mentor, you are meant to be there, supporting them, but the

truth is they are an amazing source of inspiration. The stories from AWEC are extraordinary and

I am very proud to play a small part in what it has achieved so far. The sisterhood I see in the

AWEC alumni network is amazing. If anyone reading is an African female entrepreneur, I

strongly encourage you to check out the programme.


6: What key strategies have you found most effective for fostering diversity and inclusion

within your organisation, particularly from a female leadership perspective?


I think that the hiring process is the start of building a truly diverse team. And ensuring diversity

is not about having a checklist of diverse traits that would add to the team. The key to really

fostering diversity is making sure that hiring managers are diverse. People tend to connect and

see in others the potential they see in themselves, so if the group of people doing the hiring and

selecting isn’t diverse enough to “see” and “recognise” that diversity in front of them, you may

end up with more of the same type of people. And this diversity goes beyond racial, religious,

marital status, sexual orientation or any other defining trait. It will capture a diversity in

perspective and outlook on life, human experience and ultimately, real talent potential.


7: What would be your advice for women seeking to enhance their leadership skills and

become dynamic and effective leaders within an organisation, based on your success as

a female leader?


1. Trust your intuition - it got you so far already. We have all heard by now how

important it is to listen to your gut. This applies to all aspects of life and particularly to

human relationships - both professional and personal. Often, as we grow up, we learn to

stop listening to our inner voice, but it’s more likely than not, that your inner voice has

been there guiding you towards what you really want. So don’t switch off that inner

voice, it will always guide you towards decisions that are more deeply aligned with who

you are.

2. Stay connected - be visible and engaged with the people in your organisation at

all levels. As you step up into leadership positions, it's only natural that you find yourself

surrounded by a more senior crowd. That’s all good but it’s important to stay connected

to people within the organisation at all levels. If you happen to work your way up to the

top, don’t end up being isolated only hearing from your direct reports. Be accessible to

everyone, listen to what even the interns have to say and keep a direct line with how

people feel and think at all levels. In some corporate cultures, “networking up” for women

causes problems so if you are connected with everyone, at all levels, this helps mitigate

the backlash if you are only seen as connecting with the more senior crowd.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help - nobody has all the answers. If you are exceptional

at what you do and your talent helps you rise, that’s great! but it's important to stay

humble and know that your unique knowledge will only get you so far. As you grow into

greater leadership positions, you will find yourself in situations where you don’t have all

the answers. It’s critical to have a level of self-awareness so you can ask for help

especially in areas where you may actually not have all the expertise. Being a good

leader goes hand in hand with knowing how to build a trusted network of advisors that

can help you shape your decisions.

4. Cultivate and invest in your network. This means being generous with your

knowledge and helping people advance in their careers, even if they are the star in your

team who suddenly got a job somewhere else. Always support them. If they have the

chance to follow their dreams and move on to greater challenges.

5. When facing hard decisions that affect people, do it with kindness and respect. I

truly believe that by being kind, you bring out the best in people. As a leader, you often

have to make difficult decisions and have tough conversations, but all of this can be done

from a place of kindness and that changes everything.

6. Don’t be afraid of change. Facing the unknown is scary and throughout life we will

be faced with the decision to embrace or resist change. As an architect from an

earthquake-prone country like Chile, I know that the buildings that get through the

earthquakes are the ones that are flexible enough to withstand the shock. The most rigid

structures, no matter how solid they are, end up being much more fragile. At the same

time, we know that change is the only constant, and even though it can feel

uncomfortable and create uncertainty, it’s only through our ability to adapt to change or

even better, drive change, that we can make sure we are well set to face the future.

7. Learn from mistakes. It’s OK to fail so always keep in mind that the path to success

will inevitably include setbacks and how you learn to get back up and learn from those

moments will define your ability to take on bigger and greater challenges.


8: Can you provide insights on how individuals can enhance gender equality in the

workplace despite the prevalence of inequality globally. You have already exerted effort

in manifesting that businesses can truly make a difference by practicing what they

preach in terms of gender equality. Tell us more.


There are many ways we can all contribute to greater gender equality in the workplace. From

training courses on unconscious bias to transparency in pay scales; from paternity leave

benefits to flexible working hours and safe ways to report sexual harassment and empowering

women in leadership positions. All of these things are useful but one of the things I think really

helps to move the needle is not just focusing on the women. Gender equality is also about men.

As Chair of the Sustainability Committee at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, I

work with the chamber on creative outreach projects linked to sustainability. A few years ago,

we did one on gender equality. The project was #Candid: 100 perspectives on Gender Equality

in Singapore. We sought candid opinions on gender equality from over 100 men from all walks of life living in Singapore.

These were collected into a coffee table book. The launch of the book was

supported by a digital campaign featuring quotes from the book and a call for companies to join

a pledge committing to doubling the government mandated paternity leave in Singapore for

men.

The idea was to unveil what men really thought about a topic that is generally considered a

“women’s issue.” We also wanted to act as a catalyst to help people see their unconscious bias

and reassess the way they interact with one another in both professional and personal contexts.

#Candid featured women breaking stereotypes in their professions alongside the voices of over

100 men from all walks of life. Each chapter was introduced by a leading female voice in

Singapore. There were no restrictions on what people could say to gain unfiltered insight into

perceptions of gender balance. Ending with actionable steps to improve gender equality from

experts on diversity, the project was ultimately designed to inspire conversations and drive

change.

To “walk the talk”, we circulated the idea of a pledge to double the currently mandated paternity

leave from two weeks to four. This idea offered a shared vision for collective action. It resulted in

positive media attention, and it encouraged more companies to join.

The book was launched with a pledge that companies could sign to agree to grant their

employees double the mandated paternity leave from 2 weeks to 4 weeks. This was inspired by

Ikea who had already taken this step in Singapore. Within five months 28 corporations signed

the pledge, impacting parental leave decisions for over 5000 employees and their spouses.

Many of these organisations were in male dominated sectors like engineering, heavy electrical

equipment, shipping and science.

The campaign struck a chord and was covered in major Singapore news media reaching over

5.5 million people in English, Mandarin, and Malay, creating a lively public debate on major

newspapers’ social media posts. It was also covered in Sweden, Indonesia, Switzerland and

New Zealand.

Ten months later, the Singapore government announced that it was doubling up paternity leave.

Of course we don’t take credit for this significant policy change but we can say we contributed to

the conversation and to driving meaningful change.


9: You have experience in high-level decision-making, driving change and promoting

sustainability. Can you explain more and what advice would give other women looking to do

the same?


I can think of three things on this front:

1. Make sure you have the right information. The biggest challenge of high level decision-

making is knowing whether or not you have all of the information you need at hand to make

the call. Whether it’s for you personally or if you are working with someone that has to make

critical decisions, make sure you or your boss has that information in front of them and that it

is simple, straightforward and easy to digest. Have a one-pager making the case for critical

decisions.

2. Anticipate that change will always generate resistance. Try to figure out what is behind

any resistance to change and work to involve people in the process so they can share

ownership of the process.

3. Promoting true sustainability requires a holistic approach. This is not just about leading

by example or engaging different perspectives. It’s about looking at sustainability in an

integrated way. We have the 2030 agenda with the '17 Sustainable Development Goals' and I

often see companies saying we will focus on goal 4 and 6, or 8 and 11. If we aren’t truly

committed to the agenda, we can cherry-pick what goal is easy for us to contribute to. We

need to think about how our work or actions have an impact on all of the goals. This is

extremely hard and can be daunting. Many companies are just looking into how they can

contribute to the agenda but it’s important to have a proper assessment of the full picture if

you really want to promote sustainability.


10: Lastly, we would love to know more about your background as a global citizen from

various regions. Could you tell me how your international perspective has influenced

your approach to helping organisations and companies? How can we all become more

active global citizens?


In a way, I have always felt like a foreigner. When I was in the US, as a child, my parents didn't

speak English so I had to do a lot of translating and learning how to fit in. After 10 years of that, I

moved to Argentina and I was suddenly “too American” to fit in. Then, I moved to Chile, but I

had acquired an Argentinian accent so I was also a misfit. And these were my childhood years.

The biggest lesson there was learning how to adapt to new contexts, cultures and languages.

As an adult, I have had the opportunity to work in every region across the world, from Asia to

Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. I have been extremely lucky to have had the

opportunity to put my skills to test in different environments. Part of it has been meeting people

that believed in me and gave me opportunities I would have never even imagined, part of it was

knowing that all I had to offer was what I knew and that my cultural baggage was not in the way.

Every time I ventured into the unknown, I went with no preconceptions and always in listening

mode. At the same time, if you have the opportunity to work and live in different countries, that

experience is extremely valuable.


If you want to be an active global citizen, my suggestions would be to:

1. Speak (or be willing to learn) a foreign language and/or learn how different cultures

operate.

2. Be curious about how ordinary people see the world through their lens/viewpoint. So if

you are living as an expat, try to burst out of that bubble and get a sense of the culture

and way of thinking of where you live.

3. Test your assumptions. If you are working in an unknown territory, educate yourself on

the history or political context so you can have an informed perspective.


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