On a snowy December morning in Munich, I met with Carolina Soto, a change and transformation executive with 25+ years of experience leading change processes in the Financial Services industry. Originally from Spain, she has lived and worked in 8 countries across 3 different continents as a Business Consultant, Human Resources Specialist, Transformation Manager, IT Manager and Chief Information Officer.
Carolina strongly believes that it is this diverse and international experience that helped her develop strengths such as flexibility and resilience and made her realize the importance of managing change in large organizations.
In her current role as the SVP / Global Head of Investment and Asset Management at Munich Re – one of the world’s leading providers of reinsurance, primary insurance and insurance-related risk solutions, Carolina heads an IT department of over a 100 people specialised in Investment & Asset Management.
Carolina is a huge ambassador for diversity in the workplace and is the Women in Big Data Munich sponsor at Munich Re. She actively participates in various Women in IT communities, taking on the role of a mentor and coach for aspiring women. Through her presence in these communities, she wants to be an example of someone who has a successful career in IT without having the extensive IT background expected.
I took the opportunity to dive a little more into her experience in change management and in advocating diversity.
Carolina, when did you realize your passion for change management?
Starting from my first change management assignment, I realized I liked working with people – managing expectations, clarifying doubts, and convincing them about the benefits and opportunities that come with the change.
What according to you is the most important aspect for successful change?
The most important aspect to bring about successful change is clear multidirectional communication with all those involved and affected by the change. But communication actions must be reinforced through other means, like training and coaching. Everyone involved understands and reacts to change differently, that´s why providing close and individualized support through active listening is also key.
What was that one advice or feedback you received in your early career that shaped who you are today?
I have been working in large organizations managing change throughout my career and I once was told “Don´t fight against the monster.” If you want to implement change, find allies who will help convince others progressively and propel the journey through change. Do not try to do it all by yourself. Especially now that change has become a constant, the change must be embedded into the culture of the organization for it to be everlasting.
Why do you think having a diverse workforce is important? How can leaders transform an organization to be more diverse?
Team members with diverse backgrounds and perspectives help generate innovative ideas and clever ways of solving issues and conflicts. Team members in diverse teams also find it interesting to share opinions with colleagues to be able to learn from varied perspectives.
Diversity attracts diversity, so start with building diverse teams which will in the long-term lead to a more diverse organization.
What is your definition of success and what is your advice for young women wanting to enter and be successful in IT?
My definition of success is quite simple: To be able to do something I like, and am good at, working within a team, and being seen as a role model while doing so. My advice to young women – everything is possible if you believe in your potential. Find allies and supporters in your desired career path and stay open to change when opportunities arise.
How do you like to relax? The weather outside prompts me to ask if skiing is something you enjoy doing.
I am not that much into skiing although Munich is ideal for ski lovers. I have learnt and done it in the past but may have to take a crash course before going skiing again. I like doing sports, mainly hiking and Pilates to calm down and disconnect. I love reading books and meeting friends, and always try to visit a new country every year. I strongly believe visiting new places and knowing other cultures help maintain an open mind.