Susana Carrillo Highlights Her Career as a Strategic Operations Leader and Her Experience in Social and Economic Development

Susana Carrillo was born to a Peruvian father and a Swiss mother in Lima, Peru. Growing up with a strong value for human connection and personal development, she was made aware of social and economic disparities in Peru through her volunteer work.

Susana graduated from college (George Mason University) in Fairfax, Virginia with a double bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Latin American Studies. During her college years, she completed an internship with the Caribbean Center in Washington D.C. supporting social and economic development of Caribbean countries.

After college, Susana was awarded a full scholarship to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEI) at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, where she earned a master’s degree. This recognition exposed her to a diverse group of people and provided her the opportunity to learn more about global challenges. She spent her summers traveling throughout Europe and working in different environments, including Citibank, Kraft Jacobs Suchard, and the Europe Africa Office of The Rotary Foundation in Zurich.

Following graduation, she was recruited by the United Nations Development Program to work in The Gambia, West Africa and later in Guatemala. She completed a wide variety of assignments including supporting the implementation of the peace agreements in Guatemala after thirty years of armed conflict in the country. She also received the Sasawaka Merit Award from the Japanese Nippon Foundation for her leadership in the design and implementation of a project to decrease social vulnerability to natural disasters. This initiative aimed to assist government and civil society organizations with comprehensive disaster preparation. She then worked at the United Nations headquarters in New York at the Bureau for Development Policy.

Susana completed a second master’s degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. She worked for the World Bank Group for eighteen years, where she was exposed to the management of various projects and programs. She also led research initiatives globally, authored and co-authored publications with the World Bank Group.

She continued her education by completing a joint executive business degree with the Indian Institute of Management, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in China, and Fundação Dom Cabral, the top business school in Brazil. She completed a second joint degree with the Moeller School of Business at Cambridge University and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, focusing on the role of business in the social, economic, and environmental fronts to decrease social and economic inequalities and protect the environment.

Susana has been  involved with several initiatives in Washington, D.C., including Women in Foreign Policy and Women in International Trade. She also served as a board member for six years for the National Association of International Educators (NAFSA). In addition to her work as a global consultant, she is a volunteer mentor at the Latin American Leadership Academy, an educational institution whose mission is to promote sustainable economic development and strengthen democratic governance in Latin America by developing and connecting a new generation of socially innovative leaders.

What is your function as a consultant and what are your active duties?

My focus now is on supporting initiatives for the private sector to actively participate in Economic Social and Governance (ESG) as well as in environmental protection by doing business with a positive impact on societies.

I am also engaged  with George Mason University promoting global education, developing opportunities for collaboration in joint research on topics that are critical for the region and the hemisphere. I also define opportunities for faculty exchanges. It is very important not only for foreign students to come to the United States, but for US students and faculty to go to the ground and understand the dynamics and complexity of issues in other countries and contribute to finding joint solutions.  I am also interested in the increasing challenge of digital inclusion which is critical to improve access to education, health, and finances for disadvantaged populations.

What was the inspiration behind taking on this direction for your career?

It came from my youth years when I exposed myself and learnt about the challenges faced by disadvantaged population groups and the income wealth gap in Latin American countries.  I was inspired by the level of resilience of people that struggle to survive every day and find ways to meet their needs without access to quality public services, including health and education.  I realized that I wanted to make a difference, not just make an income. I wanted an in-depth understanding of how the world really functions and the constructions of societies and the economy. That was one of the key motivators for me to expose myself to work in Africa early in my career and in other parts of the world.

What are some keys to being productive that you can share?

Being aware of how the brain works is very important. The span of attention that you can have on a single topic is not very long, so it’s not productive to spend five or six hours on the same task. You should focus on the priorities for you as a human being and a professional and try to identify people who can be part of that effort instead of trying to take on everything on your own. Don’t think of success and productivity in terms of what you can do as an individual and relate it only to financial gains.  It is important to work as a team because you’re maximizing the use of skill sets and knowledge of other people to achieve a goal or objective. It’s also important to have a good work-life balance by combining work with exercise and healthy nutrition. Physical and mental health are both very important. For me, this is the basis of productivity.

What is a long-term goal that you have?

To be honest, I don’t think about long-term goals right now. I changed my goals to a short-term and medium-term perspective. The world is going through huge changes, and we must be able to adapt to a new world and the challenges that come with it. My short-term and medium-term goal is to continue working with different stakeholders to promote social and economic inclusion. Private sector has a huge role in this because traditionally, we’ve relied on the government or community-based organizations and NGOs to solve these problems. My main goal is to work with the private sector and facilitate dialogue to change the mindset from making a profit to making an investment in society.

How do you measure success?

My success is measured by accomplishing goals through teamwork and measuring the impact I have on others on my team and the people I’m serving or the stakeholders I’m engaging with.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

I believe that all the lessons we learn through our life and career are valuable, but one key lesson I learned is the importance of possessing a high level of emotional intelligence. This allows you to understand other points of view, connect to other human beings, understand their motivations, and develop relationships of trust and inclusion. I think being resilient and multicultural, respecting other cultures and ways of living and seeing the world with open eyes and an open perspective is a valuable lesson and critical when you do business. Having a global perspective is critical for success. Don’t get stuck believing that your way is the only way to do things; it’s important to take risks. Have a change and growth mindset so that you’re open to learning from mistakes.  If you have a problem, find a way to solve it. If the solution that you’re used to, in the place where you live, doesn’t fit in other countries and cultures, get creative to find the solution instead of being fixed on your way.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in the same field?

First, I would say pack your bags and work in other countries, not just travel as a tourist because that doesn’t give you a true perspective of other cultures or societies. We are now living in an interconnected world, so I think it’s a disadvantage not to be a global citizen. In this field, you must work, and you must expose yourself to real challenges on the ground. Be open. Don’t fear failing, I think failure is an opportunity to learn.   Expose yourself to other languages and make an effort to learn them. Don’t go abroad expecting that everyone should speak English. I just read an interesting article on this topic published by the Harvard Business Review called “How Living Abroad Helps You Develop a Clearer Sense of Self”, which I found very interesting.


What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

I do a lot of reading and meditation. I love mentoring young people. It gives me self-satisfaction when I can share my experiences and listen to them and brainstorm together about their career goals.

Exercise is also a very central part of my life. I cycle and work out every day and do open water swimming. Being engaged in my community and having an intense social life is something that I really like to do besides work.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?

I wake up every morning and meditate at least four times a week for ten to fifteen minutes, then I go to the gym or get on my bike if the weather is nice. I make my own green healthy juices for breakfast. Then I start working and take breaks in between. I also do yoga during the day and spend time with my family and friends when I can. When I travel for work, I try to keep up the same schedule. When I have free time for lunch or in the evening, I like to engage with local people and understand their culture,  explore the area. This helps me to get a deeper understanding of the environment where I’m working. I travel frequently, I love to travel and change environments, which also contributes to my work-life balance.

What is a piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

I use virtual meeting applications. I try not to spend too much of my time on a mobile device. As you know, virtual meetings are more common now, facilitating interaction with individuals from around the globe.

What is one piece of advice you have never forgotten?

One of my bosses told me that when you’re in a difficult situation and you must provide a response to that challenge, work on a first draft but take a few hours off and then go back to it.  Disconnect your brain from that tasks/issue. After a few hours you would analyze it / see it with different eyes. That helps to get a balance between a rational and emotional feedback / response. I learnt that it is better not to be reactive. When you face a challenge, take your time to think, process, and then react.