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Mentor Interview: Cristina Carvallo

Cristina Carvallo, Upnotch Mentor and Co-founder and Chief People Officer & Culture at Crabi, has spent over 8 years creating and growing the organizational development structure of companies from scratch and helping to align strategy with their main asset: People. She’s passionate about people and believes that gratitude, recognition, and trust builds great people and successful teams.

What is your superpower & why?

My superpower is being able to implement a culture in all the company’s departments. I have a real sensibility and empathy for humans.

Have you ever had a mentor?

Yes. My mentor was a director at Tesla. She was mentoring me on how to create a culture, how to train and develop people. She was my mentor for a lot of other things; we talked about trust, about development, and about how to work with managers.

Tell us about a time when a mentor has helped you accomplish a specific goal.

It was during the pandemic, people at work were really stressed. I reached out to my mentor and she told me that our cultural values didn’t have to change but we needed to look at them differently. She helped me communicate better with our employees and tell them “We are facing this challenge right now, we are all scared and we don’t know how it will turn out but what I need from you guys right now is this and that etc.” She helped me manage the situation.

How about a time when a mentor pushed you further than you thought was possible or accelerated your career?

We often have this misconception that the director has to solve all the problems and all the challenges the managers are facing with their team members. What my mentor helped me realize is that I am not a problem solver, I am more of a mentor. So she mentored me on how to be a mentor in my company, how to use a different strategy to manage people, and how to better train managers. How to talk to them, how to do one on ones, and how to help them be part of the culture and turn them into culture keepers.

What's the best advice that a mentor has given you that you would want to share with us today?

One of my mentors is an expert in Human-Centered Design. The best advice he gave me was: Always remember the promise you made to your clients. Always make sure that whatever you're doing you don't forget the promise that was made to the user. What's the thing that you told them you would do for them? Always keep in mind what the user is expecting from you.

What's the weirdest, funniest, strangest thing that you've ever asked your mentor?

When we were creating our product, I was trying to figure out how to grow a team. We had a lot of users so I thought we would need a big customer service team. I was struggling with how to make everyone believe in our values and how to keep high performances. My mentor told me “You don’t need to grow your team and hire more people, you should be thinking about how to make it work with as few people as possible.” That's something I didn't expect.

What would you tell your mentor if they were listening to you right now?

Seeing what she and her company have built really helped me believe in myself. I always want to make our employees feel engaged so they can give their best selves every day. It helps the performance and engagement of the company. So I would say thank you for making me believe and that company culture is possible.

What makes a great mentee in your opinion?

A great mentee is someone who is a good listener and who is curious. If you listen to someone else's point of view it can help you see the problem differently and make it easier for you to solve it.

Why do you mentor?

I mentor because I feel it’s my purpose. My purpose is to help transform organizations and help them be more successful. I get mad when I see organizations that don’t encourage their employees and don't know how to motivate them. There could be more organizations with more happy employees.

As a mentor, what topics do you like to mentor on?

I like to mentor people on how to drive a company with culture. I don't mean you need to have a ping pong table in your office, that's a misconception. With culture, what I mean is, be aware of what values you want to encourage. Culture is the story of your company.

Tell us about a time when you helped a mentee solve a big challenge.

I was once mentoring a company that wanted to hire someone to work on the company’s culture because they felt like their employees were not committed. A lot were leaving the company. I convinced them that it would be a huge mistake. Before hiring that person they needed to know what the values of the company were and then hire someone to help them with that.

What does success mean to you?

The journey of trying hard to be your best self every day and give your best every day to the people around you. Success is a behavior you need to have every day.

When did you know you achieved your career success?

When I saw that the culture I had implemented on my own had a real impact on people's lives. People were grateful to me for that. I have helped people actually make changes in their lives using my teachings. I guess also when I see how far the company has come and how happy people are doing their jobs.

What's the secret behind your success?

I'm a very passionate person. I am a positive and energetic person. I always try to find a different way of solving things. I try to figure out the roots of the problem so I can have a bigger impact and help the whole organization. I believe that anything can be done and we can always do better.

Describe a time you had a failure or a breakdown that led to a success or a breakthrough.

I have had breakdowns before - being in a startup is very stressful! Stress is always there, anxiety is always there. My most recent breakdown was during the pandemic, I felt like the culture would not survive the pandemic. I experienced a lot more anxiety. I started working through it, to change those negative thoughts into positive ones. I found a new mindset, started doing things differently, applied our core values to this new complicated situation. We adapted and now we are doing great again.


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