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Carolina Aguilar | How to build winning teams

In this episode, Carolina Aguilar, CEO, Co-founder and Board Director of INBRAIN Neuroelectronics sits down with us and takes us through the exciting but treacherous journey that led her to the MedTech industry. From pursuing her studies abroad to getting her undergraduate in the United States and back to Europe for her Ph.D., we get a look at a not-so-ordinary journey that will inspire all of us.

Carolina talks about her career choices, her choice not to finish her Ph.D. as well as her journey to founding a startup. She also gives us a wealth of knowledge garnered through the years on how to build winning teams and the role of value systems to any company.
She gives us insights into her motivations, the books she loves, and the role of self-doubt in success.

How her Career Started

From as far as she can remember, Carolina has always considered herself an adventurer. She loves to explore and ask why. While most of us often accept and adapt to things as they are, Carolina asks the questions we shy away from. Why? This was primarily fueled by a desire to know why we think and act the way we do. What is it about the human brain that makes us so alike yet so different? Why do smokers promise to quit and yet never do? What’s the science behind MRIs showing different parts of the brain lighting up with the desire to stop but never following through?

She was therefore convinced that a career in brain science would do well to answer these questions. Straight from University, Carolina Aguilar left home and moved to the United States to study Toxicology.

Upon completion of this course, she flew back home with the intent to work in a neuro-related career. Unbeknown to her, however, she would end up in cosmetics, where she was promoted to the company’s general country manager. She introduced this cosmetic brand with a super prime positioning into the Spanish market which such success that the Greek company was later acquired by a Spanish company. However the brain has always been Carolina’s passion.

Her career took a significant turn when a friend introduced her to MedTronic. A path that led her to return to Spain and work all over Europe for 13 years.

Lessons from Medtronic
1. Patientricity
Carolina loved that the purpose and goal in Medtronic were centered on the patient. Every innovation and adjustment was made in an attempt to make it better for the patient.
2. Integrity
There was a level of integrity that could not be shed off at Medtronic. Right from the founder to the employees, integrity was a goal and a mission.
3. Quality
Carolina was impressed that Medtronic remains the standard of MedTech companies because the quality was never compromised, not at production, not at delivery. This went a long way in building customer trust.
4. Leadership
Carolina emphasizes that Medtronic’s leadership has a real sense of the true north and never lost sight of it in lieu of profits, a trait she alluded was hard to find in modern times.

Carolina on Attitude

Carolina firmly believes that there are two kinds of people in this world. Those with a “can-do” attitude and those with a “can’t-do” attitude. The difference between the two being positivity. When you begin to ask questions such as “how do we start,” you start to build a can-do attitude, an attitude of winners.

She says a constructive attitude tends to begin from the top. When a leader can accept challenges, the team learns that all things are doable. It is, therefore, vital for leaders and teams to adopt the “can-do” attitude regardless of the challenge at hand.

Her Journey to Leadership

By the time Carolina was leaving Medtronic, she was a Global Business Director. This made it so much easier for her to handle global assignments given her experience in many countries, both in Europe and the United States. She attributes much of her success at management to having a direct manager who understood localization and globalization in a great sense. She says that while the different continents offer great diversity, consumer habits tend to be similar. It is therefore essential when offering solutions to think widely yet locally.

Thoughts on diversity

Carolina says that diversity is the cornerstone of success. Great leaders do not look for individuals who are similar to them but those with varied mind points. She gives the example of herself, being adventurous and extroverted; she needs the introverts and calm people in her team to offer solutions she wouldn’t otherwise see.

She also adds that diversity doesn’t have to be in personality alone; diversity in race, gender, and experiences is also much needed. She then called upon women to rise and take roles in the MedTech industry because they are much needed.

How to Build Winning Teams?

Carolina noted that the task of building winning teams does not entirely fall on the leaders. The employees and the HR all have a role to play in creating and maintaining winning teams.
1. Diversity
Diversity of thought, gender, color, and experience goes a long way in creating winning teams. Solutions are often provided by the people we least expect and who often don’t think like us.
2. Great value systems
A company should have great value systems that guide the staff and provide a true north. Values should align with the beliefs of the individuals and always guide them when at an impasse. Carolina emphasized that values do not have to be made all at once; you can work on them as the company slowly rises.
3. Excellence
The pursuit of the highest level of optimal performance in all levels. Any company that is looking to win has to pursue excellence at all points of the production process.
4. Happiness
Carolina emphasizes that you have to love what you do. From the time you wake up to when you go to bed, your career should make you happy.

The Role Of Self-Doubt

Does she doubt herself? Definitely – but she doesn’t let it take her down. She says that while self-doubt can make sure people lose their self-esteem, she uses her self-doubt to make her work harder. To question whether she is giving the best and whether she can do more. She says that the emphasis should not be on losing self-doubt but on redirecting it for good.

Her favorite book

She loves reading Thinking Fast and Slow, a book that questions cognitive biases’ role in our day-to-day choices.

Carolina's Inspiration

Carolina states that you can find inspiration everywhere if you look hard enough. She is, however, a fan of Michelle Obama. She also finds inspiration from one of her employees, who works hard to support her large family.

What is the Legacy You Want to Leave on the world?

Carolina Aguilar is looking to create a lasting impact in the world through her latest project. She affirms that life is short, so she is looking to impact her kids, her employees, and all the patients who will benefit from the device once it is up and running for the time she has.
She looks forward to spending more time this year listening, reflecting, and writing more, and also seeks to encourage more women to join MedTech careers.

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