Vice President, Gov’t Affairs & Policy at GE Canada
In her current role, she leads GE Canada’s Government engagement initiatives across ministries, monitoring and advising GE’s global leadership regarding Canada’s macroeconomic policy and regulatory issues that may affect GE’s interests with a specific focus on the energy transition in support of decarbonization. She represents GE at senior levels and interacts with relevant external parties. CD Howe Energy Council, Canadian Chamber of Commerce NER and the NetZero Leadership Council 2022.
Prior to joining GE Canada, Carolina was Vice President, Government, and Institutional Relations ABB Hitachi Canada along with a thought-leadership presence with key councils and associations as Chairperson, Canadian Urban Transportation Research Innovation Consortium, Director, Association de l’industrie electrique de Quebec.
In September 2021, Carolina received the Top CanadaClean50 award for exceptional contribution to the clean economy with technology as well as the Delta Management & Telus Clean 50 community service award for volunteerism. Community engagements include Mentor, Loran Scholars Foundation and Director, Mission Inclusion.
Work and impact
How is sustainability/social impact integrated in your work?
At GE, it’s one of the reasons why I got hired. I’m considered an energy transition expert with public policy. My work is about integrating climate change policy impact on industry, with our outreach to stakeholders and our market growth strategies as industrial and infrastructure customers were coming up with their net zero targets, and carbon dioxide reductions. So, it is figuring out how to bridge our technology with achieving net zero and getting to our climate change targets. Passionate work and sustainability are at its core.
What are your past and current areas of focus in a few words?
My job is to monitor and analyze policy in Canada, to help inform our leaders develop their strategy for the business. For example, the Trudeau Government has come up with a significant catalogue of legislative and regulatory initiatives on net zero, a carbon free grid, clean electricity standards. These all have huge impact on our customers as well as upon us. Sustainability is the ongoing area of focus for both our environment as well as industry lens.
How did you enter this space?
More on the social justice path, in my youth, I was a little bit more of a social activist. I started very, very young. I was in grade six at the time, and I was going to school in northern Quebec, and the school board wanted to tear down hundreds of black swallow nests from right underneath the awning of the entrance of the school. The school board at the time had determined that this was a hygiene hazard and were going to destroy all the nests. The principal, who was a bit of an environmentalist, he organized a school shut down for the day and he had all of us kids do a sit in in front of the birds’ nests. We refused to let the municipality come in and destroy the nests and that was, my first inculcation. I think it speaks to the importance of exposure at a very young age, to the power that one can have as an individual. I know that’s a very funny thing for me to say as I’m working for one of the largest multinationals, industrial corporate conglomerates of the world, but I think at heart, you must always have passion, and passion starts from a place of activism. Where you think you’re making an impact for the benefit of a greater good.
Did you always want to work in the impact space?
Yes, but where I am today is accidental. And here goes to the advice to the next generation: where I became a lawyer, and I thought I was going to be a litigator in corporate for the rest of my life, and then I became pregnant, and my path veered. Then I ran for office, I ran for politics, municipally and federally. That did not work out, unfortunately, to my great regret, and then I veered off into alternative pathways, which were not obvious. You know, a lot of people were saying, ‘Are you really going to do that? That’s so weird.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s an opportunity.’ Maybe my problem is that I never say no if some something really exciting comes up and it looks good. So that’s what I did, I said, yes and it brought me into the realm of communications, in retail, in publications in media, and I became editor of a magazine and then from there was more communications, public affairs, and government relations. And here I am.
It helps to in your 20s to get out there. I was everywhere in my 20s. I mean, I didn’t sleep. It was parties, and it was activism, it was demonstrations, it was petitions, it was organizing campaigns, and it was nonstop, and it’s so important to just have that broad exposure to diversity in the community. I just got involved with a lot of social justice, because I was always appealed to it. I’m born in Canada, but my father was Italian, and my mother was a refugee from Latin America. So when you grew up as an immigrant, you’re very conscious of the ‘other’ and how you’re the ‘other’, or how some things are not the same for everybody.
What are you most excited about that has been happening in your industry/field for the past few years?
I’m super, super, super (yes 3 times that) pumped about where GE, which is huge, it’s the founder of electricity innovation, think Thomas Edison! is going to the future. We’re splitting up the company over the next 2 years into 3 separate entities. The future EnergyCo of GE will be perfectly set to respond to the energy transition. There’s so much disruption going on in all the markets and with global trends, that a significant percentage of global conglomerates like GE, are all realizing that to really best serve your market and the cause, you need to have 100% correct allocation, whether it’s capital resource, people, expertise, focus. So the aviation, the healthcare, and the energy business, which is where I come in, they’re all going off in three separate directions. I think it’s a recognition that in today’s reality, you must focus to create a new world. What makes me excited is that I’m seeing response, I’m seeing reaction to the challenge, and I think the number one challenge of our lifetime, is climate change.
Are there any misconceptions about your profession or industry?
Speaking as a lawyer, speaking as a lobbyist and government relations person, the first people that take a hit in the social justice narrative, or in the progressive narrative is the power of industry. Speaking for myself, as an attorney, the jokes of lawyers being bottom feeding entities, and that’s not helpful, simply because we’re all in this together and we must figure out solutions together for the just transition. Look, we all realize that the oil and gas industry is finite. But you can’t just turn off the tap overnight. I’ll give you an example. I used to be the chairman of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, and we’re all talking about the massive electrification, right? There are 1000s of buses out there, across Canada I mean,
more buses in Montreal, even more buses in Toronto. We need like 10,000 electric buses. How many do we have on the road today? In the hundred(s) range. Yeah. So this is where the rubber hits the road in terms of consciousness and practically speaking. When I talk about the misconceptions, it is just that we’re all there. Nobody is in bad faith, it is simply a wicked challenge of coordination and collaboration across many layers.With the realization and practical expertise
Life and aspirations
What does a typical workday look like for you? What’s your work-life balance like?
Wake up at 6:30AM and do a workout. Try to get in front of the screen no later than 7:30-7:45AM. Unfortunately, for last two and a half years, it’s been a litany of zoom. I’m trying to incorporate balance with online yoga, listening to Mozart, making sure that I try to get up off of this chair and maybe walk around the apartment, go outside for a walk, which is really hard because we get calls booked back to back. But I am consciously aware of my work life balance, because if you’re using your cognitive skills, and you’re so intensely focussed on problem solving, you need the power of breath, the power of meditation. If you heard of this guy call Yuval Harari, that wrote Sapiens, he meditates for two and a half hours a day!!
The work life balance, what I find the most challenging is, at times is that it’s sometimes difficult to negotiate and have a personal impact across a laptop. It’s tough. You have to project that meaningful engagement to create that sense of shared urgency. In the long term, activism for sustainability will continue to be my aspiration.
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
Well, the one I just mentioned: Zoom. I am a people person who thrives on connections and contacts so am really looking forward to the “post” pandemic world where virtual takes more of a back seat.
Advice for the next generations
What are 3 key skills required in your position?
Number one: communication of your personal brand. Two: your network, and networking. And three: time management.
Whether it’s from your own path or the ones from your colleagues and friends who have a similar profession, how important is it to have a specific degree to be able to work in your industry/profession?
I would say no specific degree really matters unless the work it’s legislative and procedurally focused. In my work, I have the advantage of being a lawyer. Knowledge of the law, as accounting or finance, these professions are foundational supports for business and operations as well as strategy for managing risk and allows us to build a construct of thinking based on material facts.
The founder of Tata said one of the most amazing things ever about 10 years ago. He said ‘People talk to me like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I just look at the file, I just look at the balance sheet.’ That’s it. The whole story is there. What a smart man. So if any degree gives you the ability to identify and work the material fact in what you want to do, that’s the key thing. And that’s what I look for when I’m looking for team players or I’m looking for people to work with. It’s the ability to hone right to the material fact which has a definition right. To the construct, to the project, to the strategy, to the tactics.
What are some personal characteristics that you value in someone you’re interviewing/working with?
Passion, integrity, and work ethic: these are core and the most valuable.
Knowing what you know now, would you have done something differently with respect to your career? If not, why and what is your best life or career advice for youth?
When I was running for politics, I was much younger. I had intuition, and I had instincts. But I was afraid to act on them because I was being told what to do, and I do regret that now. To live your best life with passion, integrity, and work ethic, you always must be true to yourself.
You must believe enough in yourself to take it to the next step and take ownership and be accountable for it. Don’t live in fear. And that’s funny because people say a lot of things about millennials and their work ethic and millennials this and millennials that, but I think one thing that I share with millennials, and I think it’s across the generations’, is that I had ideas, and I truly believed in my gut that I was right. Post election and post campaigns, I was proven right in what I was thinking. I realized back then that I should have acted upon what I truly believed was right and to not be afraid to take it forward. It was and still is, always a risk, and back in the day, I didn’t want or did not feel I could take that risk. If I had said back then, ‘You know what? I’m going to do this. And if I fall on my sword, I fall on my sword.’ That’s in fact what I should have done. It’s about putting your “money where your mouth” is and executing and implementation. Bottom line: Take the risk.