The Mentor: Barbara Daroca

After a decade structuring large international financial transactions, Barbara answered the call of her true purpose: creating connections by putting words to work. She loves to try new ideas that challenge the status quo to support her differentiating communications initiatives. Since 2012 Bárbara has lead teams of professionals with a wide range of responsibilities in the areas of communications and brand management, and she is ING’s company secretary in Luxembourg.
19 July 2023

LUX WMN: It’s no secret that you’ve had a very successful career so far, what drives you?

Barbara Daroca: I really want to inspire people – mainly those around me but why not the rest of the world? I think I am a cheerleader type: I want my team to win and I will be at the top of the pyramid screaming my lungs out. And to do that, I need to believe in what I’m working on because once I do, I will go full throttle! I have been very lucky as I have worked in different areas and with different people and that has allowed me to grow a lot, both personally and professionally.

I love trying new things and testing the limits; that doesn’t mean I won’t (re)use a proven method or tactic but I will probably add my own twist to it. And I am a firm believer in having fun at work – it’s a recipe for success! We typically have fun when we’re doing something we like, and we tend to like things we’re good at. 

LW: What rules do you live by?

BD: Mhmhm… not sure. Typical themes in my life are:

  • Believe in yourself – but be aware of your limitations and ask for help when needed
  • We’re stronger together
  • You can have it all – just maybe not all at the same time!
  • Inspire someone today – that’s what you’re here for

LW: Do you have a secret weapon?

BD: No, though I wish I had! My capacity to adapt to different environments and to get the people I am working with engaged and committed to our common goal has often been an advantage. I love learning and I am infinitely curious; I believe both traits help me to stay open minded. And I have a positive-pragmatic approach because, you know, if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again!

LW: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?

BD: There have been a few of the typical sort: I started my career relatively young (Spanish university graduates tend to be much younger than the German) and was oftentimes the only woman in the room. My career has not been lineal, so every time I entered a new area or position the good old impostor syndrome kicked in. When I first moved into marketing and communications here in Luxembourg I was a total newbie in the field with full command of English and German but no proficient skills in French and only a few sentences in Luxembourgish… 

Challenges are often opportunities! When I was denied a promotion on account of my age I ended up taking on a new position with a different development track and learned a new business. When I started doubting the impact I was having with my work I reached out to my managers and explored different career paths, which eventually led me to the world of communication. Also on the human level. I have had easy and difficult bosses. I have had to hire and fire people. I have worked hard on business relationships that have failed despite all my efforts. You learn from every experience, you grow… and you strive to do better next time.

LW: Initiating change means challenging the status quo, what inspired you to work with this approach?

BD: Probably strong role models in my family that have instilled in me the belief that there is always a way, especially where there is a will. Being exposed to different cultures from a young age surely contributed also, as you realise that there is not just one way to do things or solve problems. 

LW: Why is mentoring & leadership important to you?

BD: I believe leadership is the ability to motivate and inspire people so they can reach their full potential, be innovative and entrepreneurial in the way they face challenges and solve problems for their team and their customers. It’s not a title or position, and there can be different types of leaders in the same team. Leadership is the driving force that makes a group of people into a cohesive team that works towards a common goal. Leaders should be sponsors and can be mentors. I believe they should be sponsors because with their influence leaders can provide opportunities for others to advance and excel in their careers. Leaders that does not use their voice for others miss a valuable opportunity to advocate for those who may need support, hindering their potential for growth and the collective success of the team.

I see mentoring as a collaborative learning relationship within an established framework, unlike leadership or sponsorship. It is a great tool for transfer of knowledge and experience, not just in terms of age but of seniority in the role or with the company. Mentoring can be used for support and guidance in the long term but can also seek to achieve a medium term goal, for instance speaking in public or improving one’s presentation skills as part of one’s personal development. I also believe mentoring contributes to reinforce the company culture and values as the mentor serves as a role model. 

And last but certainly not least, I believe mentoring is as beneficial to the mentor as it is to the mentee: it’s a great exercise in providing guidance without overstepping, offering constructive feedback and testing emotional intelligence capabilities.

LW: What are the top pieces of advice you can give to your mentees?

BD: It’s YOUR mentoring, so make the most out of it! Make sure you have a clear goal in mind and ideally also a time frame. Be ready to invest yourself: prepare your sessions, ask as many questions as possible and share specific situations you face/have faced for which you would like guidance – or a second opinion on how you handled it. 

Choose a mentor with whom you can develop key competencies such as communication, decision-making, problem-solving or strategic thinking; someone that inspires you, so you can shape your own leadership style.