Growing up in Colombia, Raquel Carbonari regularly accompanied her father to their family paper mill and was fascinated by the paper conversion process. Her love of science made studying engineering in college a natural choice, and after graduation she started as a lab engineer at Essity. But her curiosity led her to pursue positions outside of the research and development department, and in her 12 subsequent years, she has moved from R&D product development to different marketing roles. Today, she works on interfolded napkin systems that are used around the world.
How has Essity’s leadership supported your growth?
I’ve always had managers that encourage me to try new things and to take risks with my career. My growth hasn’t necessarily been linear; I went from being a lab engineer to being in a strategic marketing role. My advancement has been more about trying different roles to get new perspectives, and to learn how all the different disciplines and departments come together at Essity to create value for our customers and ultimately for our shareholders.
I’ve been in situations where my managers have said, “Hey, you might not have the functional capabilities to do this role, but I know you have the soft skills, and I know we can train you.” When faced with doubt or concern for taking this risk, I clearly remember one of my mentors saying that each person brings different skills to a role and that we should help evolve the role to what the organization needs. I have been very fortunate to have had these mentors in my career who have encouraged me to take risks.
Did you ever think that you would be in a marketing role, since you studied engineering?
No! I love working with my hands, playing in the lab, testing products, doing data analysis on lab results, running validations on a plant floor — more traditional engineering tasks. But one of my key learnings in these past years is that there's data and analysis in every discipline, now more than ever. All those skills that I learned in my engineering training apply to marketing. We’re always making data-driven decisions, though the data source is not a lab test; rather it is market trends, sales reports, distribution data, market research, you name it! I’m still looking at information and trying to make sense of it, formulating hypotheses and finding ways to validate them — just like I did as an engineer.
What would you say you enjoy most about your job?
I would say the team collaboration and global opportunities. For us to launch products globally, we need to rely on a global team. I have always been drawn to different cultures. I love hearing different views from my colleagues in different countries and learning about the barriers and objections that can prevent us from having a successful launch. The opportunity to identify those insights and work with my colleagues to overcome those barriers is what I find most enjoyable. Also, it's fun working on projects that have global impact and seeing your work materialized in many places around the world.
What has your experience been as a woman in STEM?
My experience has been extremely positive. Because of Essity’s Swedish roots, it tends to have a more egalitarian view of men and woman. So I’ve always felt empowered here.
For example, when I was 27 I was traveling to Sweden, validating machines in Japan, and installing machines in Mexico as a product developer. Or, when I was a product developer, I remember being very interested in a project and asking my manager if I could be involved. Not only did he agree, but he assigned me as the product development lead, and I was like, ‘What are you thinking!?’
I’m not sure if that answers the question, but I’ve always found that I’ve been supported and promoted based on my ambitions and potential. Being a woman engineer at Essity hasn’t been a factor, good or bad. It has just been. And that's exactly how I wanted it to be.
Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company. In North America, Essity develops and produces the leading global brands Tork, TENA, and medical solutions brands such as JOBST.