Carlotta Dal Lago (Executive MBA 2019) describes herself as “driven by curiosity, craving for learning and passion”. And this is evidently clear in her CV which sites many impressive higher education institutions including Harvard Business School, Cambridge University and LSE. She has travelled the world and lived in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the UK , and is currently Head of Business Development, Marketing and Communication for Anjarwalla & Kanna (ALN Kenya) one of the largest corporate law firms in East Africa and ALN, an alliance of law firms, present in 15 countries in Africa.
As well as this she is the founder of a Community Forest Association in Nairobi, The Nairobi Arboretum Conservancy (NACCFA), a business mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and a mother of twins. We spoke to Carlotta about her life, career and how she manages to juggle all her many roles and responsibilities.
Tell us about your current role
I am currently Head of Business Development, Marketing and Communication for ALN Kenya and ALN. It is an extremely busy role as we seek to provide an integrated service for clients doing business across Africa. Working with 15 different law firms, as well as leading the team at ALN Kenya, my role is complex and rewarding, navigating geography and culture, a matrix organisation, and internal and external stakeholders’ dynamics.
It is an incredible experience. The culture of the company is very similar to companies I have worked for in the past, particularly Bain&Company. Self-driven and entrepreneurial with a long-term vision. Committed to the advancement of the continent and future generations by improving the rule of law and supporting the education of lawyers. We’re deeply rooted locally but with international networks and connections.
I enjoy having the space to think like an ‘Intrepreneur’ - being given the financial resources and autonomy to proactively introduce new ideas, develop new structures and processes. It is rewarding to watch the transformation of the culture of the team, to witness growth and to empower members of my team to take responsibility and ownership. And this in turn enables the company to grow and succeed.
I am also the founder and Chairperson of a community forest association, NACCFA, which is working to restore and maintain the main urban park in Nairobi, the Nairobi Arboretum, together with Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The aim is to manage the park without having to rely on government funds by generating strong partnerships with the private sector and communities. I am developing a new management format which involves many revenue generation activities. We have become the centre of excellence for urban greenification in Kenya, a project that KFS and UNEP will launch on 5 June on World Environmental Day.
"Home is always home and I often battle between staying and going, but passion for my professional ventures and the opportunity to learn more and do better have always pushed me to go and explore new chances and new countries."
Tell us about your role as business mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Women’s economic abuse is more widespread than we think, and economic empowerment is an important topic to me since it is connected to a woman’s freedom to make the right choices and decisions.
The Cherie Blair Foundation helps women to release the entrepreneurial potential in low- and middle-income countries and empowers them to create better futures for themselves and their families. When women are economically empowered, everyone benefits.
I am currently mentoring an entrepreneur in Malaysia to help build her cheese business. She has everything she needs: intuition, determination, passion and she knows how to run her business. But sometimes it’s simply an encouraging word that helps to move things ahead.
You've had a very international career – what would be your advice to others wanting to do the same?
I do not think there is a recipe for that. I am driven by curiosity, craving for learning and passion for what I am doing. I started to travel at a very young age and to venture out of my comfort zone – I throw myself into new projects and I am not afraid to ask for help, or to try a new path when new ideas come to me. And so it was that I found myself in Argentina for a year working on a thesis on the ‘Mother of Plaza de Mayo and the fight to dictatorship’. Then to the UN in New York for one of the first internship programmes. Followed by a scholarship to LSE in London to continue social psychology with top professors and researchers in the field of social representation.
When you have experience and have shown yourself to be adaptable, professional opportunities will come with international companies, giving you global exposure to top talents and the most advanced ideas.
Home is always home and I often battle between staying and going, but passion for my professional ventures and the opportunity to learn more and do better have always pushed me to go and explore new chances and new countries.
With so much experience already, why did you decide to undertaken an Executive MBA?
Following more than 15 years of work and living away from home, as well as the birth of my twins, I needed to rationalise and find a common ground between my professional and personal experiences to help decide on my next steps. I wanted to develop my own style of leadership and management, along with new skills and competences.
The Executive MBA programme felt in line with my career aspirations. It was a really great experience. The time I spent with 40 other executives was extremely valuable. The diversity of people from different countries and industries, as well as the impressive curriculum, gave me tremendous inspiration and insight, and increased my confidence in my own judgement. Through the programme I was able to better understand my strengths, weakness and values. As they say, ‘leadership is a journey... not a destination.’ I now question things a lot more. I am more aware of the different assumptions people are making. I am aware of framing conversations and of different angles. I am more engaged and have the tools to understand the bigger picture.