Influencer Charlene Alberto: committed and passionate

Interview May, 2019

Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I have 2 wonderful daughters and I am in a relationship with a significant other for 20 years. I have one sister and my mother is 86 years old and still alive and very outspoken. My father, who used to be a teacher and always was very active until the last years of his life, has passed away. But, he has always stressed how important our own education is and all other things if needed, had to be put aside for our education. As this was the most important thing for him, this focus on our education, has its positive and negative side. On the positive, he always taught us, that what you learn nobody can take that away from you and both my sister and I did very well in school. The down side of such a focus on education however is that, we weren’t doing a lot of household chorus, when we grew up and we are still feeling that every now and then.

Could you share with us some of your educational background and past professional experiences?
I finished my high school at Radulphus College when I was 18 years old and finished my master degree in Econometrics after 3,5 years in Groningen, Holland. After working as a trainee at the department of Finance of the Island Government of Curaçao, I started working on the 14th of July 1989, a strange day to start my career by the way, but I didn’t want to work and live in Holland. This first job in government was an excellent place to learn and gain all sorts of new experiences, although it was the job that paid me my lowest salary, which was normal as I was only then starting my professional career.

I had such a wide range of experiences in those years, I was doing work as an office messenger at times on the one hand and at times represented the Head of the department during Island Council meetings. It was fun and when I left Finance, I didn’t leave because I was disgruntled, I left because when I gave birth to my first child I wanted to work part-time to have more time to spend with my daughter. But finding a part-time job was a challenge back then ( it still is by the way) so I became a teacher at the UNA (University of the Netherlands Antilles) which was a full time job, but it offered me more leeway in how I could spend my working hours. But after 2 years at UNA the public sector was pulling me back to it and I became an assistant and advisor to the Minister of Finance in those days Minister Russell Voges and later he became Minister of Constitutional Affairs. He was from Saint Martin and I worked with him for 4 years 1999 – 2003. After those 4 years I returned back to UNA for a very short period, as I applied and came out as the best candidate to become the Deputy Director of the Centrale Hypotheekbank ( a subsidiary of Algemeen Pensioenfonds Nederlandse Antillen “APNA” ). But I was asked by the Management of APNA to apply for another vacancy that was available at APNA being: “the deputy head for APNA” and after going through the formalities and motions, I was appointed deputy head of APNA. I worked at APNA, later APC, till 2013 and September 1, 2013 I started at Vidanova Pension Fund. After a brief period accompanying the former CEO of Vidanova, I became the CEO of the Funds as per January 1, 2014 and since June 1, 2018 I am also the CEO of Vidanova Life, Vidanova’s Life Insurance company and together with my co-director, we manage this new entity within the Vidanova Group.

We became interested in interviewing you, as we have noticed that your responsibilites for our community has grown as your are CEO of Vidanova and a member of de Raad van Advies. Are we missing something?
Yes, indeed. Since January 2014 I am a member of the Raad van Advies. As I said I’m also the CEO of Vidanova Life and I am also a board member of CaPAs (The Caribbean Association of Pension funds).

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?

Well, we were raised to whatever we chose to do: “give it your best efforts” and “do it well.” So I was educated to always do, whatever I needed to do, a little better. It was “embedded” in my upbringing, as long as your heart is in what you are doing on a personal or business level. I have learned that all areas of a person’s “wheel of life” needs to be in balance. If there is no balance, seek to find the balance back, because if not, that will hurt you. This is no theory for me. I have experienced this personally. If you are off-balance you might be able to deal with this temporarily, but in the end it will haunt you and hurt you. This is what I have learned in life.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
I have learned to look at every issue and deal with it as just a problem that needs a solution. In the past, when I was in disagreement with someone and felt attacked I used to mentally prepare myself for a fight I thought was coming. But over the years I have realized that preparing for a fight, will for sure result in a fight. A fight that wouldn’t have happen if I have prepared myself to find a solution. So I have learned to don’t take anything personal. Yes, we are human beings and we all have emotions, but don’t let those emotions dominate you and take the upper hand. You don’t need to eliminate emotions, but there has to be a sound balance. And don’t go and try to win the argument, try to find a solution. Every morning I read from the magazine/calendar “Lichtstralen uit het woord” for years now. One of these wisdoms I got from reading it was: “If you have the power to irritate a person, you also have the key to his heart. So why challenge him into a fight? Seek his heart”.

Do you know the book The 4 agreements from Don Luis Mnguel? The Four Agreements ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
Yes, I know this book.

Well in this book Don Ruiz talks about the following 4 agreements:
1. Be impeccable with your word;
2. Don’t take anything personal;
3. Don’t make assumptions;
4. Always do your best.

Which one of the 4 agreements is the most useful for you?
The second one, I would say: “Don’t take anything personal.” This is a very important lesson for me. Just work and give it your all, don’t take setbacks personally, don’t take criticism personally. If you don’t succeed the first time, how other way can you reach your goals. But you know, my biggest lessons came from my daughters. They are my biggest teachers. The way I was raised was not comparable with the way I needed to raise my daughters. The way they gave me feedback, I learned to accept and not to be judgmental. They have their own life’s path and they don’t need to follow the path I have followed, because in the end it is all about our happiness. That taught me to also to detached. This was especially during the days when they were adolescents and they were very much under the influence of their peers. Nowadays, I accept the choices they make in their life. For example my eldest daughter took a “ gap” year and it was so much fun for her to do this that in the end the gap “year” lasted for almost 2 years instead of the one year. This is so much different than my quick race through Econometrics and start working at my 22 years of age. So at first a gap year was inconceivable for me.

But the things she did, like working as a trainee, doing some research assignments, backpacking through South America were so much fun for her and she has learned a lot of “life skills” that otherwise she wouldn’t have learned. And now I’m encouraging my youngest child to think what extra curriculum activities she can do. I talked to a young professional of 30 years old from Aruba some time ago and she had travelled the world for some time and her parents at first didn’t approve this, but she was so happy that she had done this, as she learned to be a lot more resilient and pro-active. This normally they don’t teach at schools.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal skills? Do you like reading books, follow courses, practice a lot and like investing in networks and people that might help you further your knowledge and skills level.

Well I attend seminars and follow webinars that I am interested in. I like reading books, always had, but recently I study more and read less. I would take the best idea out of a book, study it and apply it. This I have learned from Leadership Management International courses, after each lesson in LMI, they request you to select the best idea. In the past, I use to have abroad interest and read a lot, now I study more and change that into personal wisdom.

One great idea that I have been applying for a long time now is the saying of Darren Hardy: “Never starts your day until it is finished on paper.” But there is another one that I still have to improve on : “The day is finished when you finished it, not until all the work is done”. I have a great morning routine but in my evening routine, there is still room for improvement. You can always go on and on but as Darren says, the days ends when you end it. And I still have the tendency to go on and on. I have read his book “The Compound effect” and followed a workshop and an online course of him, as I am involved in continuous learning. LMI also have taught me a lot and these courses made me more aware of what I was doing well and what I could do better. I also enable other of my colleagues to follow these courses, as this not only helping them professionally, but also in their personal life. And as, I mentor these colleques it helps me also to stay sharp.

What are your strengths apart from your apparent leadership skills?
I am very committed and I have a lot of stamina and perseverance. I do this at the office, but also with my hobbies. I love hiking and at times during my hiking vacations, I have routes we have to hike that are really challenging. But then my perseverance comes in handy. But at work also. Last year two colleagues fell out during a very critical period of the year. And as we are a small team, this was felt enormously So it was hard work, for the whole team by the way, but we still manage to reach our targets as a group. It was a matter of perseverance and continuous motivation and finally we were successful. Once I have decided that I go for something, even though the emotion that was there when I took the decision has “ebbed” away, I will still stick to it and stay the course. Like last year I decided to clear and clean up my house. Every area of my house I was going to clear sequentially and I was going to get rid of 50 % of the stuff. At times this was fun to do and at times it was really boring But I stayed the course and in the end for only 2 areas, photos’ and CD’s I didn’t stick to the 50 % target.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?

I walk every morning partially for my health but also because I really enjoy it. I often go on hiking vacations. Every year I am in KLM-half marathons for example; not doing very well by the way because I don’t run but walk but I enjoy the walk to the fullest. I love working in my garden. I love to dance, I am participating in the Carnaval parades for years now and this year I have participated for the first time in the Seu parade which was also great fun. I love singing and although my friends say that I am really bad at it I do it anyway and I really enjoy it. I am also following a guitar course right now. I love and enjoy life.

If you as Charlene Alberto, would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?

I would tell them my name and tell them that I am a mother of 2 daughters.

How would you describe Charlene in one word or one sentence?
Committed and passionate

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
I have learned a lot from different people during the course of my life and career. But I would say, Roberta Carlos. She works at MCB, we have followed two LMI-courses together and she had this rare gift to tweak ideas, she got from the -courses to make it work for her. She always tweaked and found a way to implement this idea. Teaching me, that there is always a way to get things done. That no matter what the original idea is and despite the first thought that this will not work for you, you can get it done with willpower and creativity.

I also learned a lot from the late Remy Guiamo, he used to work at the Refinery. At a very young age I was the acting chairperson of a meeting that went totally out of hand and he shared with me some valuable tips that were very helpful. He told me to let everybody at the meeting just make two remarks and the rest should only listen and not react,….that was great and it worked. And I have learned that this great advice, not only works when you are chairing a meeting. So many times you just have to listen instead of starts reacting upfront.

Where they always positive role models or where their also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
I have seen people being so committed in doing bad things that I have realized that it doesn’t matter how many talents, knowledge and skills you have it is how you use it, that is important. Your goals and intentions have to be positive, that is what I have learned.

What are some of the challenges, lessons learned, that you have encountered in your life when you ultimately discovered your talents and strenghts? Or what was a defining moment in your life?
That moment was when I worked at APC as the deputy director. The position of the director became vacant and I didn’t apply for this position. My “core” (gut, inner voice) told me not to do it because it wasn’t what I really wanted and for a lot of people this was strange, but for me it was a defining moment, as I proved to myself , that I was able to follow my heart and inner voice. A decision I have never regretted.

Do you often consult your core or innervoice or your heart when you have choices to make?
Yes, I often do. Certainly in a director’s position where it is all about taking decisions. I need to be able to live with my decisions. When confronted with a choice, I am always looking for some kind of balance in my choices. But if my gut tells me that it isn’t right, I always get in an “alert” mode. I will further explore to come to a more balanced decision, eliminating my pre-judgements but never neglected my inner voice.
If one day for example my daughters would come to work at Vidanova and would ask some colleagues about me as the former director of Vidanova, I would want them to be proud of what they will hear employees telling about me, of the kind of CEO I was and of the decisions that I have taken.

Where do you want to be 10 to 15 years from now with your career?
Ten years from now, I will not be in an employer – employee relationship anymore.
There are 4 things in life that are important to me:
1. First of all my health. Some years ago, I had a serious car accident and afterwards I was so grateful that I could keep doing what I used to be doing. I am very grateful for that and it makes me realize how precious your health is
2. Secondly, I make sure to have things that I loved to do; my hobbies enrich my life
3. Thirdly, have loving relationships with Loved Ones and friends, to enjoy with them those things you loved to do. We as human beings need one another and
4. Finally, take good care of your finances. I will make life easier.

If these things are in place, as I work to get them in place, I will walk away from my job with peace of mind and keep enjoying life. What exactly I will be doing is not completely clear right now for me, but that is less relevant for the moment, as long as those four conditions are met, that will fall in place ultimately, so that I can continue to enjoy life.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years years from now?
That they felt loved and cared for by me.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?

The majority of people in Curaçao are now realizing, that we can’t go on like this anymore. Every person in whatever area they participate in, must do their utmost, then we will pick up because “not changing our ways”, is not an option anymore.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Life is a journey and you should try to make the best out of this every day for yourself and for others, because this would be good for you and for others close to you.

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
As the core group of Share2Uplift we love and deeply respect Charlene Alberto for her commitment and passion in all endeavors she is involved in. We respect her for her low profile and quiet demeanor. We respect her for leadership in Vidanova and Vidanova Life, her participation in the ‘Raad van Advies’ and her commitment for continuously upgrading her leadership skills. By doing this she adding value to different segments of the society as a whole. We definitely consider her one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets for the better especially in the business sector of our society.’

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