Humans of Claro: Meet Cate Conte

At Claro Partners, we have purposefully built a diverse team of passionate people from different cultural and professional backgrounds to solve problems from multiple angles.
In this blog series, we proudly introduce you to all of the Claros and Claras in our office, and share the personal journeys that brought them to Barcelona.
In our previous HoC we talked with Myria Solorzano and now it is time to meet Cate Conte: our creative architect!

Could you tell me something about your personal background?

I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Like every Latin country, Venezuela’s culture is very family-oriented, so I grew up very close to my family – mom, dad and sister.

At school, I studied a ‘scientific’ path, but I was also good at drawing and creative activities. I guess I knew at a young age that I wanted to study architecture, like my mom had done, because I saw it as a good mix: a creative career, but with guidelines and rules. I studied it for five years and I don’t regret it at all. It’s a great career. It taught me the value of a strong design concept, and how to present abstract ideas in a compelling way. I learned that if a concept is strong and you present it well, the details are somewhat secondary.

During the fourth year of my career I came to study in Barcelona. It was my first time away from the Venezuelan bubble. The first time I actually realised how big the world is and how many talented people there were out there.

What happened after you finished your study?

I worked in a construction agency for a bit and got to manage construction sites, workers, and some residential projects. I also did some creative work, but I quickly realized it was nothing like what you study in architecture school. What I liked was the ability to create things and (sooner or later) see and touch the result. As an industry however, it was not what I expected and I knew I didn’t want to continue in that environment.

By that time I stumbled upon Fast Company magazine. I soon started to read about design applied to business, and I began to understand how closely linked it was to innovation. I started a blog to keep all the articles I liked in one place, made it very visual, and kind of turned it into my own motivational log.

Eventually, I quit my job in the construction agency, and spent all my savings on a three-month trip to Paris to study French. That had always been high on my list, and it was also an opportunity to experience another European city. I then came back to Caracas to work on the family business, and after experimenting with different applications of design in a corporate environment, it was clear that I wanted to make a career shift.

I found a one-year Master degree in London, Design Management and Innovation, which was just starting, so there was a lot of room to help shape the program. I liked the university and the program, so I applied, got accepted, and moved to London for one year.

How did Claro Partners enter your story?

I liked London and I also enjoyed Paris, but it was clear that Barcelona was the place for me to live. Culturally it felt the closest, because of the weather, the language, the size of the city and of course the beach! An alumni from my degree had mentioned Claro once, and I immediately noted it down. When I started actively looking for jobs, Barcelona and Claro were my top options. It was my first application, and that’s how it all started. I joined in December 2014, so it’s been 3 years now!

How would you describe your role at Claro Partners? 

Super-hybrid! I remember I did many internal projects when I started. I did a lot of business development and I was part of several Snowball groups like Recruitment, Culture, Design Practice and Knowledge Management.

My first project involved two workshops for a global NGO, the first one in Asia and the second one in Africa. During the workshop in Asia, I facilitated team India, and in Africa, team Cameroon. Being somehow responsible for a team of health officials, all experts in their field, was quite a challenge. Strategic thinking isn’t at all common in those contexts, and the people involved were very new to this approach.

I remember with Cameroon they ended up speaking in French to me during the last three days, while I facilitated in English. Being able to use my French again made this experience extra memorable, plus participants were so satisfied and grateful at the end. I remember I was in such a state of bliss after that workshop! It was very rewarding.

After those first two projects, I’ve been very fortunate and worked with different projects and teams with clients across industries. I think this level of exposure is one of the greatest things about consultancy work in general and Claro especially.

How would you describe yourself as a consultant?

Well, what satisfies me the most is helping others think through something. Helping map things out, connect ideas, find gaps, and make sense of complexity by asking the right questions. I think this works especially well when you are new to a topic and are also trying to make sense of it in your head. Otherwise you can have assumptions that can be limiting.

My background in architecture taught me what holistic thinking is and that is something that I still apply today as a consultant. The more roles that something can perform, the better and more justified it is. Like a column, it offers support of course, but it can also create a dynamic in a space or a rhythm in a façade, and this gives it additional meaning. Strategic design is the same. You give an insight, an opportunity space, a framework, and the more meanings in different contexts and applications, the more credible and valuable it can be.

Could you share another memorable experience?

When I think of the internal projects, I really enjoy the work in recruitment – and there have been many outstanding candidates. I really like meeting new people, reading such diverse CVs and motivation letters and helping the Claro team and culture grow.
As for external work, ethnography is, of course, always memorable in one way or another. It is so carefully planned and yet so unpredictable once you’re there. I’ve had in-home experiences where people get very emotional, I’ve had to cover topics I would never in a million years cover otherwise, I’ve been in makeshift homes in rural India and Liberia, we’ve dealt with all kinds of pets… Let’s say it can get very real!

Feb 5, 2018