Mentor Corner: Meet Carolina Santamaria Muñoz
Mentor Corner is a monthly feature highlighting the incredible contributions made by our mentor network to our venture community.
At entrepreneurship@UBC, we are privileged to work with a pool of 250+ mentors across the Vancouver and BC innovation ecosystem who invest their time, expertise and insights into growing the early-stage ventures of tomorrow. From entrepreneurial leadership development to scaling venture creation, our mentor network is fundamental to what we do here and we are excited to introduce you to them in our monthly feature, Mentor Corner!
Meet Carolina Santamaria Muñoz
Carolina Santamaria is a Business Development Specialist with the largest company in Colombia, an integrated player in the oil and energy sector in Latin America. She holds an MBA from INSEAD and her career includes finance and business development leadership roles across different industries, including building materials, retail and energy. She moved to Vancouver last December with her family to join UBC’s MEL program in Clean Energy Engineering, with the objective of gaining expertise in the field to add to her experience in fossil fuels to contribute to the furthering of energy transition efforts.
Carolina has a long history of mentorship, having volunteered on and off over the course of 5 years in Colombia before starting as a mentor with entrepreneurship@ubc in March with the Spring 2022 Lab2Launch cohort. She's worked with a range of ventures in the cohort, specifically Green Age Materials, lending her expertise and insights to the venture building process.
Learn more about how Carolina works with ventures as a mentor, what advice she’d give to our community and the most important lessons she’s learned along the way.
How did you get into mentorship? What brought you here? What keeps you coming back?
In 2013 I worked for a company in Colombia known for its long-standing commitment to sustainability. The company offers volunteer opportunities for its employees, including donating time to an organization that promotes high-impact entrepreneurship. At the time, I was part of the Corporate Business Development group and I volunteered as a mentor for finance-related topics. It was a rewarding experience and a way to give back to society. I especially enjoyed seeing the multiplying effect that ventures can have in the creation of jobs and economic development. When I started the MEL program, I attended an entrepreneurship@UBC Info Session to learn about the Climate Venture Studio. Although I am not an entrepreneur, I have a broad-ranging business background and I was privileged to be offered an opportunity to be a mentor again and simultaneously learn about the innovation ecosystem at UBC.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your mentorship career?
Mentors have been fundamental to my career and because of these fantastic people, the word mentor carries a connotation of wisdom and expertise. However, I have realized that even though mentors have specific knowledge and experience to share, a key component of mentorship is the ability to ask (a lot of!) good questions. I have raised questions that have helped teams even if I could not answer the questions myself. In my experience it is the questions no one else wants to ask that are sometimes the most important.
"I have realized that even though mentors have specific knowledge and experience to share, a key component of mentorship is the ability to ask (a lot of!) good questions. "
- Carolina Santamaria Muñoz
Working with early-stage startups, you have the opportunity to make a huge impact on the founders you are working with. What impacts have founders made on you?
Their energy is contagious, and I learn from the discussions with the teams and other mentors in every session. Also, it is inspiring to see the entrepreneurs’ perseverance and passion for their ideas as well as their ability to pivot when a new hypothesis needs to be tested. I have met founders from a diverse range of industries, from fast food to mining, and I am always impressed by their courage and resilience.
If you could impart one piece of sage advice for our community, what would it be?
Never underestimate the value of listening to different perspectives and connecting with people from diverse backgrounds. You might discover new customer segments or gain key insights from the way other industries have solved their problems.
"Never underestimate the value of listening to different perspectives and connecting with people from diverse backgrounds."
- Carolina Santamaria Muñoz
What book are you reading? What playlist are you listening to? What is the app you can’t quit?
Book: To be honest, aside from the readings related to the MEL program courses, I have not read many books this year. However, one of my favourite authors is Juan Gabriel Vásquez. “The Sound of Things Falling” is one of his most acclaimed novels.
Listening to: Now that the summer is approaching, a mix of latin music including some from my home country of Colombia (Fonseca, Sebastian Yatra, Carlos Vives, and always Shakira. The list is long…), to lift the spirit and dance!
App: I love Duolingo, it is a fun way of learning the basics of another language.
What makes entrepreneurship@UBC special?
In this community you will find a safe environment where you can challenge your ideas and receive support from a talented team. There is a lot of organization and structure behind the programs and the people at the front and behind the scenes have a genuine commitment to supporting the ventures on their journey. I believe collaboration between the private, public, and academic communities is important for innovation, and entrepreneurship@ubc is a great example of teamwork between different sectors.
"In this community you will find a safe environment where you can challenge your ideas and receive support from a talented team."
- Carolina Santamaria Muñoz
Thank you Carolina for your expert insights and continued impact on our community!
Are you interested in joining our mentor network? Learn more here.