Karinna Rojas on embracing cultural sensitivity as a competitive edge

“A culture of trust and respect is an underlying principle for this new way of working,”says Karinna Rojas of Siemens. PHOTO: Murnor Studio

When Karinna Rojas works overseas, she participates on teams comprised of different cultural perspectives and languages. But to her, the international differences aren’t barriers to be cleared—they’re opportunities to build a diverse network. They’re a chance to garner experiences that will give her and her company a more global perspective—and a comparative advantage—in their industry.

Siemens Corporation is a US technology-solutions company with active sectors in health care, infrastructure, energy, and cities. It is a subsidiary of the German corporation, Siemens AG, a leading electronics and electrical-engineering company. In the United States, Siemens employs approximately 60,000 people and reports revenues of around $20 billion.

Rojas joined Siemens almost four years ago, tasked with implementing global HR projects across what’s called the MetaCluster Americas, a North America region including America, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. In addition to identifying inefficiencies and creating streamlined, cost-effective initiatives, Rojas also works with HR officers at Siemens’ international locations to act as a liason to the Americas offices.

“I support the rollout of global and Americas HR standards, processes, and programs,” explains Rojas, senior director corporate human resources Americas projects. “[That includes] strategic planning, coordination, and controlling of MetaCluster Americas-wide programs and projects.”

While this puts Rojas at the helm of some far-reaching projects that require cultural sensitivity and the ability to acclimate to diverse environments, it’s a position her background has prepared her well for. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Rojas came to the United States during her high school years and immediately learned what it was like to adjust to a completely new environment.

“That was my first exposure to an international environment,” Rojas recalls. “Not knowing the language, starting a new school, living in a different country, having new friends with different backgrounds … When I came back to Venezuela, I had a totally different cultural sensibility that has helped me professionally.”

At companies like AT&T/Lucent Technologies and Lexmark International, Rojas used this global mentality to connect different workforces with their corporate HR initiatives, gathering perspectives and local information from employees and experts, and supporting HR teams while they implement performance management, compensation, IT, or training programs.

One of Rojas’s latest projects at Siemens is the launch of a new company-wide concept, New Way of Working, a program that will focus on allowing Siemens employees to operate in flexible, sustainable, and modern ways. By developing a more mobile work environment that would let employees work remotely and collaborate with colleagues and clients digitally, Siemens hopes to create a more efficient company culture that offers a sound work-life balance, attracting quality candidates and retaining happy, dedicated employees. “It will allow our employees to have more flexibility and independence,” Rojas explains.

The challenge, of course, is figuring out ways for Siemens employees to still have productive, efficient collaborations while not necessarily working in the same space together. It’s a key challenge for the initiative, and one Rojas has been working to overcome with her same global sensibility and commitment to cultural understanding.

And as our economy becomes increasingly globalized, this new way of working, underpinned with sensitivity toward employees of diverse perspectives, will become more important than ever—for Siemens and for all US corporations.

“By transforming our work environment, we’ll promote sustainability, flexibility, independence, collaboration, and results, as well as work-life integration,” she says. “A culture of trust and respect is an underlying principle for this new way of working.”