All Careers Considered: Writing Your Own Story with Claudia Viloria

In this episode, we speak with Claudia Viloria about her journey from IU Bloomington to Mexico City, where she works as a Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager for Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company dedicated to vaccinations. Claudia has extensive knowledge and wisdom from her five years of experience working in public affairs and non-profits in Mexico, where she has helped build relationships between governmental organizations and Civil Society Organizations starting from her time as a Public Policy Analyst at Centro Eure S.C. to her time with Save the Children Mexico. Claudia tells us all about her career path, the decisions that have influenced her life, and how her time in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU helps her today. Claudia also discusses the importance of overcoming obstacles and moving forward in the face of adversity.

Claudia Viloria is a Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager at Sanofi Pasteur in Mexico City. She is a public affairs professional with experiences building relationships across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Currently, she promotes and builds alliances with Sanofi, Civil Society Organizations, and other groups in Mexico to promote access to immunizations and health. 

Claudia graduated from IU in 2016 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in International Studies and Psychology before moving to Mexico and completing her graduate degree in Public Policy Evaluation. Claudia discusses the invaluable transferable skills that stem from her College of Arts and Sciences degrees. We hope you find Claudia’s nuggets of wisdom applicable to your current personal and professional lives as she speaks to the importance of remembering that tomorrow is a new day and overcoming obstacles. Enjoy the episode!  

Participate in Themester 2021 — Resilience

Season 5 of All Careers Considered is produced in conjunction with the College of Arts + Sciences Themester 2021 on Resilience. One way you can participate in Themester is to attend a Themester event.


Sophie: Hey Hoosiers Welcome back to the All Careers Considered podcast hosted by the Walter Center for Career Achievement, which is the career services center that specifically serve students and alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. We are on a mission to help you achieve career success by supporting you in your pursuit of impactful experiences, designing your life, sharing your story and building meaningful connections. My name is Sophie Todd and I’m a peer coach for the Walter Center for Career Achievement, working with an amazing team of undergraduate and graduate students who you have or will hear from in other episodes of this podcast. You may have heard that you can do anything with a College of Arts and Sciences degree and I’m here to show you that really is the case by interviewing alumni to ask them where they are now.

Next up is this week’s interview with Claudia Viloria. Claudia lives in Mexico City and is a Public Affairs and Advocacy manager at Sanofi Pasteur, a global vaccine company where she works with nonprofit and government organizations to ensure that vulnerable populations in Mexico have access to vaccines and health. Claudia graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2016, with a Bachelor of Arts degrees in international studies in psychology. I had an amazing time talking to Claudia and learning about her career path, her resiliency and how her College of Arts and Sciences degrees have influenced her life. I really enjoyed our conversation, and I know that you’ll find wisdom in all that Claudia has to say. Enjoy the episode.

Sophie: Hi, Claudia, thank you so much for being here with us today on the All Careers Considered podcast for the Walter Center for Career Success. We are so excited to have you. And to begin, Claudia, I know that you’ve had a variety of different positions and public policies since you graduated. And now you’re a Public Affairs and Advocacy manager at Sanofi Pasteur where you work with civil society organizations locally and nationally to promote immunization for vulnerable groups in Mexico. So I’d love to hear a little bit about your current role, what all it entails and how you came to work in this position.

Claudia: Hi, Sophie, thank you very much. It’s always a pleasure to work for the career center. Yeah, so I work at Sanofi, Sanofi is a pharmaceutical, and right now I’m in the vaccine immunization Department and in the Public Affairs and Advocacy department. And pretty much what I do is I try to work with civil society organizations and patient organizations in order to promote vaccinations in the country. Which is the beauty of my job because I don’t have to deal with the brand or product per say, I just try to promote the right of health and immunizations and which is actually, right now it’s a big thing, especially because of the pandemic and everybody now talks about vaccines and being protected. It’s actually a pretty interesting job because we have to deal a lot with working with the government working with the general public, and also like anti-vaccine groups, and trying to think of messages and activities. And it’s a very rewarding job. But it’s a little stressful because issues come up every day, but yeah.

Sophie: That’s great. And it sounds like there’s so many interesting dynamics that you get to work with. And it seems like there’s a lot of… Is there a lot of relationship building involved in your job It seems like?

Claudia: Yeah, and it’s actually pretty interesting because I before working at Sanofi, I was working in Save the Children. And I started this new this new position during the pandemic, I started in February. And it’s kind of crazy because I don’t know many of my colleagues in person because here in Mexico, we’re just starting to go every now and then to offices. And so it’s weird that I don’t know, personally that people that I work with or work for so it’s it’s strange. And especially since what I do is Public Affairs. I have to, talk to people, to have meetings, and this job people in this position in the past used to go to dinner and go to coffees go to the organization, let’s just try and knock some doors and just be places. And right now it’s just all through the computer. And it’s it feels heavier. But definitely, I think that’s something that everybody is, I don’t know, it’s something that it’s happening a lot, that you are more efficient, but you’re way more tired. And that type of connection, it’s just not so special, I guess as it could be.

Sophie: I know, that’s something the the aspect of starting a job while you’re working from home and not knowing many of your colleagues, especially when you’re working in a job that involves creating those relationships, or talking to so many people. That’s something that I’ve experienced this summer in my internship and that I know, tons of students are experiencing, or people all over the world are experiencing, what advice would you have for students who are working in a similar situation, or who will graduate working in a similar situation?

Claudia: Try to find a time and place for building that relationship, like, most of my meetings usually are very, to the point. And so you miss a lot of that small talk, like just getting to know the person you’re talking to. And sometimes we lose time. Because we just need to have that interaction. And so what we have done, and the team that I work with, we try to see each other whether in person or a meeting, but just to talk and say, and have a conversation about something other than work. And  that actually helps team building and like bonding with the rest of your team. And also, I will say having a time for yourself, because one of the things that will happen to me a lot. I tend to be very overachieving. Especially when you don’t know what you are exposed to, and with a new job or a new degree or whatever. And so I just worked and worked and worked and I didn’t put limits. And in my day for myself and and right now with the pandemic, that’s even worse, because you don’t have an office that you can just like pluck out, you just stay and your day that it was supposed to end at six ends at ten. Right. And so it’s important to learn how to say no, and building this relationship with your team or your boss. And so you get to know them and they get to know you it’s easier to have that conversation when you feel that someone is stepping within your limits.

Sophie: Yeah, definitely building that trust is is so important so that you can have conversations and set those boundaries for yourself and in the workplace. And then also, as you’re starting a new job, build that trust with them so that they can help guide you or mentor you as you’re working in that job. I want to zoom out a little bit and go back to the beginning of your career in the beginning of college, how did you decide to first study international studies in psychology and then later as you graduated, how did you decide to go into the field of public policy? Was this something that you always knew that you wanted to do? Or was there a lot of soul searching involved? Was it, was it a bit of a process for you?

Claudia: Yeah, I was all over the place. I wanted to be a doctor since I was in fifth grade, and I worked towards that. I am originally from Venezuela, and so I moved to United States and I went into IU doing pre-med. My junior year, I did an internship and I started working, well I started studying for the MCAT and um, I found out that because of my visa I had, I wasn’t a permanent resident, but um I had a work visa through my parents um but I couldn’t even take the test. So it was more, it was, it was a bummer. But it made me realize that, you know, I wasn’t so devastated when I had that that news, right? Because I wanted to stay in the United States, so for me, it was like, Well, maybe not medicine, but I can do something else. And um, I’ve always been passionate, very passionate about politics in general. Policy, not so much at the moment, but I was super, super interested in everything related to politics. And actually, my sophomore? yeah, my sophomore year, I joined Model UN at IU. it was just starting. It had like six months, that a bunch of people got together and started this, um, what is it, an activity, an extracurricular? Um and I became really good friends and while I hd like these bad situation with pre-med. I will say, you know what? I like this a lot. Not very outspoken, but I can work in like the, the background and I love the research, the analysts, the, the everything that involves with knowing the whole political system of a country and the decision-makers. And it really interests, interested me a lot. And so when I found out that I couldn’t do medicine or pre-med anymore, um I decided to go into um international studies. And the program was also new. It was started that year. So it was pretty beta version like everything was like new like they’re trying to figure out like the programs. So it was very interesting to start um the program that year. And also, um, I did psychology because when I was doing pre-med, I was looking into um, careers or degrees that weren’t exactly super-science-y, like biology or chemistry. But that we’re also related to medicine. And so I was like, if anything, I will have some knowledge that will help me with pre-med. Funny enough, I started also doing chemistry and I joined Alpha Chi Sigma. And um, I’m also a member of Alpha Sigma. So like I said, I’m all over the place. But I graduated with psychology and international studies, which at the end of the day, I use many of the stuff I learned through psychology even nowadays. Which is really interesting, especially when I was working in SaveThe Children. And I was in early childhood development and a lot of what I learned I was able to use it there. But then I moved to Mexico. And in Mexico I started working with a consulting firm that specialized in public policy. And so, I started just like well, it’s my first job in this new country and let’s see what’s happening. And I ended up loving it even more and kind of shifted towards that direction. And in Save the Children, which is what I did after, I went full on with public policy and advocacy. And right now, I do kind of the same thing, but from like the private sector. So, um, I’ve been, again, all over the place because even I worked for the government. I worked for, you know, civil society. I worked for the private. So yeah. Like you all over the world.

Sophie: That is such an amazing story, especially and I think the fact that you joined a club at IU and then it became what you are passionate about and really helped you find that you wanted to do international studies and lead you to where you are now I think is such a powerful testament to the kinds of things that you can learn from putting yourself out there, from being involved in, at IU, and from the amazing opportunities that IU has to offer. It’s so cool that the year that international studies started at IU was the year that aligned with you finding a new major and finding something to study. So that just seems like it worked out perfectly and I’m so glad to hear that. It’s been a path that you’ve been on that has taken you somewhere that you love now. So that’s really awesome to hear. Um, for students, I want to ask, when did you move from Venezuela to the United States?

Claudia: 2008. I was 15. So, yeah. I, I went to Bloomington High School North. And then from there I went straight to IU.

Sophie: Gotcha. So for other students who might be from different countries, or international students who are here on visas, what advice do you have to them as they’re, as they spend time at IU or as they’re navigating, even, the complicated visa process and maybe dealing with similar situations to you where they have to change what they want to do or change their major because of those requirements?

Claudia: Yeah, um. I will say do a lot of research on what you can do or not. Because like I said, I have another, another um friend that she too is one of the brightest persons I know and and she also couldn’t do medicine, because she didn’t have the permanent residency. And so she just again, she couldn’t even take the MCAT, so just do the research. But don’t be afraid of finding or looking for another path. Because again, I never thought that I was going to end up in Mexico. And here I am, right? And, um, undergrad. It’s like tramp, trampoline. It’s like a place that will take you other places. But what you study in undergrad, it’s really not what you’re going to end up doing your entire life. Because even when you go to grad school, like you go there in order to keep advancing or moving forward. So I would just recommend to just see this time gives us a place to self-discover. And even if you have to go back to your country, you have that backpack full of experiences and tools and um, you know, skills that just because you got out of your bubble in your original country or your original community. Because that happens to you if you like, live in the United States in a town your entire life and then you moved away for college. Just the fact that you’re getting out of that bubble. It’s just itself a learning opportunity. So I will say just take your time in college as a place for self-discovery more than oh my god it’s the end of the world. If I just, I don’t know, I have to go back to my country or I have to just not follow my plan that I, I don’t know, thought of when I was in fifth grade. Because again, life changes and sometimes even your, your taste and your interests changes. And that’s okay, That’s totally fine.

Sophie: I love that analogy of colleges like a trampoline where you can bounce off in so many different directions. And I think that, that is such a, such a cool analogy to use. Um, speaking of like getting out of your comfort zone, I’m interested in your move from Bloomington to Mexico and what that transition was like, why you decided to go to Mexico, and what you would say to students who might also be looking to go internationally after college?

Claudia: Yeah. Okay, so first off, I was in international studies. One of the things that kina frustrated me a lot was that there weren’t many courses on policy for Latin America. There were more of like cultural aspects and stuff like that. And I was really interested in knowing more about what’s happening in Latin America, especially since Latin America is so different. It’s, it’s called Latin America, but like in Spanish we call South America, Central America, and North America. And it’s like, it’s very different among each other. And so, um, I wanted to learn more about South America especially. And I started looking for um, places to do my graduate school that were specifically in Latin America. If I, if I want to specialize in that region and in the politics and everything, will I should study in that region. That was my mentality at the moment. Didn’t I know that I met my who was going to be my husband at IU also. And I was looking into an Argentinian program. The Universidad de Buenos Aires, um, Buenos Aires University. It’s a really good university. And so I met my husband and he’s Mexican. He was doing his PhD at what used to be SPEA, which I don’t know what it is right now, but I thought O’Neill school.

Sophie: O’Neill.

Claudia: Uh-huh, that one. And so I met him there at IU and then well, eventually we got married and I ended up moving to Mexico. And um, I also started looking into programs here, but, um, I found a job and then I kept on postponing it and postponing it. And and that was like eventually I would just go to Argentina or maybe find a program here, but life happens and then you just get super stuck into and you start growing within the company and like, and what you’re doing. And here I am. And so, it was really unexpected because like I said, I wasn’t expecting leaving the United States for good. I was more like, well, I’m going to go and do a program overseas and then I will go back. But here I am and I’m not planning to move from Mexico, hahaha.

Sophie: That’s an amazing story. I am a Spanish major at IU and I’m also studying law and public policy. So I I have similar interest in Latin American policy and have found that I think the best, the best direction to go with that is to go to Latin America, go to South America after graduation. So it’s awesome to hear that, that’s exactly what you did and that you’ve found a place there and that it worked out. Sounds like it worked out beautifully with your husband as well, that you guys shared similar interests enough to like end up in the same place. So that’s, that’s really cool.

Claudia: And it’s actually funny because he has been one of the, the tools that have had for public policy. Especially because my, my vision was when I came here was very like I don’t know what I’m doing. And so, um, seeing him work with public policy, he does environmental policy and urban policy and it’s actually, he works at the government right now and so it’s very interesting. Also, seeing what he does and how he does it. And so it’s, it’s also a big influence in what I want and I don’t want because I mean, it’s it’s close enough that I see the every day but not super close that I have to go through my own stress. So it’s actually really interesting because like we, it’s fun that you can have a partner and a team, that you can talk about things that are similar and like we do brain, what’s it called? Like? Brain, brain ideas. I don’t know, I’m translating.

Sophie: Brainstorming?

Claudia: Brainstorming! There you go. And that’s also a cool aspect when you have someone close, whether it’s a partner or family or I don’t know, a parent that you can, or a friend, you can talk to you about these things also helps shape who you are and where you want to go.

Sophie: That’s great that you can, you can have those conversations and share interests. That brings me, what you said about you’re close enough to see it, but you don’t necessarily want to do exactly what he’s doing, kind of segues into my next question about you mentioned that you worked in government. You’ve worked in the non-profit world, you now you work in the private sector. How have those been different from each other and how have they been similar? And what has it been like moving from one sector to a different sector?

Claudia: The public sector was very briefly actually it was in Bloomington. It was for the human rights department and it was months before I left. But a was, it was different is to be part of the American government and like seeing it kind of close and seeing how it works here in Mexico with my husband. Um, I can say with working for the non-profit for Save the Children and the private, it’s, the, the whole language changes a lot. Like for example, in, in Save the Children. Like we promoted rights and we promoted, you know, well-being for children. And even the way we talked was more inclusive and was more thought of and, and, and private sector, you do that, but it’s, it’s not, it’s, it’s not your, your primary focus when you talk to someone, or you read it in an article or whatever. And so like it and that shapes also how you react or, or you interact with other people. And so that, that civil society or non-profit chip is hard to remove. And, and it’s, it’s also one of the reasons why I am the liaison for civil society organizations or non-profits because I have that chip that, you know, it was built onto me during Save the Children and the language, the way you treat them, the way you talk to them, and the way you, you make projects with them is completely different than if you were talking to another company or the private sector in general. And so it’s, it’s fun that you’re able to bring in all of this skills. Because then you, you get better at talking in different places or are behaving in different places. And, and I think that’s something that will, I mean when you change jobs, you bring with you everything in this backpack. You just become this, this professional that, it has more skills and has more ways of working with others and within the, the place that you are at. So I could say, I could say it’s primarily that. It’s the way you, you build relationships. It’s what is different among the three different sectors. And if you’re ever able to get into the three of them, go ahead because every sector is completely different and within sectors, um, working for that for, I don’t know, Congress is completely different than working for like a state government. So it’s, it’s, it’s interesting and any helps you be more well-rounded.

Sophie: Yeah, that’s great. And especially to, it’s really important to remember, especially for people who are shifting jobs or are shifting sectors that everything that you did in the past job, the past sector can be important to the job that you do in the future and is important and can even be beneficial. Um, so that’s, that’s a great thing to note and to see in your work.

Claudia: Yeah. And especially like what I do, I I’ve never thought of working for a pharmaceutical like the pharma world is something that is super far away from what I ever thought of doing. Not even when it wasn’t an Alpha Chi Sigma, I never thought I was going to end up in pharma. But it was this backpack full of experiences with civil society organizations that attracted them. So that’s another thing that you know, you started studying something, but you end up not doing exactly that because like life starts giving you opportunities to keep on growing in ways that you never thought you could grow?

Sophie: Yeah, definitely. It’s all it’s all about the ability to grow as you move on or move between things. I want to talk now a little bit about the theme for this season of the All Careers Considered podcast, which is resilience. So I’m wondering if there’s been times in your career or in your career path or even in college where you’ve had to use resilience and what resilience means to you.

Claudia: When I think of resilience, I think of something that my dad would say every day. You could have a very, very bad day. Then we go to bed and wake up the next morning. It’s a new day, so you just have to smile and get through it. And that’s like his life philosophy. So, um, I tried to do, to implement that in my life. But like, like I said, the entire thing about not being a doctor was a huge thing for me because it was this massive plan that I had. I, I planned out my life to be this doctor. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon and in like, in 1 second, that just like, just disappeared and for something that wasn’t even in my control. But it’s a type of thing that you just have to keep on moving forward. I come from a country were pretty much that’s the, the motto of being Venezuelan, you just have to keep on moving forward because life is too hard, too complicated to just, you know, stay and cry, feel bad and I, you know, drown in a water glass. But the thing is, um, here in Mexico. I mean, I got here, the year I got here, less than five days later, we had this awful huge earthquake that pretty much left us, left us homeless. And so it’s just, you know, life is going to be hard. You got the pandemic. You have to change your life. You have to get through, go through difficult things, but you just have to keep on moving. Because at the end of the day life is too short. And, um, I mean, maybe because you stay still a moment and feel bad about the situation you are living in the moment that you are missing out on other things that are happening or that could happen. So, um, to me, resilience is that. It’s just moving along and just get through it. I mean, thinking in a psychological way, you need to get through things in your own way. But I just think that if you keep on pushing forward than you, you also have more options to, to, I don’t know, experience other things and, and see other options. I don’t know. Just keep on moving forward.

Sophie: Yeah, that’s, that is an amazing perspective to have. Um, I love the saying that you said that your dad used to tell you that you wake up every morning and it’s a new day that is such a powerful reminder to keep on moving and to have, have an optimistic attitude even when it feels like everything is really hard. And so what beautiful examples of a resilience that you’ve had to use throughout, throughout your life and time in Mexico and in college. So thank you for sharing those. That’s, that’s, um, amazing. I want to ask you what you’re most proud of from your career. If there is a moment or even just like progression that you’ve had, what, what are you most proud of?

Claudia: I think that I, I didn’t move from Save the Children because I was actively working, I was actively looking for another place. Um, I kinda got recruited because they, we, I worked a project with them and they liked the way I worked. And they asked me, I mean, through a series of, you know, interviews and stuff, but they later on asked me to go and work with them and, um, for someone who still doesn’t have a graduate degree. And that’s new in a country and that is technically new in a career. It’s, that, that was huge to me. I was like, I’m doing something right. Because I, I’m moving forward and moving up. And so um, you know, it feels, getting to feel valuable with the people you’re working with. It’s, it’s, uh, it’s something that you can be like hey I’m patting my back, cause good job. Hey, you’re good to go. But also I think that another moment was when, um, I got to IU and when I graduated from high school, you know, being from another country and being a high schooler and a teenager, you know, everything is hard and you don’t feel enough. And, and been able to say, I got into college and with good grades and, and you know, the languages. This not so much of a barrier in my situation per se, it’s, it’s something that, you know, sometimes you you should kinda think it through and it’s, you know, it hasn’t been not bad. And you have gotten far. So, you know, it’s, it’s the type of thing that when you are in the moment, you just have to keep on working and you do it. But when you look back, it’s like, you know what, that’s yay, good for you, Claudia, you did it.

Sophie: Yeah. That, that’s amazing to see. That even despite the, the degrees that we have that there’s been moments where we’ve all, where you felt like this is, I am worthy of this because you definitely are. And regardless of degrees that people hold there, there are so many attributes and skills and amazing things that people can do. So I’m so glad that you’ve had that experience of feeling when

Claudia: And something that I wish someone would tell me more when I was in college was don’t compare yourself with others. Cause everybody’s different. I have tons of friends that got to go to med school or that went to graduate school and worked perfect for them. But at the end of the day didn’t work for me because it’s just not where I need to be. So sometimes, you know, we, we feel bad because we don’t do well in a test or a class or I don’t know. We didn’t graduate with honors in college and I don’t know. Um, but it’s okay. I mean, life, it’s like that. And college is just a super tiny drop of how the world looks like, actually. Adulting is hard. And, um, that’s something that, that should be a constant reminder that, you know, you have your own path and you don’t have to follow anyone else’s. And it’s, it’s what you are. It’s what makes you feel more comfortable and happier with yourself. Because of the end of the day, I used to think a lot like, oh my God, I don’t have a graduate degree and like, you know, my degree or I’m never going to have a job or like I’m less valuable professionally than other people, blah, blah, blah. And you know what? It’s, sometimes it’s not even, that’s not even the point. It’s, it’s everything else that you can bring on the table that can actually make a difference. And sometimes there’s a lot of people that just have graduate degrees and it still, they need the experience. So, you know, the world is full of different opportunities and different stories and you should just shouldn’t compare yourself with anyone else. Because your story is your own and your path is your own and you never know where you’re going to be in 5, 10, 20 years. And so might as well do your own story or write your own story. Yeah, your own story.

Sophie: That is such great advice as someone who is looking towards the future and trying to decide, do I go to graduate school? Do I not go to graduate school? That is something that I personally needed to hear. So thank you for sharing that and for all that great advice. I think that is probably the perfect, perfect ending point for this interview that is, can’t think of a more positive note to end on. So I just want to say again, Claudia, thank you so much for your time today. It has been such a pleasure to talk to you and to learn about your amazing path from that Venezuela to IU to Mexico and in all of the things that you’ve done with your career. So that is, it has been amazing to talk to you. Before you go, if students have any questions or are interested in reaching out to you, how should they go about that?

Claudia: Yeah. First off, thank you very much for having me. It’s actually a great honor to be invited to these spaces and, and to, to still feel connected to IU. Sometimes being so far away. It’s like I’m done with college, but no, it’s, it’s nice to be called back. And, um, well there is the platform for career centers, I don’t remember exactly what it’s called.

Sophie: The Walter Center Success Network.

Claudia: Yes. Yeah. Through that and I believe my email is in there or they can talk to me through through there. Also LinkedIn. I’ve talked and had meetings with a couple of the students and sometimes it takes me or they send me messages telling me how they’re doing and what they’re doing and it’s very rewarding, I love it. So whoever feels like they wanted to know more about my failed career in pre-med. But international studies or even what to do if you are international student. My, my chat, my door is open, so yeah, everybody’s welcome to just send me a message.

Sophie: Okay. Well, great. Thank you so much. Claudia was great to meet you and to talk to you.

Claudia: Thank you. Sophie.

By The Walter Center For Career Achievement
The Walter Center For Career Achievement The Walter Center For Career Achievement