Name: Virginia Zuloaga
Title: Founder & CEO
Organisation: Brieffin Consulting
Inspired by curiosity and compassion, I integrate my passion for all things digital and entrepreneurial spirit with a deep belief in the power of human connection. My career is a life project; it's not about the "now" and "then" but about the "how" and "why," emphasizing building powerful, sustained relationships over fleeting moments of success. I live what I believe, welcoming calculated risks and honoring every experience that adds to my personal growth and unconventional perspective.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Virginia's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
We walk a fine line between vulnerability and decisiveness. This involves being honest about our uncertainties and owning our mistakes while also confronting the fear that comes with decisive action. Particularly in tricky situations where empathetic understanding intersects with the broader interests of a project or organization, finding and maintaining this balance requires leading with both heart and mind.
Adapting to the dynamic digital space while maintaining a unified team in the face of diversity demands constant learning and adaptability. This can be both stimulating and overwhelming. Building a unique team of talented and committed professionals with their own perspectives and strengths is only possible in a supportive climate.
This dual agenda of balancing fluctuating industries and inspiring a collaborative spirit as we advance in our areas of expertise is what keeps me continually exploring and growing, both personally and professionally.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My story has been written over 30+ years of professional background. Known for my independent nature, restless curiosity, and a mind constantly in motion, producing ideas and visualizing scenarios. It may seem exhausting, and at times, it truly is, but the rewards are massive, especially when even the slightest possibility becomes a reality.
The defining moment wasn't a random flash of inspiration; it emerged from a period of confusion. Confronted with a freeze, fight, or flight situation, I chose to fly because my essence is rooted in action and forward momentum.
It's in the uncertainty that we discover our true power. An unexpected, unfortunate circumstance can steer us onto a better path. This served as a catalyst, reshaping my approach to leading my life.
Since then, I have embraced uncertainty, experienced through trial and error, increased my creativity, improved my resourcefulness, and practiced patience. It's been a gradual process of turning adversity into growth, using my natural curiosity to simplify complexity, and creating an environment where others can thrive.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Ah, the colorful calendar of my day! It all starts at 6:30 am when I jump out of bed, not literally, but that's when the action begins. An energizing shower, a double espresso (my morning firepower), and a brisk walk with my Siberian Husky, Luna. All this just in time to drive my kid to school. I even squeeze in a 15-minute Sun Salutations Yoga session occasionally.
By 9:30, I'm in full work mode. My only rule is no meetings before 10. That gives me a good 30-minute head start to check my busy agenda and accommodate any last-minute surprises.
My productive momentum kicks in and goes on until 1 pm. Lunchtime! I use this break to do some reading (I'm a renowned bookworm), but occasionally I sneak in an episode of a TV show. It's all about balance...
Around 2:30 pm, I'm back in action, catching the second wave of productivity until 6 pm, when it's time for my workout – it can be either boxing, Yoga, or calisthenics, depending on my energy levels. Right after, I have an early dinner followed by a relaxing evening walk with my sweet Luna.
If extra work is called for, I'll put in a couple more hours, but I try my best to call it a day by 9.30 pm and go to sleep at 11 pm. Early to bed, early to rise.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Success can be lonely because the stakes and expectations don't stop — they get higher. It's the sweet spot between prioritizing and minimizing distractions in pursuing personal and professional growth. As a divorced single mother, my life requires a delicate balancing act where every moment counts.
To excel often requires making choices that might lead to a more solitary lifestyle. It means spending quality time with my child and my pets, Luna and Lilly, and tending to my well-being through activities like training, reading, chess practice, meditation, and pranayama.
Leadership in this context is about recognizing that each day only has a finite amount of time. By keeping distractions to a minimum and making conscious choices, I maintain the necessary focus and energy to be efficient at work, with a daily average productive time of 7 to 8 hours, and in my personal life, including 7 hours of sleep, an essential part of staying sharp and effective.
The lesson here is that our own version of success requires a disciplined lifestyle, where personal tradeoffs, such as a more limited social life, are made to create the space for meaningful connections with loved ones, self-improvement, and achieving our professional ideals.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Variety is the spice of life, including my reading habits. I don't have a book that has profoundly influenced me; instead, I find inspiration in many non-fiction literature. My reading repertoire includes psychology, sociology, entrepreneurship, spirituality, and biohacking, among others, with occasional breaks for fiction.
Adaptability is key in life and in reading. I learn from various sources, selecting books based on my current life phase and evolving learning needs. The list of books that have influenced me is extensive and continually expanding, and it could look closer to ISBNdb (*wink and nod*). My eclectic tastes of knowledge and perspectives have played an important role in defining my entrepreneurial lifestyle, allowing me to draw wisdom from multiple fields and authors and apply it effectively in my personal and professional life.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
My mantra may sound simple, but it's actually a philosophy that I share with my mentees: Be curious, prioritize your interests and passions, do your research, list the calculated risks you're willing to take, and take action.
Throughout my 30+ year professional journey, in both my employee and entrepreneurial roles, I've found that waiting for the "right time" is a constantly moving target. Authentic learning comes from both success and, more importantly, failure. It's through this symbiotic process that we not only grow as leaders but also make a lasting impact on our purpose in life.
As the great Terry Pratchett beautifully put it, "Wisdom comes from experience, and experience is often the result of a lack of wisdom."
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I've lived many meaningful stories throughout my career, and each has left a lasting impact. It's difficult to single out just one without diminishing the importance of the others.
However, if I highlight a common theme, it's that stories hold different meanings depending on our life stage. What once seemed like an insurmountable challenge only a few years ago has become an integral part of "the process." Through these stories, I've discovered some common threads.
The "digital" is a fascinating yet often confusing space. With algorithms continuously evolving and changing the rules, we never know when the next 'update' might impact our work, whether on a small or large scale. It's amusing that not too long ago, an apple and a blackberry were just fruits, and now they are part of what defines our lifestyles. A simple server malfunction can bring global operations to a standstill – a situation we've encountered repeatedly.
In this unpredictable and uncertain century, the story that stands out for me is the one that has taught me the importance of balancing alertness with resilience. It's the narrative to keep ourselves in the loop as we operate in the domain of the digital age.