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Bringing International Construction Career To Life Coaching – Interview With Christelle Soto-Suarez

Christelle Soto-Suarez is the founder of Pistachio-Cassis Coaching and a Personal Leadership & Development Coach who empowers Women in STEM/Construction to create the Life and Career they want.

She believes that:

  • Everybody is entitled to follow their own path, creating the life and career they want;

  • Everyone is entitled to lead their life based on their own perspectives; and

  • Life coaching is a great practice to discover what every person wants to achieve in life, who they really want to be, and how to achieve this in their own ways!

However, coaching is her 2nd career. Previously, she spent 25 years as a construction professional, working on a wide range of construction and engineering projects and in different roles. She worked and lived in several countries, experienced working in multicultural teams, and speaks 3 languages.

Christelle Soto-Suarez, Personal Leadership & Development Coach


You have an unusual background for a life coach (25-year international career in the construction industry). Could you tell us about that experience?


From a very young age, I dreamed of living and working in different countries, traveling the world, earning a living in multiple ways, and knowing people with different life experiences.


However, I didn’t consider any of these dreams when, at 17 years old, I had to decide on a professional field knowing this would have a major impact on the rest of my life. Instead, I concentrated on 2 criteria to make my selection: be able to earn a living after 2 years of studying (I didn’t think I could financially afford longer studies), and expect to like the type of work I had chosen… Of the available options, construction was the most appealing because it was about creating something that would be used by many people, and would generally stay up for many, many years.


But the dreams were still there, and I was unconsciously “scanning” for opportunities “passing by”… Like the opportunity to study in the UK (my first step toward an international career), working on a construction site in Gibraltar (a “one-off” and unusual experience) or accepting a transfer to Germany to work in a different “specialty” (which allowed me to get a job in Canada)…


My meandering professional path took me to a variety of “places”:

  • Different positions and “specialties”;

  • A wide range of construction and engineering projects;

  • An international career, working in France, Gibraltar, the UK, Germany, and Canada, and on projects in other countries;

  • Working with people from all over the world, learning from them;

  • Speaking 3 languages: French, English, and Spanish; and

  • Being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

And, along the way, building up my own fairly unique profile…


And now, tell us what brought you to life coaching:


A few years ago, I reached a point where I felt unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied whit where I was in my life. So I went on an exploration journey to discover what I really wanted…


After some reflection, I realized that on one side I was quite happy with what I had achieved during these 25 years: living and working in different countries, holding different positions on different types of projects, knowing people with different life experiences…


But, on the other side, I felt I could have done more to really create my own path in life… taking the time to properly understand what “success” meant to me, what my “values” were… and to dare more often to get out of my comfort zone! And that’s probably why I felt unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied with where I was in my life…


During my exploration journey, I understood that the criteria I used for 17 years old had been replaced by the desire to do something more meaningful to me and more creative. I also realized that I wanted more “freedom” in selecting and undertaking my projects, in not being bound to a specific location… And I ended up concluding that the life I was leading wasn’t aligned anymore with who I had become.


I also realized that I was really attracted to the ability of each of us to create and lead our own life primarily based on what we want for ourselves.


But this wasn’t “helping” me identify a new direction for myself… Then I discovered Life Coaching and thought this was what I needed to explore what to do next. But I felt overwhelmed as soon as I started researching life coaches: too many life coaches out there, too many types of life coaching, not knowing how to pre-select some, and, more importantly, not seeing anyone I could relate to… Also, I definitively wasn’t in the right mindset to figure it out…


So I decided to train myself via an accredited life coaching training program. That’s when I realized that becoming a professional life coach, supporting others in “maximizing their personal and professional potential” (per the ICF’s definition), was what I felt attracted to for the next chapter of my life, because:

  • It’s a “Partnership” between the client and the coach;

  • It’s a “Thought-provoking and Creative” process, allowing the client to brainstorm in ways they wouldn’t on their own;

  • It’s an “Inspiration”, the beginning of the client’s journey to maximize their potential!

  • It considers that the client is already Creative, Resourceful, and Whole, that the client already has solutions within themselves that are aligned with who they are; and

  • It aims at reminding clients of who they really are (or want to be), and then closing the gap between where they are now and where they want to get to.

So, the pivotal moment for you was when you realized there weren’t many life coaches with whom women in STEM/construction could relate too. Why was it such a pivotal moment?


First, because “working” on building up a “trusting and safe” relationship with a stranger (so the client can fully and freely reflect, think out aloud, be open to change their perspective, and discover ways to move forward) can be difficult, time and energy consuming, and very uncomfortable… Even more so if the client is in a negative mindset!


Second, because some “backgrounds” may have a negative connotation for the client. For example, HR and senior executives/managers don't always have a good reputation (unfortunately!). And if the client is already having some issues at work with some of these people, the last thing they probably want is to be fully open to someone with a similar background!


Third, because being able to relate to someone before even meeting that person very much facilitates the first contact! Again, if the client is in a negative mindset, they’ll be looking for a relatively “easy” first contact, to help them take one step into the unknown and uncomfortable!


In my case, I definitively was looking for someone who knew about being a woman in STEM/construction (a male-dominated environment), and even better if that person also had experience with a non-linear career, some international and multicultural experience – because these are "backgrounds" that would have made it easier for me to take that very uncomfortable step of opening up to someone!


How do you view life coaching, and why do you think it should be more widely practiced?


I like the ICF’s definition of coaching as

“partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”

And I also resonate with the following statements:


“Coaching is about empowering people to empower themselves to grow” ‒ Jean-Francois Cousin (Leadership for Greatness) (WBECS Summit 2022)

“As a thinking partner, you expand peoples’ capacity to learn and grow. You don’t problem solve. You coach people to break through barriers and see themselves and their situations in new ways – giving the gift of clarity and inspiring the confidence to act!” – Marcia Reynolds (COVISIONING)

So, I view life coaching as a practice to Empower people to take steps toward becoming Who They Really Want to Be and getting to Were They Really Want to Go, while considering their own circumstances. I believe we’re all entitled to follow our own path, to create a life and career that allow us to be ourselves and to meet our needs – even if this is different from what others do!


I love that life coaching is about finding answers within ourselves (and yes, there is a time when asking for advice is an answer!), and I believe I'd have led a different life if I had had the opportunity of a life coaching experience earlier on in my career, or even as a teenager considering what to do with my adult life! I believe I’d have been better able to follow my own path, to make some changes earlier on, to go for other experiences…


And I think that, if everyone had access to coaching, it would empower more people to do things differently than "normally" done around them – and it doesn't have to be about putting one's life upside-down because sometimes small changes are all we need to feel better! I also think it would be a way to reduce burn-out, stress, and other mental issues so many of us deal with… and this would very probably have a very positive impact on the work environment and, therefore on businesses' successes!


And how about your ideal clients? Who are they?


I definitively believe that my “relatability” is my 25-year international career in the construction industry; that is:

  • Being a woman in a male-dominated industry;

  • Working and living in several countries;

  • Holding different positions, in different “specialties”, in different environments;

  • Being part of multicultural teams; and

  • My own experience of going through a “mid-life” crisis and the exploration journey I went on.

As such, my ideal clients are professional women in STEM/construction with a few years of experience in their field who've reached a point where they feel unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied with their life.


They may have held different positions and reached a plateau in their career.


They may have tried different “specialties” and different professional environments but aren’t finding an environment where they can “fit in” without having to “hide” too much of who they are.


They may have realized that what they thought they wanted isn’t actually what they really want for themselves…


Deep down, they know that something needs to change and that they do have the life experience and knowledge and are capable of making changes… but right now they’re not seeing the path forward to make this happen – because they’ve lost self-confidence and self-esteem, they’re not in the right mindset, they question their past decisions, they don’t feel supported and heard by the people around them…


Obviously, I also welcome women with less experience but who are noticing a “discrepancy” between the path they’re following and the one they would like to follow based on who they are… as well as anyone who feels a “connection” with me, my experience and my coaching style!


I’m also very interested in supporting young women looking at a career in STEM/construction, empowering them to feel more confident about their decision to choose STEM, to better understand what they want from life, and how they can achieve this.


Your motto is “Empowering Yourself to Create the Life and Career You Want.” How do you achieve that?


I created a 5-step process based on my own experience, figuring out what I could do to create the life and career I wanted for myself. At the time, I didn't have this 5-step process, so I went in multiple directions in a disorganized way… It's only once I completed my professional life coaching training that I was able to clarify and organized what I had been through (I've written a series of articles on this process, with a few already published on my LinkedIn and more to come):

  • Step 1 - Get Clear ‒ Discover Who You Really Are: To know where they want to go, clients first need to understand who they really are ‒ which is often hidden behind others’ expectations, norms, and what they see around them...

  • Step 2 - Get Inspired, Explore, and Expand Your View of the Possibilities “Out There”: Then, I strongly encourage clients to look beyond their usual environment and habits, so that they can expand their view of what is possible!

  • Step 3 - Create Your “Wheel of Life”: This is the stage where clients look at what’s really important in their life and reflect on how satisfied they’re with each of these important aspects of their life.

  • Step 4 - Pick a Goal: Now is the time to start “working”, to decide with which goal to start!

  • Step 5 - Take the First Step to Create the Life and Career You Want: And now is the time to have the courage, the strength, and the guts to take that first step – for clients to empower themselves to do what it is they need to do!

  • Then clients can take another step, and another, until they’re satisfied with where they are with that goal. Then it’s time to pick another goal… while not forgetting to check back on Steps 1-3 from time to time!

Of course, the process is adapted to the client, where they are right now, where they want to be after the coaching experience, and how much they're ready to invest in themselves (not just money, but also, time, energy, etc.).


What would you like to see happening in the future?


Overall, I'd love to see a democratization of coaching – and I've heard other coaches say the same! Everyone should feel entitled to coaching so they can develop their life and their career based on who they are. I believe this would not only allow people to feel happier, more fulfilled, and satisfied with their life, but would also have a great impact on business, and human evolution and ensuring that future generations can enjoy a great environment!


With regard to women in STEM/construction, and more generally to overall diversity, I’d love to see more women empowered to act in alignment with who they are, to bring different perspectives to the table, to provide a safe space for others to develop their own "empowerment"!


I'd also love to see more "diverse" people empowered to put themselves forward as role models, as examples, and as inspiration for others to follow in their footsteps… because representation matters so much!


I believe that coaching is a great asset to get to this stage, to empower people to shine in their own way! And I hope that I can be part of that movement!


And to conclude, what are 3 words that are very important to you, and why?


DIVERSITY: We're all unique human beings, with our own unique experiences, thinking processes, circumstances, values, interpretation of success, etc., to which gender adds another layer. I believe that such diversity of perspectives is what makes life interesting, even if sometimes very challenging! Yet, there is a lack of diversity in many areas, such as the STEM/construction industries. Having worked in the construction industry for 25 years, I have a personal interest in seeing more gender diversity in this industry – and that's why, based on my own experience, I want to Empower Women in STEM/construction to Create the Life and Career They Want (while recognizing that gender diversity is not just binary).


EMPOWERMENT: especially in the expression “empowering ourselves”: I’ve come to understand Empowerment as


To give somebody more control over their own life or the situation they are in. ¹

And this is really what I needed when I felt unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied with where I was in my life… but was “too lost” to know what to do next! In such a situation, it’s very difficult to move forward if you don't feel empowered (have self-confidence and self-esteem) to do so! But I love that “Coaching is about empowering people to empower themselves to grow” (Jean-Francois Cousin).


LEADERSHIP: This is actually a word I’m working on at the moment, from the perspective of personal self-leadership rather than the leadership linked to someone's position. After all, we all have to lead our own life, whether we're "happy" to follow the road most traveled or whether we prefer a less traveled one… in both our personal and professional lives! I'm hoping to write more about it soon!


Final words:


Interested in knowing more about my 5-step process to “Empowering Yourself to Create the Life and Career You Want”? Book a free 45-minute Empower Yourself Discovery Call!


Simply curious? Then check out Pistachio-Cassis Coaching website!


Subscribe to my Pistachio-Cassis Newsletter for monthly insights on Empowering Yourself to Create the Life and Career You Want.


Follow me on LinkedIn for inspiration, motivation, and education about how to empower yourself. And please, reach out to me via LinkedIn or email to let me know you’ve read my article. I’d love to hear from you if you have any feedback, suggestions, or anything else you want to tell me! Visit my website for more info!


 

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