Pledge 1%’s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. While our featured leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, they are united in their efforts to promote equality for all women in the workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their journey to success, as well as lessons they’ve learned along the way.

What is your name and title?

Karina Capulong Cerdan, DEI & Social Impact Program Manager at SurveyMonkey.

Briefly (1-2 sentences) describe your current role.

I channel the power of community, inclusion, and data to bring out the best in our people, products, and the communities we serve.

In my role, I manage our employee resource groups, volunteer programs, matching gifts platform, and am responsible for tracking belonging and quarterly diversity progress against annual goals.

How did you get here? Please share any quick stories from past work experiences.

I’ve had an unconventional path – a jungle gym rather than a ladder, so to speak. My love affair with DEI started at UC Davis driving student recruitment and retention programs. Then, it was nonprofit, and another 8 years in biotech before landing at SurveyMonkey. I’ve been a case manager, an administrative assistant, a barista, a project coordinator for hematology advocacy and operations. Regardless of the role, there was always an opportunity to learn and grow, but it took my own audacity, hustle and folks who were willing to share access and opportunity that helped land me my dream job.

In your opinion, what’s the #1 decision or move you’ve made that has helped advance your career?

Leave behind what does not serve you so that you can fly. Do what you love.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned this past year?

You’re not going to make everyone happy, and you can’t take care of everyone or every issue that arises. That’s not the point. Focus on impact and on meaningful change. Be helpful. Be confident. Listen.

What’s the number one challenge you face as a woman in your industry?

I only know one woman who reflects my identity in an executive role in the DEI and social impact space. I want to see more. It’s incredibly motivating to see and meet someone you can relate to succeed and do amazing things. Everyone should have that, woman or otherwise.

Do you have any mentors? What does mentorship mean to you?

I’ve been fortunate to have had mentors throughout my career. A mentor coaches you to think for yourself, asks you questions you haven’t considered, and drops knowledge you otherwise may not be aware of.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

Don’t wait. If you’re curious about a role or if you have a defined goal – meet with as many people as you can to get the information you need and just go for it. Identify mentors and advocates along the way, communicate what it is you want, and take the steps to get closer. As my dad always tells me and my sisters, “You can do it!”

What is one thing companies can do, big or small, to help create an environment that advances women into leadership positions?

Your approach cannot be one-size fits all. Your women (and non-binary folks!) have intersectional experiences and the data shows this. SurveyMonkey participated in the Women in the Workplace Report, and data shows us that the pandemic has presented us with new challenges. How women of color, women caregivers, and women of different generations experience the workplace varies, and as such, should be considered in hiring (and return-to-work!), advancement, and daily support that managers and colleagues are held accountable to at work. If you don’t support your women, your business will suffer.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in the next year?

I’d like to take our employee resource group program to the next level and grow us into a center of excellence in the industry. Influence and impact doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We’re all responsible for creating an inclusive, impactful environment regardless of our functions and roles, and employee resource groups help drive our DEI and social impact work.

Is there a cause that is particularly close to you? If so, why this cause and how did you get involved?

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was matched to my Little Sister in the program for several years and matched and counseled dozens of Bigs and Littles in the Greater Sacramento region. It was also my first time recruiting a board of young professionals to champion the work, and I loved the entire experience. Role models and mentors make a huge difference.

When did your company join Pledge 1%? What does your impact program mean to you?

I believe SurveyMonkey joined Pledge 1% in 2019 under the leadership of Melynnie Rizvi alongside my colleague, Rebecca Nalder. Our impact program leverages our products and the expertise of our people to serve our customers and the communities they serve. It’s how we live our values and use technology for the greater good.

What do you like to do outside of the office? Any interesting (or unique) habits or interests?

This reformed plant-killer became quite the plant-mom during quarantine. I tried roller skating, but that was a bust. I used to dance when I was younger and try to keep up using the app, Steezy. I also enjoy food-travel TV, biopics, and walks by the ocean.

Are you reading/listening to anything interesting at the moment? Please share your most recent favorite book or podcast!

The last book I finished is Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong. I’m learning so much about people with disabilities and the disabled community. Shoutout to our ERGs/DIIGs at SurveyMonkey for introducing this book to me.

What’s been the one (or two!) things that have helped you navigate this past year? Any tips or tricks to dealing with remote work?

I’m a work in progress when it comes to remote work. Time to unplug is important, so take care of yourself.