By Sonia Sotello and Caroline Biedron
Spend a few minutes chatting with Karuna Rawal and you’ll quickly understand why she is a celebrated and sought-after brand builder. For more than 25 years, Rawal has worked on well-established brands, including Folgers coffee and Jif peanut butter while at Procter & Gamble, and on Sara Lee and Sunny Delight as a consultant.
Her Emmy award-winning vision as Leading Strategist on P&G’s Always #LikeAGirl campaign and her bold career pivot to Chief Marketing Officer of Nature’s Fynd, a Chicago-based bio tech food startup, are just two examples of why Rawal is recognized as a game-changing marketing leader.
As CMO of Nature’s Fynd, Rawal is seizing what she calls “a once in a lifetime opportunity that combines her passion for health and commitment to sustainability.” As a woman of color in her field, she continues paving paths for all women in the industry. Drawing on personal career experiences, Rawal shares her philosophy on DE&I and empowering career strategies.
On DE&I: “Change must happen systemically and individually.”
As a woman, a mother of three and a minority, Rawal knows what it’s like to be the “other” in the room and recognizes things that still need to change like human biases and the challenges women of color continue to face. Rawal is also a change-maker in this area and remains dedicated to normalizing DE&I practices and beliefs, something she picked up early in her career during her time at P&G.
“P&G was so committed to diversity and inclusion even back in those days,” Rawal said. “From building my teams to mentoring, everything was tracked and measured. It was part of my job to continue and move those practices forward. DE&I is just a core part of who I am as a leader and so I don’t hide it. DE&I must also be built into the core values and culture of the company for you to really walk the talk.”
Impactful and meaningful change, Rawal notes, can and should happen at two levels.
“Critical changes can be made at a systemic and policy level,” said Rawal. But leaders also need to use their sphere of influence to make change happen.”
One of the ways Rawal is helping make change possible is as an Advisory Board member for the 3% Movement, which is dedicated to increasing the number of senior female Creative Directors in advertising.
“When they started the group 10 years ago only 3% of all creatives in the industry were women,” said Rawal. “The group has worked hard to increase that to 29% but there’s still a lot more work to do, because you should be able to look up and see people like you in leadership. It varies by industry, but I think we have a lot of work to do collectively and as individual leaders of all races, ethnicities and genders.”
For career success, Rawal offers three self-empowering, game-changing strategies.
“Talent matters. Be known for something. Be an expert.”
“First and foremost, be excellent at whatever it is you want to do, Rawal said. “Hard work matters. Talent matters. Become an expert in your field and be known for something. It makes a big difference if you’re seen as a trusted expert people can go to.”
Leading by example, Rawal has established her expertise as a cutting-edge brand builder transforming some of the world’s most recognized brands, within the agency setting and as a consultant. Rawal is also an inspiring team leader who is passionate about identifying talented people and empowering them to develop their skills.
“Choose where and whom you work for carefully.”
People sometimes forget the power they have in selecting where and for whom they work. Rawal notes, investing the time and energy in choosing jobs and bosses carefully can make a huge difference in your work experiences.
“A great boss can make all the difference in your career, in training you and mentoring you,” Rawal said. “The best managers I’ve had have seen my potential before I could see it and pushed me to do things that I didn’t think I could. That’s the kind of boss you always want to work for.”
Rawal admits, sometimes choices involve taking risks. Over the years, as her career progressed, Rawal began thinking about how she could merge her personal value system with day-to-day work. So, in 2019, when she got a call from a recruiter about a biotech food startup that promised to reinvent the future of food, she jumped at the opportunity.
“When I look back at my career, I have done and balanced many different things, I haven’t been on a steady path,” said Rawal. “I’ve asked for what I wanted and needed to excel at my job, even when it felt risky. At this stage in my career to jump into a startup, shape a new industry and build a new brand, is a pretty big risk. I think a lot of your best moments come from that combination of feeling super excited and terrified. If you feel that, it’s probably a good move.”
Sonia Sotello has worked in marketing and communications for more than 15 years and is is currently a graduate student at DePaul University studying Communications and Media with a concentration in Multicultural Communication. Sonia is also enrolled in DePaul’s grant writing certificate program. Soon after graduation, set for June 2022, Sonia plans to work as a grant writer and will explore opportunities in communications and DE&I consulting. https://www.linkedin.com/in/sonia-sotello-268110227/
Caroline Biedron is a senior at DePaul University studying Public Relations and Advertising and expects to complete coursework in March. Soon after graduation, Caroline plans to start her graduate studies at DePaul in Master of Business Administration while working full-time in PR and social media at her current internship. linkedin.com/in/caroline-biedron-a0a3a0154