Know thyself: strengths

Kerstin Scheuch, Director CENTRO, Mexico City

When Kerstin and I spoke last, it was 9.30 pm Mexico City time and she was just about to finish up her day. Yet, she was full of positive energy and when we discussed what she liked in particular about her job, it became clear that she now has accomplished what many of us struggle with: blurring the line between work and life. Her job carries the authentic note that crystalizes if we use our core competencies and enjoy what we are doing.

The role

Kerstin Scheuch is Director at CENTRO, a college for design, film and media in the heart of Mexico City. Formalizing a philanthropist’s vision, Kerstin lead the school’s launch in 2004. Today she oversees anything from finances, operations, marketing to business development and she leads the development of new curricular programs.

Exit signs

Originally from Austria, Kerstin has a rich professional portfolio: after her art history studies in Vienna, she worked at Sotheby’s on 19th century paintings and later managed a local museum. In her early thirties, she added formal business training and graduated with an MBA from INSEAD in France. Subsequently Kerstin signed up as a strategy consultant with KPMG’s London office. Her commitment to work hard drove her to embrace this [to her foreign] process driven and structured culture. It was for love that she exited the corporate world and moved to Mexico City in 2002, without knowing a word of Spanish. Not surprisingly, among her top five signature strengths are bravery, zest and optimism about the future.

The payoff

Throughout her career, Kerstin has held two convictions: work hard and follow your passion. And when one failed her, the other one would come to her rescue. At CENTRO she has been able to align her work and interests with what she enjoys doing most: “I see no need to mentally separate work and life – I truly enjoy what I do and the content I work on, I am able to grow continuously [her top signature strength is ‘love of learning’] and working with my colleagues is fun, we have become friends and enjoy spending time together.”

Change driven by strengths

Remarkably, Kerstin, at the age of 14, already had some very strong ideas as to what she was interested in, what her strengths were and what was important to her. In addition, a supportive upbringing allowed her to experiment in a safe space. Life may have presented her with a few detours, but as a young professional, she succeeded in joining her values with how she works and lives.

Few of us know ourselves so well at a young age. Often we also change over the course of a lifetime and what was true ‘then’ may not be true now. If you are asking yourself ‘what next’, but are not quite clear as to what your signature strengths are (or in other words: what you enjoy doing most), there are a number of tools that are readily available to you.

One is the Values In Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS), a complimentary 30-minute questionnaire that measures the degree to which you identify with each of the 24 character strengths. This assessment is demonstrably reliable, valid, stable across cultures and a solid step towards discovering the ‘real you’.