EIR Lessons in Perspective: A conversation with EIR alumni Carolina Ceballos

Story bubbles on world map
Source: Ashoka

For information about the Executive in Residence (EIR) program visit the EIR program page, or contact us at [email protected]


EIR Carolina Ceballos and host Ashoka Fellow Saskia Niño de Rivera

Carolina, Vice President of AML-Compliance for Americas and Europe, Western Union, Miami, partnered with Saskia Niño de Rivera and her Company Reinserta in Mexico DF, Mexico. Saskia is fighting to change the current prison system, popularly known as the country’s ‘University of Crime.’ Working with infants born in prison, adolescents who have committed serious crimes and at-risk populations, she is researching and changing the incentives and conditions that lead to a nation’s cycle of criminal activity. Carolina partnered with Reinserta to develop a strategic plan to help the organization define where it should concentrate its resources in order to increase its impact. She evaluated Reinserta’s current performance metrics to consider how they would need to evolve in order to help steer the organization towards becoming an auto-sustainable project. 




How did this experience relate to your development plans and how will you apply what you have learnt to your role at Western Union?

Carolina: Wherever you go, the skills you learnt from past experiences may help others, even if you didn’t know it at the time. For instance, during my time with Reinserta, I developed a Strategic Plan to help them increase their impact. I was very excited to participate in this project, as it was a perfect match with my passion for anti-crime programs, especially those in Latin America. At times, I have taken for granted the skills I learned and practiced at WU. Skills in strategic thinking, governance, organization, human resources and finance, to name a few, enhanced during my two years at WU, were critical to the success of my assignment with Ashoka and I was happy to contribute as much as I could to Reinserta.




What did you learn about the financial services or education field that you did not know before?  What did you learn about emerging markets or new business models?

Carolina: Reinserta’s team is proof that young people can and are changing the course of the world. The staff is comprised of 27 employees, all under 30 years old and 95% women. It was energizing to see so much good come from people who may experience negativity or fear from those they try to help. There is a generation of fearless and optimistic young leaders in Mexico who are challenging norms and working to achieve a better future for their country. These young leaders are intolerant to corruption and see vast opportunities to positively shape policy. I also believe that there is hope for the troubled youths I had the opportunity to meet while working with Reinserta. Hearing their stories and the challenges they overcame in their lives have truly left an imprint.


What implications might this new knowledge of financial services, education, or the cultural environment in which you worked have for Western Union's business now or in the future (in terms of challenges or opportunities)?

Carolina: After all these years as an executive, working with Reinserta un Mexicano has taught and challenged me in unique ways; not only professionally, but also personally. The strategic plan I helped develop was positively received by the Reinserta board and staff, as it helped bring clearer roles and enabled the organization to focus on what matters most to the success of the program, including aligning resources to key priorities. The plan also included recommendations to enhance public policy programs. At the end of the program, we also identified six key measures that Mexico should implement for a safer country overall. These recommendations will be brought to Mexican lawmakers for consideration. I was a little concerned about the actual mission assigned to me as it required me to make assessments and strategic recommendations in a very short time. However, developing the plan and meeting wonderful and courageous people at Reinserta has empowered me to make a positive change, big or small, back at home.


Most significant challenge?  

Carolina: Everyone has moments in their lives when they must overcome the fear for their own safety and security and take the chances that avail themselves in order to experience something unique. The feeling of vulnerability when you are conversing with a group of people who have been in the prison system can be overwhelming. However, the reward I have achieved by hearing their stories and their successes far outweighed my fear. It is amazing to lift the tough veil that masks the human behind the criminal and see into their souls. Their stories will stay with me forever.




How will you continue to be involved after your EIR experience?

Carolina: I welcome very much the opportunity to continue working and advocating in favor of WU.


EIR Carolina (centre) with Saskia (middle left) and the Reinserta team in Mexico DF, Mexico


For more information about the Executive in Residence program visit the EIR program page, or contact us at [email protected]