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Design with a Global Mindset: Sol Alsina of Mundoh Digital, Argentina

Sol Alsina

Ms. Sol Alsina owns an all-female branding and design firm in Buenos Aires where understanding the psychology and feelings behind the brand are essential to create a client’s website and positioning. With clients in Argentina, the US and Europe, some cultural issues have centered around Americans’ bottom-line pricing and benefits vs. the in-depth, emotional questions by which Argentines approach a project. While Sol feels the world is becoming more similar and differences are shrinking, having a “global mindset” and living life to the fullest are top priorities.

Highlights:

Sol Asina’s journey

Mundoh Digital Designs.

How to design websites for different cultures

Success stories

Learning from failures

Ms. Sol Alsina Bio:

Ms. Sol Asina has studied International Relations, Coaching, and Design. She is the co-founder of a Female Design Agency called Mundoh Digital in Argentina and has created a digital platform to measure employee emotions and company culture in real-time. But Mundoh Digital is more than a Branding, Website Design, and UX UI agency. They are Women in Tech driving change with purpose and impact. Choosing Mundoh means people are reducing the gender gap in technology. Mundoh actively trains and hires single mothers, refugee women, and young girls.

In addition, she is a good person. People say she is THE creative and generous one …. a 360-degree sensitive human being.

Connect with Sol:

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Full Transcript

Hello everyone, and welcome to Global Gurus. Every Friday, we explore stories of international business and speak with industry leaders operating around the world. I am your host, Philip Auerbach of Auerbach International (www.auerbach-intl.com). Thank you for joining us. If you’re tuning in for the first time, we start each podcast with a running segment called “Faux Pas Fridays,” where we explore a funny blooper or mistranslation that does not quite convey the professional image that your organization wants to project. So, for example, a sign in English in a Norwegian cocktail lounge said: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.”

Today’s guest is Ms. Sol Asina. 

The most important thing you should know if you know anything about Sol Asina is that she is an extremely good person. People say that she is the creative and generous one, a 360-degree sensitive human being. Regarding the professional field, she studied international relations, coaching, and design. She is the co-founder of a female design agency called Mundoh Digital in Argentina and has created a digital platform to measure employee emotions and company culture in real-time. But Mundo Digital is more than just branding, web design, and UX/UI agency. user experience, user interface agency. There are women in tech driving change with purpose and impact. Choosing Mundoh means people are reducing the gender gap in technology, and Mundo actively trains and hires single mothers, Refugee women, and young girls are welcome. So, it’s a pleasure to have you. On our show

Well, thank you very much. Much, Philip. I’m very excited to be here and talk to you. And of course, you know, to have people listening to these stories and cultural differences, I’m sure it’s going to be fun.

That sounds wonderful. So, before we dive in, could you perhaps tell us a bit more about your background and how you grew up, and how you gained your global experience or your global outlook?

Of course, Philip, I will do that, and I really would like this to be fun, you know, and for people to smile through this story. Let’s see what happens after I share a little bit about my background and what I became with this global mindset that I mentioned.

I grew up in a little town close to Buenos Aires, which is the capital, or the tango town, of Argentina. It was very Italian because my mother is from Italy, and my family is Italian, and they came after the war in Argentina, and therefore I grew up there. 

It was very intense. I’ve always wanted to be a global citizen ever since I discovered my mother wasn’t from Argentina. I wanted to understand what Italy was. You know, where was that, where did my family come from? I wanted to understand the map, which is why I went to college when I was 18. I decided to do that from my little town instead of coming to Buenos Aires. It was quite an experience because I went as a Rotary Exchange student, on a cultural exchange program to Greeley, CO. I was in it from the United States. As a wild card, I attended high school there my senior year. 

They are in Greeley, Colorado, which is close to Boulder. You know, when I was 18 years old, I moved from a small town in Argentina to another town in the United States, which was quite a transition. There is a difference in terms of culture, understanding and point of view.

And did you speak English at that time or speak much English?

I did speak English, but of course, I was not fluent because of my mother, she will care about education, and I admire that, and in fact, I admire that she sent me and my twin brother to private lessons, right? But it was not the same. OK, like my accent, it was thick and there was very little theory so, the English and the conversations were not the same as in Argentina, where I am studying in a class. It was fun. It was fun. And so, am I. I do have a story about that and the accent. I’ll share the story now.

When I went to this school in Greeley, I had to choose between Spanish and German classes as well. And, of course, I go with German. And I was in a German class, and, of course, it was in English as well. And there’s one word that I still can’t say. I can’t pronounce it in English. I can’t. It’s impossible. I don’t know why, but it’s very hard for Argentines to pronounce that word, and I’m not. I would like to share that with you. But the entire class was laughing very hard, and so was the teacher.

I received an A+ in that class. I have to, you know, because I think It was a huge effort, but I just said to the teacher that the people were talking, right? The kids around me and I wanted to concentrate on the class. So, I said something to you guys. Would you please? in front of everybody. I say this, Philip.

Well, I don’t know what you want to say. Do you want to write it?

Yes, please, would you, and Philip, you’re going to please?

I will say it for you.

Please, would you please go ahead?

Oh, focus.

Yes, but you know, I said it differently. You can probably guess what I said. It was. I cannot say it, Philip.

OK, fine. Can I see it again, please? Teach me how to say…

Focus, OK.

And it was, of course, not good at all, because I said it was very bad. And everybody thought that it was, you know, telling them to go f*** somewhere else, and that was not the intention of it, and I still cannot say that. That’s why, whenever I have a client in front of me, I say, “I’d like to concentrate on that rather than saying that word that I can’t.” Do you know?

Very good. It’s wonderful. Or you could also say to pay attention to the consequences.

Yes, but that’s good.

Pay attention to… But anyway, that’s what I said, you know? In my first year, everybody kind of knew me because of that.

That’s fantastic. That’s wonderful. Well, my graduate school roommate spoke to me in Spanish. His wife was Honduran, and he spent a lot of time in Spain and other parts of Latin America. And then he learned French, and I thought it was some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard speaking French with a Spanish accent, being an American So, anyway, you know, we all have issues learning languages like that.

Exactly, and also, with the accent. Right. But it was the end. Was it friendly, though? I mean, they got what they were saying, and it was a lot of fun.

So, tell me a bit about your company, Mundoh Digital, and perhaps some of the most successful projects you’ve never done.

OK, let me start by saying first and foremost, Mundo, which translates to “world” in Spanish, grew out of this global mindset.

And at the end, it means world in Spanish, the exact translation, but at the same time, we combined the letter “h” at the end. An “h” because it’s a human world in a visual world, right? So, we like to speak humanely in the digital world, that’s why we added the “h” at the end of our brand-like concept. 

We believe that all these technological disruptions, let’s say, it’s really about anthropology, right? It’s really about how humans behave in front of technology, and we want to be more human than ever. That’s why we want to be human in this world, and that’s why we made the name.

That is digital because we design websites, landing pages, and digital products, and we believe that we design these silent ambassadors of brands that speak “human” when they see a brand or, you know, search for a brand on the Internet. So, that’s pretty much our company. 

It’s a female branding agency. We are all women. Because that’s our business model, and we mainly design websites and branding concepts, right?

Right. 

And we do believe that. I’d say that’s our main focus, our passion is branding websites. It succeeds when people say “wow.” You know, wow effect. I should see that the designs just pop out, you know, through the computer.

That’s So, sweet.

And it’s a language, you know, design and creativity. There’s only one language. You don’t need to speak English.

Well, is it one language? Because what resonates in one culture doesn’t resonate in another. So, when you design for Germany, for example, do you design any differently than when you design for a company in South America? For Chile, for example?

I think it’s different everywhere. I think every brand is unique, and so is each culture. But there is one thing that’s equal for everybody. And isn’t it true that every brand wants to transmit and gain an audience? 

That’s similar to every brand. If you ask me, I will say that It depends on the clients. Response to the radial question that we sent to them to find out what they want to transmit. You know, we have a pre-branding design questionnaire that we sent to make sure that we don’t read the brand as our main culture. It’s not our extension. We need to make sure that we understand what their culture is really about and what each grammatical unit is a culture you are also familiar with.

But certainly, when you deal with issues such as colors and images and,passions and so forth, these do differ by country. You know, the Chinese prefer red, for example, and yellow is the imperial color. And other cultures don’t use red very often. It can mean prostitution. Or something like that. Or it is in the United States, sometimes red can be in a loss, which is, you know, obviously not what you want to convey. When you do these designs, I assume you consider just the company or do you study the national culture as well, or do you study the companies’ or the clients’ market? Is it international? Is it European? Is it on a local or national scale?

Yeah, I will say that we study pretty well a lot of the brands and what they want to offer. Because, for example, some brands are more multicultural in that the owner or founder may be from China, but they are most likely currently attempting to reach a market that is not limited to China. So, it’s global, but in terms of psychology, we do like to ask what color they are looking for. What is the color that it’s linked to? Psychologically speaking, their brand, what they want to transmit, but yes. We do bear in mind pretty much the brand, and color, not the country’s color.

Very fascinating. And can you give some examples of some wonderful successes that you’ve had? Some projects that have taken off?

Yes, we have done internal communication with Lenovo here in Argentina. A brand of computer, yeah.

Oh, Lenovo, the Chinese computer company.

Yeah, we have been participating in an employee engagement storytelling campaign, and we designed all the old internal communication to engage them and create well-being through storytelling, and it was a very unique combination of biomimicry. It was based on what is natural to teach us as leaders. So it was a very, very interesting campaign that teaches leaders how to become better leaders by absorbing biomimicry, by observing the giraffe, for example, and how to lead like a giraffe. And it was very, very fun because the imagery that we chose was very compelling and interesting.

And that’s, in my humble opinion, right. It was fun.

Then, and that was quite a surprise for people because they were not expecting it. We are advised on how to be better leaders by observing the natural and disruptive imagery that we choose in the internal storytelling.

And then websites. We were pleased by understanding the concept of education in schools designed for educational platforms that we like from the United States, My Virtual Classroom. They are becoming very, very big. They are also from the learning and polling learning systems, and their concept was also very disruptive, if not global. 

The logo is already kind of like a light bulb, right? But they became a world with the lantern, and it was very fun to design that for them in the educational field.

That’s wonderful, yeah. Is it My Connected? And the company you’re talking about might be My Connected? Or My Virtual Classroom.

It is.. My Virtual Classroom, it’s one of them, not the other one is the paradigm. Learning systems and I mean, they are so much fun and interesting and technology-based, it’s everything. It’s in one place for the educational feeling for schools.

My virtual classroom, I believe, is the product, and My Connected or Connected as the company. it’s fascinating. It’s wonderful. 

What about some projects that perhaps did not do so well?. Either yours or others that you might have heard about. In what ways did they not do well, and what can one learn from that?

Well, we have another business unit. We designed the platform that measures company culture in real-time, and to be honest with you, that was quiet, and it is already a challenge because we spent almost two years, I may say, during the pandemic, having virtual coffee with leaders from many different companies: Lenovo, Coca-Cola, you know, small and medium-sized companies. We had a problem. More than I would say 60 calls for two years to co-create the platform is correct, and by the time the Pandemic was over, the platform was correct. It’s time for businesses to use this platform correctly. The adoption was very hard, Philip.

Companies were not ready to use this platform to measure and expose the lead. To be honest with you, you, our leaders, don’t want to be exposed to the leaders.

We found out that when they receive the heat map of emotions from their teams and the company culture, they don’t want to be exposed. That’s what we found out. It has been very hard to get the platform out there. To be honest with you, even with companies that are ranking as the best place to work. Where you’re supposed to be open and honest. You care about employee well-being. And we found out that people are still afraid of telling their leaders how they feel because they are afraid of the leader.

There’s retribution.

And it’s funny because we co-created this with the leaders, more than 60 leaders. So, I’m like, why don’t you want it? I will employ it. So, I will say I don’t want to say it’s a failure, because it’s not. We learn a lot from it, but I say that.

Just test and see. It didn’t succeed as you had wished and as you had expected.

Exactly, exactly. And cultural differences too, right? I mean, I think in the States and Canada, people still don’t want to say how they feel. Everybody likes anonymity and the security of their data.

So, what are you saying when people don’t like to express how they feel? Do you mean employees talking about their bosses or the bosses talking about themselves?

I would say employees talk about their bosses and the company culture, exactly. Because that’s what the platform does. On the platform, they ask people how they feel about the company culture, and then the key drivers, right?

It’s fascinating.

 Yes, it is. So far, it’s a little bit hard.

Well, perhaps it works. It will work better in another country. I don’t know, where people are not as afraid, perhaps, of talking about them.

Yeah, it’s not actually in the States, in Argentina, in Italy, in Spain, it doesn’t matter. I think the world is not ready to see the data in real-time about feelings, right? So, it’s similar to soft skills from leadership. Oh, that’s not ready to see, right? We want to see the numbers, but we’re not quite ready to see the emotional heat map of the team.

It’s fascinating. I know that Mundoh Design does business in other parts of the world. In addition to Argentina and the US, you have sales in Germany, Italy, Spain, and so forth?

What kinds of cultural differences do you encounter when you deal with executives in other countries?

Well, for instance, let me say that I’m amazed and very shocked about the way we learn so much by doing business with the States and with United States executives. They were the ones telling us to please raise the prices. Right. We were concerned about us not knowing how to deal with business in terms of prices.

They think that our work is really good in terms of quality in terms of design, and websites but they were   … I’m so thankful for that because they are teaching me results and how to be a businesswoman that really can impact, in terms of income, and that was one of the cultural differences, Philip.

I’m not very used to it and we are not very used to thinking in numbers. We don’t value that. We were shocked. We were like, “Are you serious about this? I mean about this number, about this? That’s too much.” You know that this is linked to my culture. We are not taught to value our business because we are always afraid that people are going to say “no.” It’s too expensive because of inflation, right?

Right. 

So, when you go to the world, you become afraid by telling people how much it is, right, even if it’s 50% less than in your own country. 

And the quality could be very good. It’s really good. In terms of cultural differences, we are not used to large crowds. We are afraid, we don’t value it … that faith in ourselves

The price and pricing by value. Pricing with high value is fascinating.

And what about Europe? 

Well, in Europe they’re more like us. You know, even if, of course, the euro and the peso, are our coins, it’s extremely, it’s different. You know, we worked on being conquered by the Europeans, right? We have an 80% European background, Italian and Spanish, So, pretty much the culture. It’s a little bit similar, but they are more precise.

Like Argentinians, they talk a lot. We are very intense. We ask personal questions and let me tell you that the Germans and the Netherlands, they are a little more precise. You know, just tell me what you’re going to do for me. Do not ask me how I’m doing. And you know these personal deep questions, that this is not the way we do business.

And for us, it’s all about connecting emotionally, you know, being hyper about it. And they are like “Can you get to the point, please? Can you just tell me what you’re going to do and keep the other part? Thank you.”

That’s not the way we work, operate, it’s who we are. We wanted to know more about them.

Yeah, that’s very interesting because the United States is known as an impersonal business culture, and we can pick up the phone and talk to someone across the country. And our country is very vast. So, just ask about the product and order it or whatever. 

And I don’t need to know the person; the person doesn’t need to know me. But it’s much more common outside the US. in Latin America, especially, and in Europe, when you have to build up trust, first you have to get to know the people and feel trust and comfort with the partners and people that you’re dealing with, and then you can do business.

So when you say that Europeans are less interested in emotions and more interested in getting down to business, that sounds much more American.

Well, probably because the ones that were hiring us or choosing us were people from the United States living in the Netherlands, right? Or living in Germany,

Living in …

They were, however, originally from the United States.

OK, So that will help explain things to us.

That explains it, too. That’s just one of the stories or two of the stories that we got. But then if you ask me about it.

I don’t know Germany, for example. You know, the name was X in a City, and he was actually from Germany, but he was also really Italian. He loved Italy and he loved this global mindset. So, I can’t tell you exactly what the cultural differences were because he was so much like us. 

The same thing too with Portugal. And you know, they are kind of like, I don’t know, probably because of our experience of dealing with multicultural teams, right? People from Greece were in one team from Italy, it was so multicultural, of course, it was very diverse and very inclusive in the way we did business and we felt one in the line this time.

I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic that everybody was doing business remotely because I’m talking about pretty much our experience in these past three years being remote. That’s because that’s when we grew faster. So, in terms of business, I’m talking about this experience right now. 

That’s fascinating. Before we close, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Yes, I would like to say that the world is becoming more global. 

And right now, I find that cultural differences are becoming less.

And I believe that all of this is remote, the obligation that we had because of the pandemic made us understand the other one is culture. And kind of, hey, where is Argentina located? Right? talking to Sol. And they are right now searching for more information. That didn’t happen before because the possibilities were living more locally, right?

Yes, yes.

So, that’s what it is. I would like to share it with the world, I think. It’s becoming a little bit more ONE, culturally speaking, the remote mode is more human.

That’s fascinating.

I was going to ask before and I’ll pose the question: What do you do outside of business? I assume you tango because you’re in the city of tango. But what to do for fun outside of business?

I will continue being global fully by studying international relations. I’d love to meet people around the world. And again, I’m so thankful to be nurtured. I don’t know how. To have international friendship right there with people around the world teaches me different cultures and different philosophies. 

And I study emotions. That’s what I do too. I like to study emotions. I go out with friends. I drink wine because I like wine. I cook. And I have fun. That’s exactly what I do. I have fun.

That sounds wonderful. It’s a great pleasure. Well, thank you so much.

It’s been a superb pleasure to meet you, to get your insights, and to learn about your company and your approach to international business. It’s just very refreshing and very enlightening. So, thank you So, much.

Thank you, Philip. Thank you for having me here and representing my team too. You know, it’s not only me you have. Seven women, only one, but I’m the voice of them. So, thank you for inviting me here.

Well. I would love to come to Argentina and meet all of you one day.

That would be great. OK, we’ll meet you here.

So, thank you. This was Philip Auerbach of Auerbach International www.auerbach-intl.com. Please join us again next week for another edition of Global Gurus and their stories of international business.

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