PORTABLE CAREER TO EMPOWER WOMEN

Milena has thousands of interesting anecdotes to tell from her privileged point of view, as wife of an Italian diplomat. Throughout her life, she has sought to empower women around her, she acknowledged during our interview.  

It is said that diplomacy is all about the ability to manage interpersonal relations intelligently, a real cornerstone that plays a decisive role in achieving the goals of a diplomat’s mission. Meeting Milena Guarino and spending some time talking with her, made me confirm that she has this ability highly developed.  Milena created the right relaxed atmosphere in the right place to make me feel as a welcomed guest for this interview.

There are no doubts that Milena knows all too well how to make her guests feel at ease, demonstrating her expertise in the interpersonal relations field, in addition to organizing social events, visits and international meetings. In fact, Milena is the Social Director at PWA this season 2020-2021, but she is also a specialist in Public Relations collaborating with various associations, EUFASA (European Union Foreign Affairs Spouses Associations) delegate, and woman of communication, mother and wife of a diplomat.

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Milena grew up in a traditional southern Italian family that assured her a very loving, caring, and serene first stage of her life.  Among her memories of this period there is a big earthquake that devastated Campania and Basilicata regions and forced her to live a couple of weeks in a car. However, she managed to share with me a positive memory: “I remember that me and my cousin were happy to spend so much time together, growing our friendship!” Milena always finds the bright side on a difficult situation! She has an optimistic spirit, so it’s not surprising to know that her motto is “I always look at the glass as half full”.

After graduating in Economics and Banking at the University of Siena, she followed her husband to Moscow, London, Bahrain and Montreal. While in Canada, she achieved a master’s degree in Public Relations Management at McGill University.  Milena discovered her passion about a traveling life during her Erasmus study experience at the University of Reading (UK), while improving her languages’ knowledge. This latter experience has also brought her to meet her husband during her flight back home; so planes, travels, interesting and curious anecdotes, and amazing experiences would be a constant in her life.

Milena is an optimistic, talkative and easygoing person who has natural social abilities, specialized in communication and event management and planning, due to the fact that, as wife of a diplomat, she had to active collaborate in the activities to represent our country abroad promoting both commercial development between countries and diffusion of Italian culture and language. “My experiences abroad as the wife of a diplomat allowed me, once back in Italy, to put my knowledge to good use. During this Roman break I collaborate with the ACDMAE, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spouses Association, which carries out a voluntary activity for the employees of the Ministry and their families. As part of the Association, I created the Education & Career Group which helps spouses to maintain their professionalism, despite the constant moving from one country to another”, she admits.

Milena is very aware of the increase in uncertainty and complexity of the employment market.  This is why she believes that it’s highly important to keep up to date and to make the most of any training opportunity.  “If for any reason you have a pause in your working life, take the chance to go back to study! Maybe, take some courses at the university, start training courses or a specialization program”, she advises. And this is exactly what she does when she finds the right occasion: last time she took an advanced training course at the Sapienza University on Women, Peace and Security (UN Security Council Resolution 1325).

The pandemic has accelerated changes in the working environment while making remote and virtual jobs more diffused and accessible. Although, this is not new for Milena because she has been working with Here We Are Italy community (part of the international network of Here We Are Global) to promote the “portable career” concept, in order to help people that find themselves moving frequently and willing to build an ongoing professional career path while moving. She is also member of UNWG, United Nations Women Guild of Food and Agriculture Organization, where she had the chance to give a couple of presentations on this topic and the UN Resolution 1325.

Actually, Milena could boast of having core job skills like flexibility, adaptability, resilience, and learning agility as core competencies, maturated with the continuous moving experiences. In fact, it is the hard law of diplomats that imposes that every 4/8 years they drop their moorings and return to Rome, before leaving for a new “adventure”, perhaps in a city at the antipodes of the previous one.  Therefore, during her life around the world, Milena has developed a strong set of soft-skills that are fundamental in any aspect of life, but particularly important at workplace.

Milena has tasted exotic culinary and curious traditions, and explored different places, people and cultures while wandering between countries, not only for work but also for pleasure. She made me dream eye-opened with her stories telling me some attractive little-known details of her life journey.

Milena Guarino Padula has so many curious anecdotes and interesting insights to tell that it’s difficult for me to keep track of the time while enjoying her company. So without noticing our interview has come to the end, leaving me with the wish to meet Milena again soon and the urge to read some of the magazine articles written about (and by) her, and the book that contains her testimonial (among others) about the not so glamorous side of life as wife of a diplomat: “Nella buona e nella cattiva sorte. L’altra faccia del servizio all’estero”, in which she narrates her experience during her time in Bahrain when the clashes of the Arab Spring caught her up, as the Residence of the Italian Ambassador (her husband) ended up in the middle of a crossfire between security officers and protesters. “I remember the sound of gun fires resonating really close while my husband was handling the emergency and I was taking care of my children (4 and 11 years old at the time), trying to reassure them with some calming music, but for us all the protection premises vanished at once!”, she recalls.

In her journey, Milena has encountered people like the Queen Elizabeth II and the King of Bahrain, thanks to her husband’s job; but getting to know Milena assures me that BESIDE a great man, there is always a great woman.

 

By Luisa Lopez
November 2020

 

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