Stepping out: Mario Artaza of Chile

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Diplomacy can be a glorious occupation, representing your country and maybe even making history. When another opportunity arises, how do you make that crucial decision to turn your back on it?

Three former diplomats who have shared your struggles and have been on the same battlefields give their take on moving out of the service. They speak on family, politics, career aspirations, and share pragmatic advice. There are lessons to be learned here. The first of the three, Mario Artaza, has been in private sector for the least amount of time, and gives a first-hand experience fresh out of the diplomatic bubble.

Super Mario

For Mario, his career path had always been linked with Chile’s history through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He hadn’t ‘met’ his father, who is currently overseeing the modernisation of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, until weeks after he was born because his father was then serving at the Embassy of Chile in Washington D.C. Mario himself also had a distinguished career representing Chile in the Asia Pacific region, with stints in Singapore, Beijing, and Hong Kong. But now that’s on hold as he spearheads the launch of the first Chilean bank representative office in Hong Kong.

Meant to be

On his birthday this year, Mario read his horoscope. “I don’t usually believe in horoscopes, but that week it said, “This week you will begin something that will change your life forever.” That week in April he concluded his posting as Consul General of Chile in Hong Kong and took on the role of Chief Representative for the first Chilean bank to have a representative office in Hong Kong, Banco Security.

A price paid: Though guaranteed a position in the Ministry after his sabbatical, he will no longer be considered to be the first ranked diplomatic officer of his graduating class.

There were many reasons Mario chose to put his career in diplomacy on hold. One of them was to take on a fresh challenge. Having contributed to many of Chile’s achievements in the Asia Pacific Region, Mario was ready for something new. He shares, “Being part of that, I wanted to see if I could add value to Chile’s presence in Asia through a different perspective.” That “perspective” turned out to be financial. Mario is now responsible for setting up and overseeing the operations of the representative office of Banco Security in Hong Kong, the first of its kind. Beyond the excitement of being behind this, the change in subject matter was one of the fresh challenges Mario welcomed. “I’ve always been comfortable being on the top,” he said. “But now I realise it will take a period of time to achieve a level of excellence that I used to be able to reach.” In his new environment, Mario has found that he has had to learn to rely more on a team concept and deliver tangible results in a ‘periodic format’, reporting every week to his superiors. This was quite different from his days in diplomacy when much of his work relied more on his individual capacity and results were often intangible.

No looking back

Another issue that Mario has needed to get used to is not participating in the strategic vision to push his country forward in the Asia Pacific region. “There are so many issues that are on the table that I used to follow, and now in my new role they’re not part of my work. These were all part of my day-to-day for 20 years,” explained Mario. During his time in Asia, Mario represented his country at the APEC Secretariat and contributed to the successful negotiations for Free Trade Agreements between Chile and both China and Hong Kong. Yet, not all is lost. “It’s always great to participate in something that is part of your country´s history, but I’m still able to contribute by spearheading the team of the first Chilean bank in Asia’s world city.”

Mario is currently on a maximum period of two years sabbatical leave from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While he is guaranteed a position back in the Ministry after his sabbatical, he will no longer be considered to be the first ranked diplomatic officer of his graduating class.

Different from days in diplomacy: Much of his work relied more on individual capacity and results were often intangible.

Child’s Wisdom

When asked for any advice he would like to share with fellow diplomats that might be thinking of leaving the service, Mario had three things to say. Firstly, it is a decision that must be discussed on a family level, and discussion amongst your closest peers and friends can be invaluable. Staying pragmatic, Mario suggests that all contract issues have to be absolutely transparent on both the new employer’s side and yours. Finally, Mario spoke on challenging yourself and grabbing on to opportunities without fear. He shares with us what his daughter had to say about this opportunity, “Take it, because I don’t want to hear you say when you’re 75, ‘What could have been?’”