Ana-Paola (AP) Capaldo-Aoun has always been the youngest everything. She graduated Notre Dame Law School at twenty-three (foregoing what might have been an incredible singing career). By twenty-six, she was sitting on a compliance committee presenting before seasoned executives at a global company. She was always the youngest in-house lawyer, the youngest director, the youngest assistant general counsel, and now she’s added the title of mom to her résumé.
“All of a sudden there was a different speed to life,” remembers Capaldo-Aoun, who is assistant general counsel at TD SYNNEX. “We’re wired to want to do everything all of the time. But then everything changes and this person comes into the world, and your approach to things becomes nuanced in ways you didn’t expect. You have to learn to look at issues through a new prism and life gains so many dimensions. You have to worker smarter, be more efficient and judicious with your time and energy.”
But this isn’t the story of a high-speed compliance pro who suddenly decided to put the brakes on her professional journey. That’s too simple of a narrative. Never fearing a challenge, Capaldo-Aoun made a soft turn in her career and decided to make the transition from compliance to the legal side of the house—while in the trenches of early motherhood with small children.
In a country where the idea of parental leave is still wildly out of sync with the rest of the world, Capaldo-Aoun has seen the tough decisions parents have to make. And she wants to be part of the change to help families, especially women, be proud of the choices that they have made and not feel forced to take a significant fork in their career journey. Capaldo-Aoun is still eyeing that general counsel role but getting there may look a little different now.
Capaldo-Aoun is only thirty-three, but she’s benefitted from some of the best mentors in the business. She professionally grew up with some heavy hitters in compliance like former compliance heads at Royal Caribbean and Ryder, Richard Montes de Oca and Marcia Narine Weldon (who are both at MDO Partners).
“I feel like my track was expedited in part because it’s been built on the legacy of other people’s careers,” Capaldo-Aoun says. “I had the opportunity to work with people who had run the finest legal teams at Fortune 100 companies [and] a boss who had clerked for Supreme Court justices, and these people were willing to take me under their wing to mentor and nurture my own career. I’ve always sought out those opportunities to learn and grow—but also people who will help me develop something new.”
She now works on a team led by Rania Shehata, a former prosecutor and litigator who serves as GC of the Americas region for TD SYNNEX. “This time, I knew I needed someone who could not only help me grow as a lawyer—but as a person. And Rania is a strong leader who prioritizes empathy—and, importantly, is a mom like me.
“It’s critical that at every company you can look up and see people who reflect who you are or who you want to be,” she adds. “If you can’t do that, you’re not in the right place.” Capaldo-Aoun has always chosen roles based on who she’d have an opportunity to learn from to help her get to the next milestone of her career.
Capaldo-Aoun has a natural immigrant drive, the daughter of a Cuban mother and an Italian father. She came to the United States from Venezuela when she was just three months old. Her mantra has always been one of gratitude for living in a country where she has had limitless potential and has been able to achieve so much in a short time.
“I think we have an obligation to give back to our communities—to our country—and I see that lawyers can also help do this not only in the public sector, but also in building better, more ethical, more ‘souled’ companies,” she says. As a Notre Dame Law School graduate, Capaldo-Aoun keeps the motto “a different kind of lawyer” front and center always.
Now, the lawyer has added a new dimension to her identity as a lawyer with her role of being a mom. “I can’t tell you how much motherhood unexpectedly altered my trajectory,” Capaldo-Aoun says. “That’s just simply how it is. I started to realize that the sacrifice-to-payoff ratio altered dramatically after I had my two kids. But it also makes you sharper. And companies should want people who are committed, adept at change, able to juggle, and that have peak endurance.
“And guess who can list all those skills? Parents can. Moms can. We are called to do big things before 7 am—and that is a major soft skill,” Capaldo-Aoun adds. “We have to truly welcome people to bring their whole selves to work and that starts with our values as a company and with our policies.”
At TD SYNNEX, Capaldo-Aoun says she’s been grateful to see progress in real time. As the chair of the company’s Hispanic business resource group, Fuerza, she advocates not just for diversity of background, but diversity of experience as well. She feels lucky to be part of a corporate ecosystem singularly focused on change and on being stewards of good corporate values at TD SYNNEX. She’s particularly motivated to help mentor younger attorneys in a legal landscape that has drastically changed.
“My advice is always that the rules are kind of out the door,” Capaldo-Aoun says. “You don’t need to do seven years in a firm before you can transfer in-house. Everything has changed, and those traditional paths do not have to be your own. Don’t be afraid to have a radical—but studied—voice. Say yes more than you say no. Keep your door open to new opportunities even when the timing doesn’t seem perfect or ideal. Say yes to the difficult project, the new assignment; have the conversations.”
Moreover, the Capaldo-Aoun says that creating a network of trusted advisors can help guide one through every twist and turn in their legal journey, even if it’s just from afar. “You need three people: someone who is two years out from where you want to be, someone who is where you want to be in five to ten years, and your Ruth Bader Ginsburg-type-of-dream role,” she says. These people can provide context and guidance and can help you see the big picture but are also close enough to where you need to be next in your career narrative.”
The big picture, though, is far more complex. Tough decisions still need be made. Refocus is often needed. But for the next leg of her journey, Capaldo-Aoun has some additional tools under her belt, and she is excited to say yes to new challenges.
“AP is an exceptional lawyer who displays professional excellence and a great depth of knowledge about her business. A true collaborator on strategy and a pleasure to work with, we really appreciate our business relationship.”
–Irene Bassel Frick, Managing Partner (Tampa)