Advancing at Berkeley: Cara Lyn Giovanniello's Department Switches

Advancing at Berkeley: Cara Lyn Giovanniello's Department Switches

What roles have you had throughout your time at Berkeley?  

  •  RA3 with RES
  • CSS RA4 Team Lead; 
  • CSS RA Supervisor; 
  • CSS Learning and Development Manager; 
  • CHaMPS Department Manager for Astronomy (Including the Radio Astronomy Lab, 
  • Center for Integrative Planetary Science, 
  • Theoretical Astrophysics Center.)


What factors do you think helped you switch positions successfully within Berkeley?  

WHO YOU KNOW - and HOW MUCH YOU KNOW. I have always been passionate and taken a stance when it comes to what I see around me in the University. By approaching problem solving with a defenseless attitude, your ideas and suggestions are more easily understood and, possibly implemented. When you take that ideology and apply it in a meta-view, you can problem solve at a much higher level enabling the solution to reach more people, and create a deeper impact. It’s about leadership, influence, active listening, and accountable action.


How do you encourage your staff to take advantage of learning and development opportunities such as partaking in staff organizations, or stretch assignments? 

Developing one’s self both personally and professionally are key values to me. When it comes to staff, students, and faculty taking advantage of the wonderful resources we have here on campus, I am 100% committed to making that work. I have found that the more people are supported, encouraged, championed, and given room to develop, the more satisfied they are coming to work, and that is easily seen in higher productivity, lower turnover, de-escalation, problem solving, and incentive. When I see a class, subject, or topic that will have possibly interest to me or my team, I forward out that information and include HOW each person will be able to take it (ie: training work days, reduced schedule during training, teach the team events).


How can managers encourage the use of stretch assignments amongst their team and  how does that help the team? 

I often ask my staff what’s interesting to them outside of their current job functions, and how can they facilitate bringing that into their work more often. What’s so exciting about alternate projects is how they can benefit current work by adding new insights and processes to tasks possibly outdated or simply needing a lift. When in a position of management, it is so empowering and engaging to the team when what matters to them as individuals can be developed and cultivated, as it makes them a richer person overall. And that richness comes into work with them – making our environment more colorful and interesting overall.


You made the jump from non-supervisor of full-time staff to becoming one. What would you recommend people do if they’ve never managed full-time staff but want to become a supervisor?

Learn about coaching. I cannot stress enough how simple tools such as active listening and powerful questions can change the dynamic when working with a team. Coaching enables a mindset that creates understanding and commitment to results and accountability through self-understanding and development. When a manager is adept at showing care, concern, and interest in their staff’s work, and in them personally, it creates a holistic working environment where everything is relevant, and different topics can be addressed honestly when needed.

Improve your coaching skills with the Cal Coaching Network


Any final words of wisdom to staff looking to grow their careers at UC Berkeley? 

Don’t be scared to interview for a job that interests you. You have NOTHING to lose by applying, and bringing your true self, and your interests, to the selection process. Berkeley thrives on the institutional knowledge of its employees. Knowing how the university works can work for you and your new position. Think outside of your comfort level - and then DO IT. 


If you’d like to advance your career with today’s methods read about the corporate lattice model- here.


Cara Lyn Giovanniello is the Department Manager within Astronomy. She’s been a part of the UC Berkeley community for 7 years. To follow up with her about this feature e-mail or connect with her on LinkedIn

Know someone (including yourself!) who has changed jobs at Berkeley? E-mail us at to be featured.

Never miss a staff profile by signing up for the Wisdom Cafe newsletter.

Wisdom Café Wednesdays

Give yourself an hour to grow each week by clicking on the calendar icon.

Staff Learning Opportunities