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Inspirational Woman: Carmen Carey | CEO of Apica

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Carey is an experienced technology executive and the CEO of Apica. Her career to date encompasses leadership roles as an executive in fast growing global technology companies. She was most recently CEO of Big Data Partnership  and previously COO of MetaPack, CEO of ControlCircle and COO of MessageLabs.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I did. After my first few post grad school jobs, I was extremely fortunate to be recruited by a Silicon Valley software company that had recently gone public on NASDAQ. Suddenly, I was thrown into an entirely different level of expectation, demand, performance and caliber of enterprise customer interaction. I realised that I wanted to ‘go for it’ at that point in my life and knew I wanted to be a CEO one day. From that point, I started planning my career with a focus on developing the skills and experiences required to give me a shot at my goal.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Most certainly. An example:

After 9/11, the economic recession deepened which deeply impacted technology buying cycles. I was working for a public company at the time, and we were working very hard to maintain our momentum, but it became impossible as organisations stopped making large capital investments. As a result, we went through several reductions in force, as did many businesses at that time. So, over a 6 month period, I had to make significant reductions to the size of my team. It was an incredibly difficult time as I was directly responsible for making the final decision on who got cut, so I was personally impacting the lives of many people and their families with every single decision. My management team and I had to handle many difficult conversations with extremely talented and skilled professionals who were losing their jobs as a result the macro economic conditions outside of their control.

Needless to say, I had to work hard to maintain my center and energy to ensure that we kept the remaining team members cohesive and focused and did not lose our commitment to quality and customer-centric engagements. That meant lots of personal engagement and not being afraid to show my ‘humanity,’ i.e., “it is okay to have emotions about this.” On a personal level, that was certainly one of the most challenging periods of my career, and although it was a time of unrest, it taught me about the importance of staying true to myself in times of challenge, remaining open and accessible as a leader and maintaining dignity and respect – always.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Be a sponge and learn from positive and negative examples. Observe, learn, contextualise your learnings and grow. And, do not be afraid of making mistakes – you will. So, own them and also learn from them.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

There are two elements I sit back and consider – who is the person that will challenge me the most and drive me to be a better professional and a better leader and also who, in a non-work context, is the person I would spend time with by choice, i.e., who would I go to the pub with for a drink and conversation.

How do you manage your own boss?

I establish clarity regarding expectations and cadence from the start so that I know that we have a common definition of what ‘good’ looks like and how we will communicate. Once that is in place, it is much easier to establish a rhythm around your joint tracking. I also always get ahead of issues and let him or her know if something is headed from amber to red.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Hmm, early and late! I manage a global business across multiple time zones, so I am always up early and often in my first meeting by 6:30am and can go until 9pm in the evening. I try to pace my weeks so not every day has that profile as it is easy to lose connection with my personal life and personal time. I also make sure I carve out time for exercise to clear my head and for my general wellbeing. I am naturally a morning person, so I aim to front load my days so I can be done by 7pm if possible. If the day is going to run late, I try to get home to walk my dogs and have a bite of dinner before the next shift.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?
  • Try to get to know people by participating in activities or programs outside of your core function – company sports team, volunteering, cross-functional projects – and foster these relationships.
  • Don’t be afraid to tackle tough challenges – offer to take on a difficult project, client, team
  • Be nice and thoughtful! People remember acts of generosity and kindness – just be sure you do it from the heart.
How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes, definitely. It is good to have someone you can trust to work with who is objective, brings experience and genuinely wants to help you succeed. I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach – you need to be self-aware and understand how to leverage these people effectively at various points or contexts in your career. Some might be very skill based while others might guide you through a time of change or challenge. I have long term relationships with a few mentors who I can call on and have also worked with coaches on specific skills like conflict management.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Yes, I think networking is important and having a robust network is a great asset to call upon for various circumstances. Tips:

  • Understand what you are trying to achieve with your networking – my next job, finding a great coach, improving my subject matter expertise, raising my profile, just good old fashioned meeting like-minded people
  • Don’t overdo it – quality not quantity. People should remember you because you invested in getting to know them and were memorable in that context
  • Nurture your network – be sure you are tracking and staying connected to the people that are important to you
What does the future hold for you?

I love what I do so the future for me is focused on leading Apica and working with this great team to realize the potential of our business. I am also a NED and am looking forward to developing my skills in that context. In addition, I will continue to make time to be a coach and mentor, especially working with women in technology. I hope to make a positive contribution to women in technology as an executive in this space and by providing a positive example to other women who aspire to be a CEO.

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