Inspirational Executives Series – IBM Europe
Carrie (Karen) Lomas – An Inspirational Executive: Cognitive Solutions Director, Europe — London, United Kingdom.
Carrie is a Strategic Leader with a genuine passion for Technology. With a Post Graduate Degree from Oxford University, a career trajectory from Managerial through Directorial to Executive roles, and almost twenty-five years of professional experience in the Technology arena. Her résumé is an inspirational read for any aspiring executive. Moreover, her passion for mentoring internally and externally, volunteering with teenagers, getting involved in STEM (a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – in an interdisciplinary and applied approach), and judging the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year, all exemplify her ability and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.
This interview discusses how Carrie’s career has grown over the past 24 years, how she manages her work-life balance, and what advise she would give to others aspiring for an executive career at IBM.
You recently joined IBM. What attracted you to work for IBM?
Two key things. Firstly, when I did my post grad I completed my thesis on Internet of Things (IoT) and realized how critical the Analytics part was, I truly believe IBM is leading here and more so it has Cognitive (understand, reason, learn, act), for which Watson is by far the superior product.
Secondly, I wanted to be part of the transformation and help shape the future of our world-renowned company, coming after would not have been the same for me because I like challenges. Michelle Unger interviewed me and this sealed the deal for me; always work for someone you admire, who values your skills & strengths and you believe will offer you opportunity for growth.
Can you describe your role at IBM?
I lead a small expert sector-focused sales team across EU that co-creates value with our clients interested in Cognitive IoT solutions. We sell across IBM brands and start with the C suite as opposed to traditional IT routes. We work with the Consulting group, Sales and Distribution, and other groups who want our support to realize their business goals and that includes the Watson IoT platform. Ginny has set the path for this success, forward staging and investing in IoT and Cognitive, and it’s now up to us to deliver.
You undertook a Post Graduate Degree at Oxford University whilst in a Directorial position. What motivated you to undertake this heavy workload? And how did you find the time to manage both?
I had been privileged to have yearly leadership training from great leaders such as Michael Porter, John Kotter, Marcus Buckingham and more – the list is impressive. In my late 20s I had turned down a sponsored MBA at INSEAD for a four months assignment with another IT company and I never regretted this. In my early 40s I was curious about IoT. I was deemed good at strategy but wanted the richness of academic rigor and the depth of working with those who have different industry and world knowledge. IoT was just beginning and I wanted to study how new markets form, what characteristics they take on and drive, how companies rise and fall in these times, and how innovation occurs. Oxford excels here, and with a cohort of 55, from 26 countries and every conceivable industry, I was accepted.
Outside of IBM, what are your hobbies, interests, and passions?
I live in a small village of a hundred houses, with my husband, 11-year-old son and our Rhodesian Ridgeback. These are my antidote to the travel my job requires. We enjoy walking the dog, good food, cooking and wine. Our family enjoys the outdoors – we camp, sail, ski, garden and on a weekly basis I can be found watching rugby with my son on the pitch and my husband coaching. I play squash for agility, and I play in a vets Tchoukball team. I swim regularly and use my wearable Basis watch to improve fitness, aiming for 10k steps a day. Despite the work travel we all still like an adventure and when I was 16, I challenged myself to go to 40 countries before I was 40. We celebrated 40in40 in Marrakech, Morocco. I am lucky I get to volunteer with my old school, where a friend teaches. I get to have fun with teenagers who are not mine, coaching them and coaxing them across rivers, down ski slopes or lighting fires, challenging themselves and their preconceived ideas of who they are, testing boundaries and finding new depths of their own personalities & skills.
Do you have any recommendations for those aspiring to have an executive career?
Small things make a difference so I would suggest 10 little things that could add up to a much bigger thing.
- Be authentic. This means being who you are and valuing the diversity that you yourself bring.
- Treat everything as an offer (Robert Poynton), and grab opportunities given.
- Make the best of everything, be curious & do what you love.
- Make deliberate changes and think about your path.
- Lead and be a team player; they are not mutually exclusive.
- Be coachable and get mentors. Purposefully network, remember this is not the same as sucking up or merely socializing; think what you have to give and what you need, figure where you can add value to each person.
- Give credit to those who help you, give support to those you can help.
- Don’t be afraid to ask, yes is easier than you think.
- Prioritise ruthlessly, pick your battles wisely and enjoy what you do. More than that be passionate about it and if not, change something. If you are going to make a career move, make it for something you would put your own money on, after all your time is as precious as money.
- Finally Think Bold, Collaborate.
I am happy I am able to do all this in IBM.
Check out previous editions of this series here.
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