Carmina Lees – An Inspirational Executive shares the Importance of Building a Strong Network

Inspirational Executives Series

The Inspirational Executive series consists of interviews that profile executive IBMers to demonstrate how one may successfully build an executive career in this increasingly demanding market. Juggling work, life, and family commitments is a daunting challenge, but this series reveals how, with careful time management, flexible leadership, and a willingness to embrace challenge, IBM can support successful executives to succeed in every aspect of their careers.

Today we are featuring Carmina Lees, Vice President for IBM’s Security Business in the UK & Ireland (UK&I) region. This interview discusses how Carmina’s career has grown over the past 18 years, how she manages her work-life balance, and what advice she could give to other women aspiring to an executive career at IBM.

Carmina Lees, Vice President for IBM’s Security Business in UK&I

Carmina Lees started her career with IBM in 1998, majority of her career has been in sales – client facing, leading teams, and running businesses.   Carmina has worked in various parts of IBM, from Systems & Technology Group, Inside Sales, Global Technical Services, and Sales and Distribution in various industries.

Carmina has a passion for mentoring and a big focus on maternity buddying.

Can you describe your role at IBM?

I have been leading the Integrated Security Business since 2014, I was asked to take on this role to bring together various teams & functions and form a Business Unit inline with our Strategic imperatives. I have responsibility for the P&L, Sales, Delivery and Consulting across Software and Services.

When I started the role I had 53 people, today with the growth and demand of security in the market place, the merger of the teams and hiring, we are now at 300.  This has been one of the most rewarding and challenging roles I’ve had in IBM.

I feel like I’m running a start up in a big corporation. Starting with a blank piece of paper, setting the strategy, raising our market presence, and going after market share in a very competitive environment has been fantastic.

The team I work with is amazing, everyone is passionate about seeing our business grow and doing the right thing for our clients.

What skills and experience have you developed that led you to this position?

I have been fortunate to do lots of different roles in IBM over the last 18 years, some of them planned, some unplanned. This has helped me gain lots of different experiences, and work at all levels within the organization. My career has been client-facing, understanding how IBM works internally and gaining knowledge from different roles have given me a good understanding of the breadth of our business, value and offerings to then take to our clients. I have also built a good network across different business units, which has been an advantage when you are trying to get things done for your client, or your team.

What are your hobbies, interests, and passions outside of IBM?

I have two young daughters, ages 3 and 7, who keep me and my husband very busy. Most of my spare time is spent with my family.  I’m a big foodie, and I love eating out trying different restaurants and different cuisines.  I like to keep fit, and I have recently started participating in OCRs (Obstacle Course Racing). They often involve lots of mud and water, but it’s good fun!

How do you manage your work life balance?

It can be a juggle! My husband and I plan our diaries on a weekly basis to cover childcare first thing in the morning and in the evening, and we have great support from a full time nanny. I also have a great leadership team, we all try to manage work life balance and we all help each other out which is very important.

I’ve always been very honest throughout my career that I wanted both – a career and to be a mum; IBM has allowed me to have both. There are times when I can’t take calls because I’m on bath and bedtime duty. I don’t get a lot of time with my girls in the week, so the time I do get is very important. I’ve realized that IBM won’t fall down if I say no, I will always accommodate calls and I will catch up on email when my girls are asleep.

Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career at IBM?

Be honest with yourself and the people around you in terms of what you want.  Have a good network of people who can support you on your executive journey.

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