Inspirational Woman: Carmen Carey | CEO, Sorted

Carmen CareyCarmen has spent her professional career in the B2B enterprise software market and over the past 25 years, has help to lead fast-growing SaaS businesses that need transformation to realise scale and value.

She started her career in Silicon Valley as VP (Americas) of Global Services at NASDAQ-traded BroadVision where she latterly ran the Americas Professional Services team and was accountable for delivering a significant P&L and the satisfaction of an impressive customer base of global category leaders. She became a global executive when she relocated to London in 2004, as COO of MessageLabs, and have since focused that her career as a transformation CEO.

To date, she’s led three successful exits – ControlCircle to Alternative Networks Group (now Daisy) for Scottish Equity Partners, Big Data Partnership to Teradata for Beringea, and an AIM delist transaction to Hanover Investors. She also holds deep understanding of board governance from executive and non-executive director perspectives, having served on the boards of Arts Alliance Media, Brady, and – before recently being appointed as CEO – Sorted.

As CEO, Carmen fuels Sorted’s strategy, drives business transformation, backs our vision, and supports the leadership team to deliver our growth plans.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve spent my professional career in the B2B enterprise software market, and over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with phenomenal teams. To lead and transform fast-growing SaaS businesses, to realise scale and value.

I started my career in Silicon Valley, and my first pivotal career milestone was to become VP of Global Services, the professional services organisation, for the Americas region at NASDAQ-traded BroadVision. I latterly also had BroadVision University, our customer training function, in my remit. I was accountable for delivering a significant P&L, and the satisfaction of an impressive customer base of global category leaders. I became a global executive when I relocated to London in 2004, as COO of MessageLabs, and have since focused my career as a transformation COO and CEO.

To date, I’ve led three successful exits as a CEO – ControlCircle to Alternative Networks Group (now Daisy) for Scottish Equity Partners, Big Data Partnership to Teradata for Beringea, and an AIM delist transaction to Hanover Investors. I also hold a deep understanding of board governance from executive and non-executive director perspectives, having served on the boards of Arts Alliance Media, Brady, and – before being appointed as CEO – Sorted.

Having spent two years on the board at Sorted coupled with the completion of an extensive discovery process to uncover the company’s opportunities and barriers to scale, the team has defined our ‘Sorted 2.0’ vision. We have secured board and investor support for our plan which catalyses the next stage of Sorted’s growth and also defines the next journey in my professional career.  This is a thrilling prospect.

I am thrilled to work with our brilliant customers to help them to achieve industry-leading delivery experiences. It is a privilege to serve the brands and retailers we work with.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The exact path that got me to where I am today wasn’t planned. But on a personal level, one of my first career experiences was in the ecommerce industry, when I joined BroadVision in the 90s, but back then it was a truly nascent space. BroadVision promoted the ‘one to one enterprise’ and had early patents on shopping cart personalisation which we now see as hygienic to the online experience. Needless to say, I became hooked on technology innovation that enables enterprises to excel, and I was fortunate to subsequently join the MessageLabs team and participate in their journey from challenger brand to category leader.

I have had the incredible opportunity of working with some of the world’s biggest brands to execute their online strategies. It was a tremendous career experience that tethered me to innovative industries like ecommerce for life – so it seems fitting that my journey has led me to a company like Sorted. The continuous innovation seen in the sector over the years has inspired me, and I’m excited to help define the new industry-changing developments as they come.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date was my first exit as ControlCircle’s CEO. Working with our team and Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) to transform and grow that business was a humbling and career defining experience.  The most rewarding element of it was being able to share the outcome with all employees, as everyone participated in our employee share option program. When we announced the exit, everyone cheered and congratulated one another – they were all part of the journey, all contributed to this extraordinary achievement, and all participated in the value creation along with our investor.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Learning from my mistakes, which to a large degree is about accepting you don’t and will never have all the answers. Hence you need to build strong, balanced teams and have the strength of character to get back on your bike when you fall off.  We all do and will make mistakes and take missteps along the way, and we become better for it if we allow ourselves to learn in the process.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

  • Be bold, make sure you’re heard and don’t be afraid to take risks. You can’t always play it safe if you want to be successful.
  • Have mentors. Identify women you look up to who are in the role you see yourself fulfilling in three to five years’ time or have traversed an inspiring path to their current state. Engage with them about their career journeys and learn from their wisdom and experience.
  • ‘Do your homework’ and know your stuff. Have confidence and make choices with conviction. It is critical in this context that you own the outcome – successes and failures – and take ownership when you make a wrong call.  Be prepared to understand why your decision was not successful and apply your back-up plan. Always be learning.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

According to a recent PWC study, only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women. So, while workplace diversity has made significant strides across industries over the years, there remain disparities that need to be addressed.

The best way to drive diversity and inclusivity is through information and representation in the industry. To date, there is a clear lack of visibility of women in technology, and this can actually serve to discourage women from starting a career within the industry, let alone become leaders in it. To overcome this, an increased awareness of the value and importance of building a diverse workforce that fosters a sense of belonging is needed.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

There are multiple things that companies can do to support women in tech, including initiatives such as Women in Leadership programs, that clearly define a path to leadership positions for women. It would also be great to see companies offering more training and understand focused on bias in the workplace and how best to promote diversity and inclusion.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Women need to be encouraged from a younger age to pursue careers otherwise shut down by stereotypes. Promoting opportunities in STEM education and setting up sponsorship and mentorship programs to engage girls in technology is a great place to begin. It is also important to embrace internships and apprenticeships and think laterally about your overall talent acquisition and career pathing strategies across functions that are central to all organisations, e.g., sales, marketing, customer success, finance, legal, etc., that are not STEM specific and embrace the application of a broad base of skills and styles.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Online publications I would recommend include: UKTN, Retail Tech Innovation Hub and TechCrunch. Networking events are always a great option too. I would recommend Manchester Tech Week and London Tech Week. There is also an abundance of high-quality content on the TED talk channel and HOTTOPICS.HT. Ultimately, it is about what excites and inspires you.