Inspirational Woman: Karen Seror | Chief Marketing Officer, Gamestream

Meet Karen Seror, Chief Marketing Officer at Gamestream

Karen Seror

Karen Seror is Gamestream’s Chief Marketing Officer since March 2020 and has had leading positions with some of the tech industry’s most renowned brands. Her deep knowledge of accelerating technology start-ups with a crystal-clear vision for the future and her strong belief in the healing power of video games make her a veritable force for good within the industry.

The former marketing manager for Adobe oversaw the brand launch, go-to-market strategy and day to day marketing management of Adobe Stock, leading to it becoming their number one offering in terms of brand awareness.

Karen has a proven track record of getting people’s attention and fostering long-term consumer relationships built on a foundation of trust, anticipating market needs, and transparency.

Previously Karen was Head of Communications at Fotolia, a world-leader in stock photography asset management, which was acquired by Adobe in 2014 for $800m.

Karen holds an MBA in Communications from EFAP Paris.

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

I’ve always had an interest in working for companies that challenge the status quo, whether this be startups or established global companies.

The past 15 years have seen me working within the b2b start-up environment but the first company I worked for was Amen, a web domain and hosting service. This experience was a real game changer for me, and helped me to understand my passions and what I wanted to achieve with my career.  As a company, they really democratised the presence of the internet and what it could achieve. It was while working for Amen that I realised that I wanted to help build brands, inspire the wider community, and disrupt the status quo.

Once I had achieved what I set out to do at Amen, I moved to a start-up company called Fotolia, which again, followed a disruptive business model and aimed to democratise the use of photography for companies. Fotolia was acquired for $800 million by Adobe in December 2014. I worked at ADOBE for 5 years and launched a new brand from scratch – Adobe Stock – which replaced Fotolia. It was here that I transitioned the brand seamlessly from Fotolia to Adobe Stock and helped Adobe Stock become the leading platform that it is today.

Following Adobe, I decided it was time for a new challenge and moved to Gamestream, the world leader in Cloud Gaming distribution where I’m currently the Chief Marketing Officer.

The one consistent thing throughout my career has been that I’ve always challenged myself in positions where there is everything to create and build –   I love working with disruptive business models that haven’t been tried before. At Gamestream, I’ve taken a hands-on approach — building the company into one of the leading global Cloud Gaming platforms. As their CMO, I’m responsible for driving and spearheading the global marketing strategy for customers around the world — France, Slovenia, Taiwan, Switzerland, Indonesia, and UAE, to name just a few. How do I do this? I’m a storyteller and innovator. You have to be able to, as I call it, “dress the bride” – that means making your company, your mission, and your team members appear approachable, attractive, and dedicated to your target audience, whether it’s investors, customers or potential employees. This often requires creativity and thinking outside the box / being ahead of both the trends and the competitors.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In a way, yes! It would’ve been impossible to invest myself without working for a company I really love, and without appreciating their mission, so I’ve always aligned my career with my personal values and goals.

I’ve also always wanted to work for those who disrupt their industries, change consumer behavior, alter the economics and ultimately transform lives for the general good. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to learn something from each experience and grow both professionally and personally. Working at my first start-up business, I really learned the importance of pushing yourself and ensuring that your voice is heard.

I’ve always gone bigger and bolder with each move –- while, yes, it can be scary, it’s worth the risk! It’s in my DNA to push myself and step out of my comfort zone Since I was a young child, I’ve been very ambitious, always in need of an objective to reach. I’ve always strived to continually be a better version of myself, to learn new skills. My mother even used to buy me puzzles and Rubik’s cubes to challenge me!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Of course, I’ve faced challenges — that comes with being human! Yes, there’ve been many challenges along the way, but one that sticks out is when I was working at Fotolia. Remember, this was pre-digital, so customers had to purchase images for their advertising needs. These images could cost up to €2000 per image!  For a start-up like Fotolia, paying lots of money to help us advertise the company was impossible. So, we were really motivated to democratize the use of images and make them much cheaper! We asked anyone we knew who had a camera, (that was harder than you might think in the early 2000’s), to take quality pictures and upload them to our marketplace. We then launched Fotolia, and we sold these images for only €1. Imagine! This disruption caused a huge initial backlash from photographers. We were accused of ending photography as a job and were questioned aggressively on how we could possibly sell images for €1 when the going rate was €2000. Even media referred to us as ‘the grave diggers ‘and some creators even wrote to the President of France knocking us down! That was a real testing point in my career and taught me a lot about real perseverance and the importance of responsible communication. I didn’t back down or quit – instead, I met with every stakeholder, even those who wanted us to close down as a business, until we could meet in the middle and find a suitable solution. Finally, we were able to demonstrate to stakeholders the future of digital and why lower cost would eventually revolutionize advertising and result in much more revenue. In the end, Fotolia was acquired by Adobe for 800 million–—- so the challenges were worth it.

It’s the same in a lot of industries – if you look at the music industry, for example, with the rise of streaming platforms, and even with video games – we’re seeing a transformation from disks and consoles to streaming and cloud-based solutions. It’s no easy task convincing publishers and stakeholders to move to the future – whether it’s to digital or to the Cloud and 5G, it’s just all the sweeter and more nourishing to everyone involved when you succeed.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement so far is having worked across three start-ups that have all gone on to be incredibly successful – two being acquired for millions of dollars and the third being Gamestream, the Cloud Gaming democratizer and innovator.

At Gamestream, I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done in challenging stereotypes and perceptions within the industry. When I first started, some of the more traditional gaming experts didn’t understand my role as Chief Marketing Officer or see the need for any marketing efforts at all!  I’m proud to have shown my value, both on a personal level as a female working in the tech industry, and also from the business perspective of increasing brand awareness and sales growth.

None of my achievements would have been possible without having an excellent support system around me. I’ve been so lucky to have always worked alongside a brilliant team, who have encouraged and supported my every career move. As cliché as it sounds, team work really does make the dream work.

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

As a woman, I am very aware of what is expected of us and how we have to work harder to achieve success in the tech industry. I’ve always had this in the back of my mind and have used it as a motivation to keep growing as a professional. It’s a well-known statement, never underestimate a woman – as women, we have this incredible ability to be both vulnerable and powerful at the same time, and this has helped me along the way. For me, it was important to always remember that inclusivity is the way forward – so while I was the first female employee at Gamestream, I knew acting like a bull in a china shop wasn’t going to help me succeed. I needed to use my strengths as a marketing professional and show my male colleagues that I was as capable at helping democratize gaming for all. Now, I’m proud to say that other women have started working at Gamestream which has helped the company become more creative, and more enduring.

Another major factor has been having an ambitious personality and the internal belief  that I deserve success and that I can achieve my dreams. You need to be able to dream big — if you limit yourself, you’ll never reach your full potential. My parents were entrepreneurs themselves so gave me a taste of what was possible early on in my life – from them, I learnt the importance of working hard and having a positive mindset to go after dreams and aim for the stars.

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

To that question I’ll respond with these words:  Always be open to innovation and more learning. The world is constantly changing around us. It’s important that we’re able to adapt – especially in the tech world. There is always going to be a new technology or system to learn so make sure you keep up to date with trends and new products. My job isn’t the same as it was 5 or 10 years ago, and it will probably look a lot different in 5 years’ time – so I’m always ready to embrace the new!

At Adobe, I was taught rules-of-thumb I’ve stuck with since and recommend them for any individual looking to excel in their career:

1) Think in terms of storytelling, and not just dry facts. Obviously, facts are important, but impact depends upon the way you present your thoughts. Technology can be overwhelming at times, so if you’re able to convince your target audience in a way that relates to their everyday experience, you’re already on your way to succeeding.

2) Tribe vs Team – your team are not just colleagues but your family and tribe. As a tribe, you will win and lose together.

3) Spring Cleaning vs Business as Usual – know when it’s time to re-vamp your ideas and ‘spring clean’ your company, and your own professional practice. This applies to all industries and positions.  See change as good — it’s the only way that you, your colleagues, and your business will grow.

4) Driver vs Passenger – know when to lead and when to listen. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re doing something wrong. Many people think that being a ‘passenger’ is a step backwards, but how can you progress if you don’t take the time to listen and learn from colleagues?

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

Although we’ve come a long way over the years, there are still barriers facing women working in tech, yes.  I think a lot of it comes down to education. For a long time, women weren’t told what opportunities were available to them in the tech industry or they weren’t told that they could even work in the tech industry! We need to continue to open STEM opportunities at the school and university level. We need to make female tech roles more prominent within the entertainment industry. Films, TV and even advertorials need to be more representative of all women for careers within the tech industry, including engineering and product development. The rise of prominent female leaders in politics has had a positive impact, encouraging young girls to not only get into leadership roles but also to dream big – so, for example, if we have more female gamers represented in the entertainment industry, we’ll be able to inspire a new generation of gamers —and developers.

In 2021, women accounted for 45 per cent of gamers in the United States (Statista) yet only 21% of those work within the gaming industry. Companies need to take responsibility for encouraging young girls to aim for a career in the tech/gaming experience early on. For example, at GAMESTREAM, I recently went into schools to discuss my role at Gamestream with students and openly discuss how to get into the industry. A lot of the female students felt that the gaming industry was tailored towards men and that it would be difficult to find their place in this male dominated industry. Since then, I have recruited an intern from that same school to help kickstart her career and provide her with additional experience. Companies need to take this initiative more often, as the more opportunities that are available for young women, the more women working in tech will be normalized.

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

Companies, including CEOs and other company and board heads, need to treat women across all levels no differently than they treat their male colleagues. That means, same salary bands for the same job title, same treatment when it comes to the everyday workload, and the same level of respect for personal time off. Working in the tech industry, means that there are new jobs opening constantly as new tech emerges. Tech companies can continue to create positions for women and train them up to fit these new roles.

There are currently only 21 per cent 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?

I would change the percentage of women playing and working in gaming. More outreach in marketing to females.  I would change the long-standing stereotypes that gaming is only for young men playing in their bedrooms and shift the narrative to be about how gaming can be used for good and serve a much bigger purpose than just entertainment, distraction and consumption.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recommend joining female-led organisations across the local but also national levels for a sense of community – these organisations can, not only help you feel like you belong in what is historically a very male industry but can also help you with career progression and opportunities. It’s often easier for women to speak their minds freely when accompanied by like-minded individuals, so participate in LinkedIn groups or see if your company has any specific focus groups into which you can enroll.

Reading female leadership publications, such as “We Are Tech Women,” and listening to female leadership podcasts is a great source of inspiration on both personal and professional levels. The more you read up on trends, career progressions, and even crisis management, the easier it becomes to apply those things into your own career and life.

As Suma Nallapati, the CEO of Dish, sums it up perfectly “Empowered women empower women”.