Follow The Leader: International Woman of Mystery

When I first joined Carmen’s team years ago she was on maternity leave with her first child.  I only knew her from the comments I’d hear from the team –

  • “Carmen is so responsive – wait until you see how quickly she provides feedback to your work.”
  • “Carmen is so thorough – she picks up on the things we’ve missed so immediately.”
  • “Carmen has a great relationship with that team – she can really help foster the relationship.”

I was intrigued!  Who was this international woman of mystery?

I have to admit those comments did not disappoint.  When she came back from leave and we worked closely together on several projects, it didn’t take long for me to realize how amazing she truly is…here is a (young) woman,  leading a large global team, balancing a young family, speaking a zillion languages, being active on boards and in associations – all while staying sane!

Needless to say, I was really excited to sit down and pick her brain on things we didn’t always have the time to focus on –leadership, teamwork, and success.

One thing I really wanted to learn from Carmen is how she is so successful at building relationships and motivating people.

According to Carmen, “It’s all about the people and nothing else matters.  Inspiring and motivating people gets me up in the morning.  Networking, treating people with respect, having no ego – and the biggest of all – understanding that people are motivated by different things.”

Carmen went on to explain that while leading a diverse team you need to accept differences in every person’s values and motivations.  She uses a technique she learned in the military (yes, add that to her accomplishments) called “situational leadership.” The premise is that each situation must be handled differently – you must adapt your words and actions based on what motivates the people you are speaking to.

What a fantastic lesson – let’s take some time to think about and really understand who we are talking to – who we are working with – in an effort to forge a relationship that spans organizations, borders, and cultures.

Read more from the interview below:

1. Who are your biggest career influences?

Nick D’Onofrio, former CTO at IBM: When I was 28 I had the opportunity to be a board assistant to the CTO at IBM.  What a great opportunity to really observe what life is like in the upper echelons of a corporation.  My leadership style is largely based on the lessons I learned from Nick.  He handled situations with such diplomacy and finesse.  He had the ability to do good while inspiring others along the way.

Lou D’Ambrosio: When I was about to leave IBM he took me under his wing, gave me a job, and let me fly.  He was a charismatic leader who went on to be the CEO of Avaya.

Nigel Dessau, currently CMO of AMD: Nigel was my manager at IBM.  He had a very logical approach to solving problems and very good with helping his team with takeaways.  At the end of a meeting he would say, “Here are the 3 things to remember.”

2. Share a defining moment in your career

I had reached a turning point in my career and decided to leave my current company at the time.  I went to work for a former colleague at SAP.   So, I joined his team at SAP and a week later he left the company.  I came to find out that the job I took had been promised to someone else who had been at my new company for a long time.

I learned very quickly that I walked into a very challenging situation.  I was brand new, with a dwindling team, and dealing with some skeptical stakeholders who really thought my team couldn’t add much value to their business.

I remember going home frustrated and making the conscious decision that I could either leave the situation or I could try.  My “Type A” personality kicked in and I decided to try.

I listened closely to my stakeholders and started going out of my way to help them with the small things.  These small wins built trust.  As folks left my team, I recruited new folks who were diplomatic and flexible.  Before long, we were able to build a positive reputation and succeed.

When I hear Sheryl Sandberg talk about “not taking yourself out of the game” it brings me back to the moment when I made the conscious decision to try.

3. Your “big 3”?

Initiative – Take the initiative and good things will follow.  Don’t hold back…just try, humbly. Take the initiative without having all the answers.  Choosing to “not” do something is indeed a choice.  You need to take the initiative, network with people…no one will do it for you.

Integrity – It is so easy to tell a white lie, take the low road, cut corners.  If you act this way, others will follow.  At the end of day you want to be able to answer yes to “can you trust this person and they will do the right thing?”

People – Look at them as individuals and make them part of the solution.  It is your people who will make you succeed or fail.  Be respectful, respond to every email.  Fostering a positive culture will make people want to work with you.

About Carmen

Carmen O’Shea leads Innovation Marketing at SAP.  Previously, she was the VP of SAP Services Marketing.  She built and led a global team of 45 which provided marketing support to the senior services leaders for the ~$6B annual SAP services & support business.

Prior to her roles at SAP, Carmen spent 7 years at IBM in a variety of strategy, consulting, marketing, and line roles.  Carmen was heavily involved in diversity initiatives at IBM.

Carmen graduated with honors in Anthropology from Harvard University, where she served as a member of the Women’s Advisory Group to the Dean of Harvard College, a member of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, and was ranked #1 in her Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC) class.

Carmen is a member of The Leader’s Council: Marketing Strategy Group and a past Board of Advisors member for ITSMA, representing SAP.  She is a Commissioner of the Women’s Refugee Commission.  She served as a Captain in the Air National Guard until 2006.  She speaks English, French, Greek, Spanish, intermediate Italian and German, and beginning Arabic and Japanese. Carmen lives with her husband and two young children in the San Francisco area.

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