Carrie Francey is a global IT and cloud industry veteran. She has held plum roles at HPE and Microsoft, but I found her at Women in Cloud, a group she co-founded to help accelerate women-led companies. Here she shares insights about risk, inspiration, and her passion for mentoring and collaborating with others.
Looking back on your career, is the tech industry where you thought you would end up?
Funny enough, I dreamt of being a stockbroker. It was my dream job, though at that time, it was not a heavily female industry. My Dad and I would research and buy stocks. After I got my first job, I really learned about taking risks, managing money and different markets.
I’ve been in the high-tech industry for some time now and as an executive, I still use those lessons around research, strategic analytics, and risk-taking, and I thank my Dad for all his support. He was a male ally for me, and always in my corner.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career and what did you learn from it?
Transitions can be risky and rewarding. I am used to risk but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’ve worked through several career moves in my life. For me, one of the most significant was leaving Microsoft, because even though things were going well, I left to take on an even more significant opportunity elsewhere that led me to where I am today.
Taking the right risks drives growth but that doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts. You take the leap anyway, then leap again and again. Change is the constant and you need to trust in yourself and your abilities. Leaping is the right thing, because by just standing still, you aren’t going anywhere.
What leadership skills do you see as essential in the modern technology environment?
I believe great leadership is and has always been about people and relationships, whether those people are your employees, business partners, or customers. Listen, guide, and drive your employee’s passions for the customer—that’s the basis for trust, innovation, and growth. Recruit the right employees, drive clarity of mission, support them with resources, and give them the freedom to learn (some might say fail) and succeed.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader today?
Some of the most important decisions for me are about vision and clarity of mission. Are we moving in the right direction, are we making bold bets, is our cultural DNA working, are we driving the best outcomes, and can we adjust when needed? That’s the big picture and then there are hundreds of details. But those details don’t matter if we aren’t doing the right things.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I am in learning mode every day and try to learn from and share insights with everyone. Initiatives like Women in Cloud provide a wonderful environment, where I meet, mentor, and collaborate with amazing women executives and entrepreneurs alike.
Who inspires you most and why?
I’m most inspired by the next generation of women leaders yet to come. My eldest daughter is one of them. She’s at the University of Washington Foster Business school and, at 18, has already worked for two start-ups, running their social media and helping out with Women in Cloud. She has also already tried to create a subscription chocolate business. She is fearless and believes that opportunities for her and her generation are endless.
You’ve spent your career building and supporting alliances. Why is the alliance between HPE and Microsoft so important for cloud and where are you seeing the biggest impact of this program?
Alliances are about relationships. HPE and Microsoft have built a trusted partnership over past several decades that runs very deep. As with all relationships, it’s evolved and today the two teams are unified in their vision and passion for the cloud.
The HPE-Microsoft Alliance merges HPE’s commitment to simplifying hybrid IT and powering the intelligent edge with Microsoft’s focus on key software solutions that address applications and infrastructure, data and AI, IoT and the modern workplace. These combined solutions come together with HPE Pointnext services expertise and their vast partner ecosystem to enable innovative outcomes.
One interesting outcome from this HPE-Microsoft partnership is a new six-month Cloud Accelerator Lab, sponsored by Women in Cloud and designed to help women start businesses in the cloud. Why is this needed?
Only 2% of female tech entrepreneurs have captured cloud market share. There are a lot of programs out there that help women in the technology business, and while we mentor and help, we felt there was a need to take this initiative to the next level.
Women in Cloud inspires, empowers, and accelerates growth for women-led technology companies. We focus on digital transformation to provide digital access, digital capabilities, and connections to customers through leading cloud industry, community, and government partners. The Cloud Accelerator Lab enables female tech entrepreneurs to have access to two major distributors which will make it easy for them to access customers, investments, and technology.
The Cloud Accelerator offers proven methodologies, resources, and tools to grow a business in the cloud, as well as access to Microsoft and Hewlett Packard go-to-market and incentive programs to build a cloud business. Of course, women also gain access to and learn from industry experts by engaging with our selected panel of coaches and mentors.
This program will help create the next generation of leaders in the tech industry, and I am very excited to be part of providing this access and opportunity for them.
Are there any early success stories you can share from the Cloud Accelerator Lab?
One success story would be with a company called Meylah. They approached HPE with an innovative idea to drive economic development through digital transformation. HPE created access to investments and people to develop a breakthrough cloud solution using hybrid IT architecture, which drives the acceleration of tourism in every city.
Offering HPE and Microsoft partnerships, we were able to bring an innovative solution to market in less than 3 months. The Cloud Accelerator program is creating similar access for 15+ companies over a six month period.
How can we encourage women to stay in technology?
I am not sure it’s so much about encouraging women to stay, but rather about taking initiative with our male allies to change the environment so that women feel more welcome in tech.
What advice would you give to new peers just getting started in technology fields?
Whatever you think you know, you don’t. Tech is an ever-changing, dynamic field and you need to re-invent and re-imagine yourself and everything else constantly.
Be part of the change to move it forward, embrace it, and learn how to shape it, not control it. Share everything you can along the way, and don’t be afraid to take bold risks.
»Read next: an interview with Julia Davis, CIO at Aflac, Is your IT team ready for what comes next?