Catalyst Conference 2016: Interview with Sandy Carter of IBM

  • By: joannafurlong
  • Posted:

Sandy is IBM’s Social Business Evangelist and General Manager Developer Ecosystem and Startups. View Sandy’s full bio here. We’ve booked more than three dozen luminary speakers for Catalyst! Reserve your ticket here. You can grab a ticket here – use code GIT25 to save on your ticket. See you in Phoenix!

What will you be speaking about at the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference?

I’ll be speaking about the latest trends around cognitive computing and how it will impact jobs in the future – particularly for women.

What did you want to be “when you grow up” as a kid?

I actually wanted to be a doctor! I went to Duke to do all the pre-med courses. In one class I had to dissect a living creature. We had to anesthetize them – and I passed out! Well, the next time we did it, I passed out again. It turns out I am allergic to most types of anesthesia, and it would be difficult to be a doctor passing out in front of your patients. I was absolutely crushed. But, I had a meeting with my guidance counselor who happened to be the head of the computer science department. He explained that I could use my medical interests in the field of computers, like using computer programming to test drugs instead of testing on animals.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I meet with a lot of startups and accelerators. I have a global team, so I may be meeting with India in the evening, China in the morning, Europe in the middle of the day. In total, I manage about 400 people.

You’ve won numerous awards and have been noted to be a top growth hacker, a top social marketing master, an expert direct marketer, etc. The list goes on. Really, how do you do it all?

I don’t do it all. I pick and choose what is most impactful. And I have a great time doing it. I rely heavily on my team – I have a mighty team. They do things that I can’t get to or simply can’t do, or they sometimes do it all.

You refer to yourself as an “Energizer Bunny” on Twitter and elsewhere. What’s your secret?

I always make sure I am doing things that I love. If you love something you get immersed in it. I love my team. I love my work. If you love what you do, it makes it easy.

How can women best support other women, in tech and in general?

I would love for there to be more angel investors, for women to support each other through angel or VC funding. 75% of women by 2020 will own most of all household budgets. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it. Yet, only 6% of women are VCs. We’re buying all these products that are owned and run by men. It doesn’t seem right. There are funds out there that make investing accessible and I think that’s really important.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned along the way in your career?

Relationships are the most important. And taking risks is important. Being bold is important. A lot of people don’t take the risks they should. They get held back because of it. If I had to go back and do it again, I’d take even more risks.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself that it’s okay to be nervous, to be scared, but just do it, and take more risks.

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in tech—despite your massive success?

I feel I have to work harder and excel more in order to be taken seriously. There can be a feeling of isolation. It’s not that anyone is necessarily mean, it’s just that you don’t always feel like a part of the team.

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