We had the opportunity to interview Carlien Parsons, Head of Digital at Cullinan Holdings one of the speakers at Women in Digital & Data Cape Town running on 21 November 2018.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it led to a career in digital?
I started my career working alongside digital and technology teams, but I was involved in product development in the travel industry (another great love of mine). I slowly inched closer to product marketing and eventually found my way to digital.
Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority, so why did you decide to pursue a career in digital?
Digital and technology always interested me. I love the pace of our industry, the ground-breaking innovation and the ever-changing landscape that keeps us on our toes.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in a male-dominated environment?
It can sometimes be a challenge to stand your ground or make your point. My biggest advice here is always to be prepared. Whether it’s for a quick connect or a board meeting, make sure that you’re never on the backfoot. You always need to be thinking proactively.
What has been the biggest surprise in your career?
How far down the priority list digital innovation is for most businesses and the overall lack of knowledge.
What are some of the skills we should be learning to be successful digital ambassadors?
Make sure you have technical depth of knowledge and stay up to date with the latest innovations and thought leadership. It’s important to hold your own on all topics related to digital and technology. Layer in a solid foundation of business management and understand the fundamentals of how digital is changing today’s businesses.
What can women in the workplace do today to help build the foundation for successful careers?
You have to be working twice as hard as everyone around you. You need be hungry for knowledge and never be afraid to try new concepts and strategies. Build a strong network of like-minded people around you as support and mentorship.
Digital transformation is something companies have been talking about for decades now. How to be part of the digital age? With the world growing and evolving as quickly as it does today, and new technology being made available daily, how does a business keep up with the ‘transformation’?
Digital transformation doesn’t necessarily always have to be happening on a big scale. Small innovations and changes can mean the world of difference. Unpack your most critical areas and find the opportunities for transformation within that. It can be daunting to see how quickly the landscape changes, but finding your own opportunities that fit your business will ensure you ‘move with the times’ at a pace that’s right for you.
What are three key pieces of advice that you would give to women in digital struggling with digital transformation?
Do not try and tackle it on your own. Find like-minded colleagues/connections on the same path as you and learn from each other.
Find the opportunities on a small scale – test your process and iterate from there.
Make sure you have a strong team in place to lead the change management.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to yours?
I’m a strong believer in the fact that you create your own destiny. If there’s an opportunity to grow that seems a bit challenging, do not doubt yourself. Know that you’re able to figure it out and make it your own. Do not second guess yourself or sit back and think you’ll rather wait for a better/safer opportunity to come around.
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women in the workplace?
Create a culture that supports personal development and the drive for excellence
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
Think with Google
Harvard Business Review
Fun fact about you?
I love baking cakes and cooking fantastic food.