Women Worth Watching 2015
Autotrader’s Senior Director Believes in Working Hard and Giving Back
As senior director of Autotrader’s technology project management office, Carolyn Pleiss leads project managers and elevates the project management discipline across the Technology department through process development and training. Prior to serving in her present position, Carolyn worked as a project management consultant, working with clients such as The New York Times Company, Trader Publishing Company, and The Boston Globe.
With more than 15 years of experience in information technology, and business operations and strategy, her specialties include strategic planning, portfolio management, project and program management, process and methodology development, and software development lifecycle.
“Invest in relationships. They are the currency by which everything gets accomplished.”
“Being a woman in my profession has been challenging,” said Carolyn. “Regularly the only woman in the room, I found that my skills and abilities were often underestimated. However, I have had fabulous male role models and mentors who have supported and encouraged my career growth in addition to a wonderful support group of women in the industry who are always giving me new perspectives.
Carolyn has a passion for volunteering and gives back to the community by lending her talents to several nonprofit organizations. The Georgia-based organization, Women in Technology, named her one of their “Women of the Year in Technology” in 2013.
Carolyn holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Creighton University and a certificate in project management from the Project Management Institute.
Education: BA in English, Creighton University
First Job: quality assurance (QA) manager
What I’m Reading: “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel. As a former English major, I still really enjoy diving into a good story.
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
…excellent communication skills. This includes listening as well as speaking/writing. When you can understand what motivates a person or what they need, you can more easily support and enable them.
The career advice I’d give my former self:
Invest in relationships. They are the currency by which everything gets accomplished. Be curious. Take every opportunity to learn new things. And, keep working hard—even if you don’t get the recognition you believe you should. It may be frustrating, but you know what you’re capable of.
Words I live by:
Do the scary things. Most meaningful things that I have accomplished initially scared me to death.
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
…I would seek out more opportunities to shine. I have always avoided self-promotion, feeling that if I just did an excellent job and was a strong team player, people would take notice. But, those things are a given. It takes exposure to move up the ladder.
When I really need to focus on a project, I…
…block time on my calendar and book an empty conference room. My office can sometimes be distracting, and the change in scenery helps me to shift my mind from the craziness of the day to day.
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…leading the Agile Transformation effort for my current company. This massive overhaul of how our teams develop products has ultimately been embraced by all levels with tangible results, which has been very gratifying. From this effort, I’ve learned the value of identifying a problem and taking action to solve it—whether or not the problem falls within the bounds of my role.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…challenging. Regularly the only woman in the room, I found that my skills and abilities were often underestimated. However, I have had fabulous male role models and mentors who have supported and encouraged my career growth in addition to a wonderful support group of women in the industry who are always giving me new perspectives.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…learning. When you learn from your mistakes, they become valuable tools rather than cringe-inducing memories. I regularly analyze how I could have done something better, which allows me to improve constantly.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…practicing yoga, reading and spending time with my family. I have two daughters, and it is a joy just watching them blossom into confident and accomplished women.
I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…
…I started out in business analysis. I knew technology was the place for me because I was constantly learning new things—new tools and platforms as well as various aspects of our business. Technology provided me with a variety of exciting challenges so I was always learning new things.