Karen Quintos, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Dell, and Texas Conference for Women board member strongly believes that diversity is key to a company’s success, which is one reason she’s made a deliberate effort at Dell to help other women succeed through networking. Scroll down to listen to the full interview.
Q: How did your professional journey begin, and did you have a defining professional moment along the way?
A: My career is a bit unique in that I have worked across multiple industries and also multiple professions, so early on I spent about 12 years in the pharmaceutical industry working for Merck. I then spent three years working for Citigroup and then the last 13 here at Dell. I have had different positions, either in primarily customer-facing roles, sales roles, supply chain management operation roles, as well as marketing roles.
I think one of the big “aha” moments I’ve had as I moved across different industries is that great brands and great companies are maniacally focused on customers. It is always that focus on customers and the power that employees can deliver each and every day by standing and supporting their brand promise that makes great companies achieve their goals.
Q: What is the top piece of professional advice that you’ve received from a mentor, and do you think that that advice still applies in today’s business world?
I remember the very first management role that I was given. Actually, it was very early on in my career at Merck, and I was young. I remember going to my boss, who at that time was retiring, and I was taking on his responsibility. I said, “You have to tell me how am I going to manage this team? How am I going to lead these people? They are all older than me.” He said, “If you just continue to treat people the way you want to be treated and you always remember that, you will never fail as a leader.” I still tell people that these days. If you continue to remember that, good things always happen.
Q: What are your top three tips for a woman who is ready to make her next career move?
A: I would advise them to follow their passion and interest. I would advise them to always remember that it is the results that they deliver and the value that they are delivering back to the business that will continue to differentiate themselves to other peers. I would tell them to always put emphasis on building great relationships and building a strong network. I think that is especially true as you look to change companies, and that is especially true as you move up in the corporation. It becomes less of your functional knowledge and more around how you can build strong networks/relationships and influence people across multiple skillsets.
Q: You made a deliberate effort at Dell to help other women succeed through networking. Why are those efforts so important?
A: I fundamentally believe that at the end of the day, a diverse team—represented by people of different genders, different experiences, different cultures—is the one that is going to win. My passion around helping women is really twofold: one, I believe that women are given unique skillsets, especially collaboration and influencing. Women know how to work networks; women are masters at multitasking and have an uncanny sense of what the real needs are across a customer set. And secondly, I fundamentally believe that diversity is key; a diverse set of perspectives just makes companies better and teams better.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keep you refreshed and positive and going?
A: That’s pretty easy. It’s my family. I also believe a lot in work/life balance and prioritizing the things that matter in your life. I know that’s not always easy, and I know that there are many days where you find yourself traveling or consumed in a lot of what’s going on in the business. But I always take time to be with my husband and family, either on the phone or in the mornings or in the evenings. When I’m here in Austin, I prioritize my day: I almost never start before 8:00, and I am almost always out of the office by 5:00.And if people want to reach me, they can call me on my cellphone. I’ll make sure that I leave the office early so I can get to soccer games or be there for other special events for my children. So, it’s my family that keeps me honest, keeps me grounded and keeps me refreshed in my perspective around what really matters in life.
Interview by Karen Breslau