This is one out of five stories in the Utah Valley BusinessQ series “Women at Work.”
A week before our interview, Carine Clark had a career-changer.
Her South Jordan-based Allegiance merged with St. Louis-based Maritz Research, catapulting Clark from the CEO of 100 employees to the CEO of 900. Overnight.
It was so not just another day at the office.
Meetings were many, employees were energetic and spare seconds were scarce. The walls — green with rebranding — were bouncing with balloons. And Clark — who has an enviable resume at local legends like Novell, Altiris and Symantec — was in the middle of it all. Excited.
“Don’t you just love the green?” she asked, while we were testing light for her photo at the new MaritzCX headquarters. “Change is fun.”
Clark’s candor is fun, too, as we learned in an interview she didn’t have time for — but happily gave anyway.
Find out the reason she lives every day like she’s going to be fired and why she thinks being a woman in business should be simultaneously celebrated and ignored.
The drawing board
In college, Carine Clark had a major issue.
“I was always a good student. I did everything I was told,” she says. “I was going to be a design major. I love to draw — still do. But the design world is extremely competitive. I loved it so much, I didn’t want to be competitive at it. I just wanted it to be mine.”
So, Clark chose marketing and communications. She loved the business side of it. But then she graduated with a case of “now what?”
“If you graduate in nursing, you become a nurse. If you graduate in accounting, you become an accountant. If you graduate in communications you become a … communicator? I was terrified,” she says.
Clark decided to get her MBA (“just like my dad did”), but that ended as quickly as it began.
“A teacher told me I wasn’t smart enough to do it. I dropped out that day. Being told I couldn’t do something fueled me to make changes,” she says. “I should send that teacher a box of chocolates. I would if I could remember his name.”
Clark interviewed for jobs at Novell and WordPerfect — and got offers from both on the same day.
“I chose Novell,” she says. “It’s where my instincts told me to go. And I’ve got great instincts.”
She worked at Novell for 14 years and was as loyal as they come. (During that time, she also completed BYU’s Executive MBA program, thank you very much.)
In April 2002, her career crumbled.
“They fired me. I loved that place. It’s all I had ever known since college, and if they hadn’t fired me, I’d still be there today,” she says. “I went home sucker-punched that the place I adored didn’t want me anymore.”
She was six months pregnant at the time.
“I had no idea what I was going to do. My son, who was 8, asked me if we were going to have enough food to eat. And trust me — you’re never prepared for a question like that from your kid. It will break your heart.”
The next morning, Clark woke up with a renewed focus.
“I asked myself, ‘How good are you, really?’”
[pullquote]“Taking the job at Altiris changed my life. People look at that and think, ‘Well, she took the golden path.’ But when you feel like you can be fired every single day, you make the right choices — you lay your own golden bricks.” —Carine Clark, CEO MaritzCX[/pullquote]
On the market(ing)
Unemployment lasted a month. (Turns out she was good. Really.)
“I had CEO and CMO job offers. And then the founder of a little company called Altiris phoned me. Jan Newman said, ‘Hey, come work for me.’ I said, ‘Doing what?’ He said, ‘Who cares?’”
Newman told Clark there were no senior executive positions. He wanted her in marketing, and the money wasn’t good.
“It was the worst job on the list of jobs,” she says. “But I turned to my husband and said, ‘I’m supposed to go to Altiris.’”
Other people didn’t think so.
“My friends were like, ‘You’re pregnant! You’ve lost your mind!’ No one trusted me. But I’m telling you — I’ve got the instincts.”
She’s not kidding.
Clark played a key role in establishing Altiris as a global brand and growing revenues from $62 million to $230 million in a four-year period.
“When I first took the job, I sat in a cubicle in the middle of the sales department,” she says. “I wanted to learn how they sold the product, so I sat there and listened to them all day long.”
And when Symantec, the second largest software company in the world, acquired Altiris in 2007, she was named CMO and led the rebranding of the firm globally.
“Taking the job at Altiris changed my life,” she says. “People look at that and think, ‘Well, she took the golden path.’ But when you feel like you can be fired every single day, you make the right choices — you lay your own golden bricks.”
The big leagues
“Symantec was a great gig. It was a huge platform,” Clark says. “But the work never ends. They pay you that money because it’s punishing work. The world is always on alert — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And after six years, I was tired of being at DEFCON 1 all the time.”
While Clark was at Symantec, she was diagnosed with cancer — the “20 percent survival odds” kind of cancer.
She beat it. Aggressively. And it changed her life, her perspective and her career.
“After going through cancer, I knew I wanted a change,” she says. “Two years earlier, Adam Edmunds, the founder of Allegiance, asked me to come run his company. He wanted someone who could take it to the next level. Truthfully, I didn’t think I had those skills. I thought, ‘I can mow your lawn, but I can’t do topiaries.’”
Clark ultimately decided it didn’t matter. She knew how to work, so she came on board as CEO of Allegiance in January 2012.
“I had experience. I had great experience. I knew I could bring that, and I’d learn the rest,” she says. “Plus, it turns out the CEO gig is not much different than any other — take care of your people, and mind the business. Now I just want my business cards to say I’m the queen.”
Clark knew she needed to make her mark.
“I’m old. They’re young. I’m female. They’re male. I have pearls. They wear shower shoes,” she says. “I didn’t fit. So I met with every employee individually for 30 minutes. I made changes. I made my own place.”
And when Clark finished her cancer treatments six months after coming on as CEO, she came back from the Huntsman Cancer Center to find all 70 employees crammed into her office.
“Everyone was congratulating me and telling me how proud they were,” she says. “I earned my place. These people I didn’t know six months ago were now my people. It was pretty emotional.”
Three years later, and Clark’s people have grown by 800 with the transition to MaritzCX.
She’s going to need a bigger office.
“The fact I’m a woman comes up more than you’d think,” Clark says. “But I’m a leader first.”
So much so, that Clark forgets she’s often the only woman in a room.
“It’s funny. I’ve given presentations to a room of powerful executives, and I honestly don’t realize I’m the only woman until there’s a break and I head to the restroom alone. There’s 21 of them in the men’s room, and if there’s anything I want to talk to someone about, I have to wait.”
Clark typically only thinks about gender in the workplace when she’s asked (constantly) how she “does it all.”
“Being a working mom is tough. When you have a sick child, the father generally doesn’t have to take care of it. When you’re the mom, it’s on you. And that’s a distinct disadvantage for women,” she says. “Utah is ranked the worst place for working women, which is so sad to me. We have to change it.”
Changing the environment starts with changing the conversation. Though Clark acknowledges it’s a tricky line to walk.
“We need to celebrate when women get certain positions of leadership — we need to celebrate those role models because there aren’t enough of them. But landing the position can’t be about her being a woman — it needs to be about how she’s earned it.”
Clark says that’s just going to take time — and an innate belief that women can do anything.
“I have two highly evolved sons who grew up in a household with a strong mother. And they still see a female police officer and go, ‘What? Girls can’t be cops!’ That didn’t come from me. It’s what they’re exposed to in life. We need more women to believe they can move out of their comfort zones — there are some great jobs in discomfort zones.”
“Stop. Not helpful.”
“When people try to put their opinion on me — whether it’s about how I raise my family or how women shouldn’t work — I simply say, ‘Stop. Not helpful.’ And then I walk away. I don’t have time for that kind of negativity in my life,” Clark says. “People make you feel like you have to choose between your children and career. But everything I do — at home and at work — is for my family.”