In Converation – An Interview with Judy Arteche-Carr, CEO of Arteche Global Group

By: Karen Morris, Board Member, The Global Sourcing Council; Chair, GSC Women’s Empowerment Committee

A new features column has been added to The Source. In Conversation, a monthly profile of people actively engaged in sourcing who share their unique and personal insights, and views on trending events. In our inaugural profile The Source is pleased to speak with Judy Arteche-Carr, the highly esteemed thought leader in IT and ICT from a triumvirate of perspectives: commercial, economic policy and academic.

Morris (Q): At In Conversation we are inaugurating from “the start “, the practice counseled by Julie Andrew’s character the novice Sister Maria in The Sound of Music…”Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to be.”

So our first question to interviewees and in this case to our inaugural interviewee is “What did you want to be when you grew up”.

Arteche-Carr (A): Karen, my response has an uncanny serendipity because I, and I happen to know, you too, wanted to be a “Maria” which is to say I wanted to be a nun with The Order of the Sisters of Mercy in Tacloban City where I grew up.

Q: Just as I wanted to enter the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a teaching order where I was educated. Apart from our strong Catholic heritage, what do you think inspired so many high performing academic girls four decades ago to gravitate towards Holy Orders?

A: Of course it was in good part being passionate about faith, but from the perspective of women in leadership, I think unconsciously we were attracted to the power, mystery and rather iconic status of nuns who, if I can put it this way, were in fact professional women and had a special standing. I think that was why they were inspiring. This goes, of course, to the larger issue of the value and significance of female role models and mentors.

Q: Did you have other inspirational women role models?

A: I can say unhesitatingly my mother. After my father’s tragic early death, I witnessed my mother as the strong, brave and loving person she is – evolve and adapt from being a housewife to sole breadwinner for 6 children ages 2-13 years old. Thank goodness, she had a degree in Pharmacy but, consistent with the mores of the time, had chosen not work when she got married. Courageous, resilient and proud (she did no want any handouts) she opted to sell insurance and became a top producer and eventually the Branch Manager of Philamlife Tacloban.

This is a real life reason why we must emphasize unrelentingly the importance of education and concomitant options for women and girls, whatever life choices they make.

Q: You are often invited to speak on leadership and coach executive leaders, are there other early experiences that form your perspective on leadership?

A: Well, my father was also a dominant figure in my life before he died. He was adamant that his daughters, as well as his sons, would be strong and flexible. I remember being dispatched to distant relatives far away for a long holiday. I must have been about seven. I was afraid and lonely, frankly terrified but that was when I made, let’s call it my first “leader-like” strategic choice, stay miserable or find the inner resources to adapt. I literally learned how to adapt through that experience and since then my professional trajectory has been one of adapting…..to new environments, different cultures and industries. I still remember returning home by myself on the airplane. It imbued me with a desire to be on the move, to discover diverse environments. Since early adulthood, I have traveled widely, professionally and personally. I get excited about diversity, in people, in outlook, in cultures. Opportunity resides very often in the new and different.

Q: Indeed, Judy, your career, which turned out not to be in a religious order, has been marked by some bold, out of the ordinary decisions. There you were, a young, diminutive Philippine/ Asian woman with a career evolving from Children’s Television Workshop (Sesame Street) and then you chose to go to the testosterone turbo charged world of US investment banking. First the famous/ infamous Salomon Brothers now part of Citigroup, then JP Morgan, now JP Morgan Chase. Tough playing fields, why?

A: Karen, I love challenges and had just finished my MBA in Finance so I wanted to experience what it was like to work in this environment. Interviews were tough and extensive (10 in one day) and I was offered a job within the week. It was a great experience both from a substantive learning point of view and another exercise in adaptability to an unabashedly male run world.

Q: The Oscar nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street has, across a spectrum of opinion, either caricatured or captured the chauvinism of Financial Services Sector in the latter part of the twentieth century. Judy, did you encounter discrimination and or gender bias as a woman?

A: Yes, I did. Are there women who report otherwise?

Q: Yes.

A: Strange.

Q: Yes, very but research establishes that either not recognizing or not reporting discrimination is quite common even in the face of indisputable empirical evidence that the person experienced it.

A: Well I did, and it was pretty explicit but I was determined not to be stopped by it. Something we had to contend with as the minority or even as the “only” woman at the table was the phenomenon of becoming “one of the boys” as we rose up the hierarchy. This meant you sat in meetings during which men expressed unadulterated engendered comments or made excruciatingly dreadful jokes about other women. The double bind was what to do or say about it.

As I ascended the hierarchy, I was able to make the business case for diversity and inclusion even before those words were in our vocabulary. But, ingrained behaviors are hard to change with reason.

Q: Was that why you made a dramatic move out of Finance into technology?

A: No, not at all. I made the change because I wanted to be in a fast moving innovative environment and I guess I saw the combined impact of globalization and technology as the future.

Q: Well you were prescient about those macro trends. Did anything surprise you?

A: I did not expect the technology firms in India to leverage what they had from the Year 2000 projects to become big global firms. However, the good thing is that competition was and is healthy for the industry. And eventually other countries followed like the Philippines.

Q: In turn, I seem to remember you surprised a few people in an interview you gave to The Economist, a few years maybe before the establishment of The GSC, in which you said in stark contrast to popular pundits that the US would be one of the top 10 sourcing countries.

A: Yes, I predicted 10 years ago that the US would eventually be one of the outsourcing “destinations”. It happened faster than this with more outsourcing going back to the US and “then depressed” cities offering alternative sourcing solutions.

Q: In your story there are consistent themes which as strategic innovation specialists we associate with innovation such as informed risk taking, experimentation, adaptability to change, trend identification and acting on it and a certain optimistic lens on change.

A: I have always been an optimist about the use of technology in business and how it can transform our lives for the better. I have heard you quote Darwin at GSC events around innovation and so now I paraphrase him back. It’s not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most intelligent, it’s the ones most adaptable to change.

One of the reasons why I moved to a tech firm was I saw an opportunity inherent in the differing pace of evolution and adoption within their client companies. Those least adaptable to change would need to turn to the tech provider firms who could offer a competitive advantage in terms of costs and productivity.

Moreover, while tech continues to evolve at a rapid exponential rate driven by the consumer market and start-ups, and sourcing strategies will continue to demand constant innovation.

Q: What do you think about our information age world of endless data?

A: In my opinion, we have too much data and have to harness what we just need in business. Even in our personal lives, we need to filter what’s important and be more disciplined with deleting data not needed. It’s like getting rid of clutter in your home.

Q: You can lay claim to many accolades but which is most precious to you?

A: I am honored to be acknowledged and recognized as one of the 50 Outstanding Asian Americans in Business selected from diverse organizations including Fortune 500 Companies.

I am an advocate for women to be recognized for their talent and work and especially mentoring young women, and somewhat to my surprise lately, mentoring young men too. I am on the advisory boards and member of SIM Women, Womensphere and, of course, The GSC Women’s Empowerment Committee.

Q: Is innovation a leadership attribute and if so what is it?

A: Innovation for me means consciously examining and changing the way you think and act, modifying behaviors to deal with the way the world is changing. It’s a question of mindset as much as anything else.

The problem I encounter within our industry that most suppresses innovation is simply fear of change or nervousness based on snippets of information.

Q: Does innovation pervade sourcing? Should it?

A: Global sourcing is part of many companies’ strategy. This very fact represents a business model innovation for some. For others it is part of the architecture of how they do business and the question is how to make it better. However, some of the big firms and advisors need to move forward with more confidant innovative practices. It’s not easy with political debate and things like security breaches in the news but we need courageous solutions.

Q: What do you think the future holds for you?

A: I plan to actively be involved in not-for-profit activities, continue to be a global ambassador of change and keep up with how the world is evolving. Futurists have predicted that technology will no longer be hardware and software, gadgets and such, they will be embedded in our DNA. I agree and we are moving towards that.

About Judy Arteche-Carr: Judy is CEO of Arteche Global Group and is a strategic advisor to global companies, CXOs, and governments focused on business strategies, global sourcing and emerging technologies. She has worked with management teams in the transformation of organizations and business alignment to IT at Salomon Brothers (Citigroup), JP Morgan (JPMC), Electronic Data Systems (HP), and Unisys. She is an occasional adjunct professor on global IT at the Fordham University Business School in New York and a frequent speaker at global conferences. She is also Chairperson Emeritus, Society for Information Management (SIM), New York and Management Council, SIM International.

About the Author: Karen Morris is a strategic advisor to national and multinational companies. She is also a frequent speaker and writer on innovation and leadership at global forums and conferences around the world.

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