Carey Jenkins had an unconventional path to CEO of Substantial, a Seattle-based digital product studio that has worked with companies like Amazon, Mercedes Benz, and the Wall Street Journal. In 2012, Carey joined the client services team, and six short years later she became the CEO. As the sixth female employee and first mother hired at Substantial, Carey is proud that Substantial has grown the female employee base to 37% overall and 40% on the leadership team, and she is committed to empowering other women to seize more leadership opportunities.
Beyond the excitement of graduating from college, many students wander out of the auditorium as lost souls. Their failure to recognize opportunity in disguise creates a void of purpose, but it is important to acknowledge that no one in history had a road map to success. Carey Jenkins’ story emphasizes the importance of framing adverse situations differently to become more resilient. Ironically, her success story is more of a collection of failures than successes, but in this episode of Absolute Advantage, she explains how a will to learn from them will only tear you down and rebuild you stronger.
Jenkins’ toolbox as a CEO includes project management, people management, writing, and public speaking, but not a single one of those skills came from her experience in one role or industry. They are the culmination of all her past experiences and failures, which led to greater opportunities that she was already prepared for. Jenkins faced many challenges climbing the ranks to become a female executive, but she made it to the top because of her capacity to lead and adapt to adversity—any one is capable when they start asking “why not me” instead of “why me.”
Throughout her journey, Jenkins was always hungry for feedback and coaching, but what set her apart was the ability to step into really uncomfortable situations and recognize her value to the company. This relentless mindset drove her to fight tooth and nail for the CEO position when the opportunity presented itself, and it proved that you can always pull yourself up if you’re prepared to do so.
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