A head for numbers, big-picture thinking and the ability to let go of day-to-day perfectionism fuelled Karen Stocks' rise to the role of head of mobile and social at Google. Her story is the third in our Power Women series.
If Karen Stocks wasn't heading up sales for mobile and social at Google, she'd be stationed track-side 24/7 watching the Shumachers and Hamiltons of the world burn rubber.
"I would love to spend a year working with Formula One teams and traveling to every race," reveals Stocks. "I'm a big fan and am currently reading Bernie Ecclestone's biography. How cool would it be for a woman to be running F1?"
Pretty cool and, if Stocks' track record is anything to go by, entirely possible. From childhood, her family instilled in her the conviction that she could do anything she wanted to do – an attitude which gave her the confidence to take big risks, and to succeed.
Applying for her previous role as head of YouTube and Display when she had zero experience in display advertising was one example. "I just knew I could figure it out and make it successful because I was a quick learner," she says.
Promoted last year to her new role, the commercially-minded mother-of-two loves to throw herself in the deep end and has always been open to new experiences. "I never had clear direction," she says. "I kept my eyes open and took roles that I believed held new challenges for me and where I could have an impact."
Prior to Google, Stocks worked for 12 years at Vodafone, rising from business analyst to general manager. But her training wasn't in technology or media. Stocks studied accounting at university and is a certified practising accountant – something she pursued because she loved maths.
Turns out the financial training has been her silver bullet, even working in the colourful and dynamic world of new media. "Having a commercial background has proven to be very useful. When people look at your resume and decide whether you have the skills and experience for the role, a strong commercial background provides a strong sense of a robust business mind and commercial acumen."
Stocks is an advocate for trying, even if it means failing – an approach she believes most women avoid. Insistence on perfection can be paralysing, and it's something which prevents many women from reaching the top of their games.
"Most women try to achieve the idea of perfection, but as I have progressed in my career I have discovered it's more important to focus and it's okay if something gets missed, as long as it's not your number one priority," she says.
"It's important to give yourself the space and scope to think strategically and not get caught up in the day-to-day business too much."
This mantra also applies to technology giants.
According to Stocks, the companies which will win the fast-paced new media race will be those that learn as they go, rather than those who sit back and wait.
B&T is celebrating female innovation and leadership at the inaugural Women in Media Awards at MAD Week on July 16. Click here to see who made the shortlist and to grab tickets to the event.
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