Partner content: My Thoughts on Innovation, Diversity, and Risk-Taking as a Female CEO

clock • 4 min read
Partner content: My Thoughts on Innovation, Diversity, and Risk-Taking as a Female CEO

I'm extremely passionate about innovation. It's one of the reasons I joined Corel; I saw a huge opportunity to take an umbrella of trusted brands and products that are loved by so many customers and make them even better.

Being a tech company, product innovation is critical; but to drive overall success, innovation also needs to extend to how you structure and organize your teams and cultivate your company's culture. If you want to build a successful business, the data on the value of diversity is clear: Diverse teams make better decisions, which leads to better business outcomes. When you build diverse and inclusive teams, the organization's profits, innovation, and productivity all go up.

Since I joined in the fall of 2020, Corel has hired three additional female executives in the roles of Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Legal Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer. I'm extremely proud that we are a unique example of a tech business that is both led by a female CEO and features 50/50 gender parity in the C-suite.

In order to build a successful company, it's also essential to create a culture where risk taking is not just encouraged—it's rewarded. I also know that if I want people to put themselves out there, I must lead by example. Fostering a culture of innovation and risk-taking takes consistent drive across the organization. We can't go halfway and then chicken out; we need to be committed to our vision and values.

One way I've tried to do this is to increase transparency and implement 360 feedback across our leadership team. I endeavor to create an environment where every person in the organization feels empowered to be radically candid with the leaders in the organization.

To that end, I host a virtual all-company meeting each month. I spend about 15 minutes summarizing important updates and decisions and the "why" behind them, and the rest of the meeting is open to questions.

These questions (which can be submitted anonymously) put top employee concerns, feedback, and ideas on my radar, so I know what issues the leadership team needs to solve. Perhaps most importantly, this feedback helps me reduce the number of plates I have spinning in the air, so to speak, so I can focus on my most important responsibility as CEO: making decisions that only I can make.

By opening myself up to this type of feedback, I show the organization that we are honest, transparent, and authentic. We may not always have the answer to every question, but we don't hide from the tough issues, and we tackle the team's concerns head on—something our employees tell us they really value.

Ultimately, this commitment to transparency not only makes our workplace more enjoyable, but also enables us to create a customer-first culture that drives product innovation. As we've all weathered the storm of the last 18 months, it's never been more important for our teams to be nimble and responsive in how we design our products, get them to market, and most importantly, find new ways to drive success for our channel partners and customers who depend on our software.

Whether we're keeping people connected with new collaboration capabilities, empowering work from anywhere with remote access tools and virtualized environments, or revamping our channel partner program, you'll see our commitment to innovation reflected across all aspects of our business.

As CEO, I believe in putting innovation at the center of what we do while embracing a "One Corel" approach, where every employee is encouraged to focus on the success of the entire company; not just their brand or department. This commitment is reflected throughout our business, offering our people a more enriching and satisfying place to work, while delivering maximum value to our business partners and customers.

Christa Quarles, chief executive officer

Christa Quarles is CEO and Board Member of Corel. With over two decades of experience leading companies and spearheading financial and operational initiatives, Christa's known for her transparent leadership style, passion for customer experience, and fierce commitment to innovation. 

Christa previously served as CEO of OpenTable where she drove transformational change and meaningful growth across the company. She also held the roles of Chief Business Officer of Nextdoor and Senior Vice President, Interactive Games at The Walt Disney Company. 

Christa currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Affirm and Kimberly-Clark. She received a BS in Economics and German from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

This guest blog is part of a CRN UK sponsorship.

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