Carolyn Parent: “Everyone is a Mentor”

I struggled with this my entire career as I put work, family, friends ahead of prioritizing my health. I am a big list maker and putting myself on the list has always been a challenge. It was only when I truly accepted that to be the best worker, mother, wife, friend, that I needed to […]

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I struggled with this my entire career as I put work, family, friends ahead of prioritizing my health. I am a big list maker and putting myself on the list has always been a challenge. It was only when I truly accepted that to be the best worker, mother, wife, friend, that I needed to be healthy that I could actually make that a priority. I wish I learned that earlier.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Parent.

Carolyn Parent has spent more than 20 years in the digital, mobile, and technology industries as an entrepreneur and sales leader. As CEO and President of LiveSafe, Carolyn is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the mobile safety and risk company. Since joining LiveSafe in 2015, Carolyn has scaled every aspect of the company, growing the company from just 12 employees to 50 and increasing annual revenues 10X. In 2019, LiveSafe was ranked 176 in North America on the Deloitte Fast 500 list. Carolyn serves on the Boards of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), ShopAdvisor, ZippSlip and GO Virginia Council. A member of The Leadership Foundry, Carolyn was recognized in 2016 by WIT with the Corporate Small Market Sector award. In 2019, Carolyn was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Mid-Atlantic winner, and a third time Washingtonian Tech Titan. Carolyn is a graduate of Villanova University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My grandfather was a salesman, my father started in sales then had a career as a sales manager and then executive and CEO. I grew up sitting around the dinner table discussing deals, management philosophies and business plans. While most kids talked about sports and school, I had an early education in business and was lucky to be mentored daily by my family. We moved eight times growing up for my father’s career as he led different organizations and were so lucky to be exposed to so many brilliant businesspeople who shared their skills and experience with us. My brother started out in sales and became a CEO. My grandmother said we were vaccinated with a phonograph needle as we all love to talk and we loved working with people, so I guess you could say that my path was formed by my family and the work they did.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was an account executive for a large software company managing a few Fortune 500 accounts, our user conference was having a keynote with Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, as the speaker. At that time my company was the third largest software company and Microsoft was the number one. I came up with the idea to have a brief meeting with Bill Gates, my client and our CEO 15 minutes before he went on stage to address the crowd. Even though there were many tiers of management between me and the CEO, I approached his office and pitched it. What I learned was that CEOs love being with clients and welcome the chance to help. He agreed, the meeting was set and at a very young age I was in a room with two of the most powerful people in the software industry, a few other executives and my client. That meeting resulted in a large sale for us as my client got to hear directly from the top software leaders, where their companies were going and how they saw an opportunity to help support their big customers. Bringing the right people together to engage sincerely in supporting each other’s needs is 90% of the process to success. I learned that early and it has really had an impact on how I approach business and relationships. Having the courage to propose an idea (take advantage of an opportunity — like them all being in the same location) and ask for help — even from the highest levels in your organization — showed me what was possible. I took that lesson forward in many aspects of my life: be bold, innovative, ask for help and engage others sincerely.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been fortunate to have many amazing people who have helped me: female executives that have led the way in mentoring and sponsoring me, teachers who helped me find my passion for the written word, managers who taught me business skills and investors who supported me with financial backing and counsel. The greatest influence by far has been my parents. I was lucky to be born into a family that raised me to believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. My father’s leadership in how he worked with his teams, supporting his businesses and his family, had a profound impact on me. My mother’s career and compassion had a major influence on how I worked and lived. I was very lucky. One of my favorite quotes by Edsel Ford, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give, he believed in me,” holds true for me. Growing up with that kind of belief instilled in me — a courage to try and be my very best.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am so fortunate to work for a mission-based company that is trying to make the world a safer place. I hold that very close to my heart since a huge part of my life is work. So to be able to come in every day to a growth-based tech company who is focused on preventing bad things from happening and helping people is my true definition of goodness. I love that our team works to help people and companies reduce risk and harm and be safe. I am passionate about women and technology and support several groups in getting young females who are interested in STEM aligned with programs and mentors to help get them on great tech career tracks. We are an equestrian family and support therapeutic equine programs for people with physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. The healing power of horses is an amazing thing to watch and very powerful.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Never underestimate the impact you can have on others.

I had a young man I worked with contact me four years after I left a company. He asked to take me to lunch to thank me. He had been in our IT dept and asked for some advice from me as I was on the executive team. He shared his interest in clients and in technology and I got him an opportunity in our pre-sales support team. He leveraged that in the coming years to a sales role and then senior account manager role where he had tripled his income, managed huge clients and loved his work. He thanked me and said our meeting and my help changed his life and his family’s. Never underestimate the value or impact you can have on others even if it is not readily obvious in the moment.

Believe others who see your worth.

When I was nominated for Women of the Year for Women in Technology and for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, I didn’t invite my family to the ceremony. I told them, it’s my first year, I am not going to win, it takes several years and nominations and I am just humbled and honored to be included. When I won, the first thing I said when I accepted my award was — my mother is going to kill me though she’s not here :). I was shocked and truly humbled that I won, yet no one else was. The other nominees, my team, my family, friends, peers — everyone thought it was well deserved. Sometimes you are your own worst critic and need to believe in what others see in you.

Fearlessness makes many people threatened, don’t resent that, make it work for you.

Often in my career as I have reached out to do new and disruptive things peers have given direct or indirect feedback that I should just stay in my lane, keep heads down and don’t “do new.” This was particularly true in the early part of my career. I got great advice that I should not resent that, but appreciate that everyone had a different perspective and as I built and challenged myself to grow new initiatives I should always keep in mind how they could benefit everyone — even if early on not everyone wanted to take the risk. Many of the things I created got deployed company wide and peers and clients benefited. Just because some don’t want to take the risk early on in a journey with you doesn’t mean the result shouldn’t help the entire team. Make your focus to do good for all and trust the recognition and reward will find its way to you as a result.

Your personal health and well-being is important and deserves to be a priority.

I struggled with this my entire career as I put work, family, friends ahead of prioritizing my health. I am a big list maker and putting myself on the list has always been a challenge. It was only when I truly accepted that to be the best worker, mother, wife, friend, that I needed to be healthy that I could actually make that a priority. I wish I learned that earlier.

Get yourself a great tribe of female leaders that will be true friends and give you honest advice.

I never could have imagined how important my tribe, all of whom I met in my professional career, were going to be in helping, supporting and guiding me in my business and personal life. Finding people who are genuinely happy for your success, give you frank and honest feedback and support you when you fail is one of life’s greatest gifts and a critical necessity to your success and happiness.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire a movement called Give Back — Everyone is a Mentor. Starting from 1st grade having every person give back an hour a week to a person 1–2 years behind them. Every single person has experiences that can be shared and the idea that everyone helps at least one person one hour a week — talking, listening. Often people think of mentors with decades of experience ahead of them but if we instill early on that everyone has something to share or help throughout their life then we could bring a culture of giving, kindness, help and engagement. Senior citizens could help, professionals, families, college kids, teenagers — everyone in society has something to give and support especially to those a few years behind them and I believe the best feeling for yourself comes when you are helping someone else — even if it’s just listening to them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Run a good race. My father always said Run a good race, meaning give it your very best and be satisfied with that. In business the success is not always immediate, and the challenges are daily so it is easy to get discouraged or overly critical of yourself or your progress. Every night I ask myself if I gave it the best I had — regardless of the outcome and have come to learn to get more comfortable with that. As we deal with the challenges in the economy, the pandemic, the social unrest it is easy to become overwhelmed and stressed and that doesn’t help. When those pressures and thoughts appear, anchoring back to — are we executing on our plan, are we adapting and supporting our team and our clients, are we doing everything we can — are we running a good race — helps ground me and keep me focused on the work and the execution. It’s a simple quote but we are all dealing with not just surviving but thriving and that is a long-term marathon game and keeping centered on doing our best daily helps keep me focused on the right things.

Can you tell us about the technological breakthroughs that LiveSafe is working on? How do you think that will help people, especially amidst this pandemic?

LiveSafe is the first company to focus exclusively on employee sourced information for the prevention of incidents and harm. Our technology enables companies and universities to get data and insight from their employees and students that doesn’t exist anywhere else and leverage that data through communications channels and AI to predict upcoming risks and harm empowering the safety, HR, and risk teams to prevent those things before they hurt the people and the business. The react and respond model is an old model. PREVENTION changes the equation and keeps people safe. Your people know where the potential risk, exposure, and threats are that threaten the safety and wellbeing of your organization and our technology is purpose built to uncover that information, engage your employees, and make that information actionable to help keep everyone safe and avoid costly incidents.

The pandemic is not an immediate crisis like a hurricane or active shooter. It is a long, steady, stream of employee engagement and communication over months and quarters. Preventing exposure, preventing spread, reducing your risk and liability require an employee communication engagement platform like LiveSafe to get insights from your people and share information with them around the constantly changing health conditions of the pandemic. We started with updating hundreds of our client apps with CDC information and then their own company policies. Today, we are offering powerful health screening tools to get people back to work safely and efficiently. We now can offer health check-ins or embedded health attestation surveys, both of which produce observable and verifiable results that show if somebody is healthy enough to come to work each day.

Our platform is purpose built for addressing this type of pandemic challenge, as today’s workforce is more spread out and daily insights on the health and well-being of your people can be difficult to ascertain. The risks posed by a highly contagious disease as people come back to the office demand the need for an employee engagement platform like ours.

How do you think the WorkSafe app might make a positive change?

We built our mobile safety and employee communication platform six years ago on this premise — People are good, given the right tools and ease of use, they will do the right thing, share information, and ask for help for the protection of themselves and the benefit of others they work with. We can empower that information and use it to communicate back out to help the entire organization be safe and avoid harm. That has proven to be true, with 4 million people on the platform, including Fortune 50 companies down to organizations with 100 people, all using it to communicate for the purpose of improving safety and security, and preventing bad things from happening.

COVID 19 can currently only be stopped by people taking action — social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks, quarantining if exposed. Our platform is designed for people taking action, sharing information and receiving information from their companies. It is purpose-built for this type of pandemic challenge.

By people doing daily health attestation surveys before they leave their house to come to work and getting a green check or red x from the platform, we are reducing exposure in lobbies and offices with at risk employees. Our technology is actively helping to prevent exposure to COVID-19. By employees using our app/web to communicate overcrowding in elevators, need for hand sanitizers in the office, unsafe conditions, mental health concerns — companies can proactively address situations before they become problems — mitigating risk and spread. As new information becomes available about quarantines, exposure, policies, companies can easily update and share that with employees via the platform, keeping everyone on the same page and informed in a highly dynamic environment. This is a perfect example of leveraging your best asset — your people — to mitigate your risk. We empower the entire workforce via their phone or computer to keep the community safe.

What led you and your company to develop WorkSafe? Can you tell us that story?

Our clients have been using our LiveSafe platform for employee engagement to mitigate risk around security, facilities, mental health, insider threat, and safety issues for six years. When the pandemic hit, we listened carefully to our customers who needed the platform to be updated with pandemic information. We realized immediately that was an urgent need for self-attestation health surveys. Some of our largest clients — the biggest hospitals, financial institutions, insurance companies, and logistics companies in the nation had employees in offices, in the field and they needed a way to get them back to work safely.

Since our LiveSafe platform is purpose built for prevention, employee engagement and risk intelligence, we quickly configured a module on our LiveSafe platform exclusively for COVID-19 and called it WorkSafe. We brought it to market in a few weeks and it was immediately deployed by some of our largest clients who had critical workers in the field. We then saw a big need for companies of all sizes to get their workers back to work safely, so we launched an ecommerce site so organizations could quickly get access to WorkSafe. To support main street America, we offered a free small business package (for one location) to help the restaurants and retailers who are vital to our communities and need help. We believe we all have a critical role to play in getting our country and our economy back to work as safely as possible.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about? Is employee privacy an issue?

Our platform was built six years ago, mobile first, privacy first. We have been supporting financial institutions, stock exchanges, healthcare companies, public utility and energy companies and some of the most sophisticated global companies around the world for quite some time and are compliant with privacy and security regulations. We offer anonymous reporting by the employee in the platform and we never track or store location data. The control of what information is shared is controlled by the individual employee. We believe that a safe, private environment for people to engage in sharing safety information is critical and have designed our solutions from the ground up with those principles. That is the reason we have the highest engagement rate in the industry.

In your opinion, what does the future of workplace safety look like post-coronavirus?

While we all hope for more available testing and a vaccine as soon as possible, the workforce will be forever changed. On a positive note, the pandemic has ushered in a wave of human engagement, people being more situationally aware and conscious of their actions and those of others to keep the workplace safe. Masks, cleaning stations, temperature checks, distanced desks and more attention to office hygiene will continue. I think the days of open office space and the majority of the workforce being in office will be shifted to more of a hybrid design, and remote work will become more of the norm for businesses that can support it.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Articles like this one certainly help :) — thank you. Our best growth has come for customer referrals. The concept of crowd sourced (employee sourced) safety data to prevent incidents — not the traditional emergency notification model of react and respond to a crisis — has been our mission and our clients and partners have helped us lead this new category. To get widespread adoption, C-suite executives, HR and Risk Professionals need to engage in leading their organizations with support from their Security teams to make employee engagement and communication around safety a priority. We are seeing more of this occur as the pandemic has put employee safety as a top priority. Knowing how to effectively engage your workforce, gain their trust in sharing information, supporting them in their safety concerns is our exclusive focus. The time is now, as the pandemic has made employee engagement imperative to conducting business and to business continuity. Ease of use in the app/web, the right content at the right time, and predictive analytics highlighting risk — all of these things we specialize in are purpose built to help with the challenges the pandemic brings to businesses and campuses.

Our new Connect collaboration solution available in July will enable our clients to communicate around COVID-19 and other safety issues externally with their peers outside of their company and this will help bring more people into the LiveSafe/WorkSafe community.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our clients have been tremendous in sharing the work that they are doing. Our podcasts with major industry leaders in SHRM and IACLEA and our recent whitepapers on Back to Work, Back to School Safety have helped publicize the impact on the work we are doing to help in the pandemic.

Our Prevention Podcast series has been a very powerful promotional tool for us. It’s now in its third season and has had more than 15,000 listeners because we talk to industry experts and professionals about the work being done on the front lines of risk intelligence and safety incident prevention. The podcast is now actually driving leads into our sales pipeline. Likewise, we do not do anything on the thought leadership front that can’t be used at least 3 times — either as a podcast, a video, a white paper, a case study, or a social media advertising campaign. This enables us to achieve message saturation in the market.

Some very well-known VCs and the biggest names in business read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The traditional model of reacting and responding to a crisis or incident is no longer viable. We have changed the equation to prevent these things from occurring by delivering a risk intelligence platform focused on employee intelligence, early warning indicators, and actionable data to reduce risk and harm to your business.

Innovators like Fred Smith, Barry Dillar, Dave Duffield, and Steve Case saw the value in our unique approach and invested in disrupting the market by democratizing employee-sourced safety information to help bring safer environments where we work, live and play. LiveSafe is the first technology company to focus on prevention, the best at employee engagement, and the only company delivering actionable risk intelligence that is human-sourced and AI delivered for preventing incidents, reducing liability and saving organizations money. Clients include major financial institutions, insurance companies, utilities, property management companies, universities and government. The largest security firms in the industry and compliance organizations have partnered with LiveSafe. Our new WorkSafe product is purpose built for supporting clients’ employee engagement to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Personal Accounts

Twitter: @CarolynJParent

LinkedIn: Carolyn J Parent

LiveSafe Accounts

Twitter: @livesafe

LinkedIn: LiveSafe

Facebook: /LiveSafePlatform

Instagram: @livesafe

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