Humans of Tech – Carrie MacGillivray

This month we’re proud to present this interview with the incomparable Carrie MacGillivray! Carrie is Group Vice President – IoT and Mobility Research at IDC. Carrie manages her team remotely across North America, has presented her insights across the globe, and has been recognized as a leader in her industry many times over.  

Why do you do what you do?

Good question…I’ve been doing this job for almost 15 years in various incarnations and every single day I learn something new. I work with a dynamic, globally dispersed group of industry thought leaders, innovators, and market leaders about next-generation gadgets and technology solutions that are yet to see the light of day.

I like the balance my job provides me. Sure, there’s the work-life balance (which often swings too far in favour of work), but I mean the balance between having a public persona who speaks on market trends to audiences around the world balanced by the persona who has one on one conversations with vendors and end users. I get to synthesize these two worlds and create market commentaries and forecasts about the future of technology. Balance comes in many forms – work/life, outward facing/internally focused, detailed/high level – and I feel that this job allows me to experience all of these.


What are the favourite aspects of what you do?

I still struggle with my elevator pitch of what I do because it is so diverse. Being an industry analyst is a unique space. I derive a lot of energy from all the variety my job affords me – getting up in the morning and not knowing how the day is going to shake out would probably make some people uncomfortable the variety is thrilling for me. In any one day, I can be working on specific research reports, leading sales calls with prospects, having inquiry calls with senior leaders from IDC’s clients, talking to Wall Street investors about market trends, and talking to the press about a late breaking technology story.

I also travel around the world to work with clients and end users, and present at industry events. My travel experience allows me to apply global perspective to my every day engagements with clients and colleagues. It’s helpful in putting North American business and technology adoption into context. How people interact in a business environment has a lot of cultural influences so I find a lot of value in going into another region and observing how business is done.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you have with running a team remotely?

I have a great team. It’s a dynamic team that works hard every single day, providing diverse views on technology adoption, trends, and producing great research for IDC. Many of them are located at IDC’s headquarters in Boston and I have some remote workers, like myself, located from California to Maine. The dispersed nature of my team doesn’t stop us from getting to know each other – they all know that I don’t like overhead lights on in my office even when I visit Boston and that I drink a Starbucks Venti Earl Grey tea (with a drop of milk) every morning.

Being a remote manager, allows me to empower the team with a lot of autonomy. I’m not down the hall from them to run an idea by or to discuss a roadblock they may be encountering so I make myself available as best I can via all the electronic channels – phone, text, email. I am here to help clear the path when it gets bumpy but my team are the owners of their research area and they can drive their research agenda as they see fit. I get to Boston once or twice a quarter to meet with them but using video calling has had a positive impact. I feel more connected to the person I’m speaking to and being able to read body language makes a huge difference. This year I did my team’s performance reviews via video calling and it worked out well.

I think the biggest challenge is making sure I keep my team  as a priority – despite while keeping my own priorities and heavy travel schedule in check. Supporting and guiding my team l  leads to our mutual and collective success. At the end of the day, they make my job easier but it is easy to get wrapped up in my own priorities… I’m thankful for my team; they’re a great crew.


What’s been the most surprising part of your journey?

I think the most surprising part of this professional journey is that I found this job in the first place. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an actress on Broadway. However, reality set in that that was a pipedream, so I ended up doing a Bachelor of Commerce at Queen’s. I fumbled through a few jobs out of school and then this job presented itself.

My job as an analyst allows me to learn constantly, work closely with clients who I care about, and I get the chance on a regular basis to step onto a stage to  present my research and perspectives on a market. It’s a long way from the Broadway stage, but it fulfills a deep, long-time desire. I never would have thought that’s where I’d be when I set out in my career.


What are you most proud of professionally?

I think there are two things, actually. When I co-founded IDC’s IoT research practice in 2012,  my co-founder and I laid out how we thought the IoT market would unfold, produced one of the first IoT forecasts and worked with clients who were struggling with their nascent IoT strategies. I was named one of the top 25 women in IoT in 2016 and then in 2017, one of the top 100 most influential people in the IoT because of the work I helped start in 2012; acknowledging that our work was making a difference as this market unfolded. Our team continues to grow, and our expertise now spans the globe, across industries and technologies and that  is so rewarding to witness.

Secondly, I think my professional success can be attributed in large part to my supportive family. I’ve been able to grow professionally thanks, in a large part, to my husband’s unwavering support  He stands by me every step of the way – all while juggling his own work responsibilities. We are constantly working to maintain that fine balance of managing the demands of our family and our busy work – and travel – schedules. I’m so incredibly proud of and thankful for our strong partnership.


What do you see in the near future of IoT?

IoT is just hitting its stride. There is still a lot of challenges in how to scale an IoT deployment beyond a trial, but we’re seeing indication that the market generally understands IoT can help a business change. The next step is figuring out where to deploy IoT first, and defining the outcomes adopters want to achieve. Vendors providing well packaged holistic solutions – not point solutions – are going to be the ones who succeed in this market. Strong partnership strategies are needed to build these holistic solutions asno one vendor can provide an end-to-end IoT solution. The best IoT solutions are  a confluence of hardware, software, connectivity, and services.

From a consumer perspective, IoT is happening more organically. Even in my own home, I watch my teenage daughters interact with our connected car, smart speakers, and connected doorbell, to name a few, and I see the profound impact of having access to information, content and context is having on their daily life. When I look at my daughters and see the ease at which they can switch between the physical and digital, I can see the future where the IoT is no longer a market term but a way of life. As the linkage between the digital and physical worlds becomes tighter, we will be closer to insights about the environment around us, but also with each other thanks to this new connected paradigm.


What do you find the most interesting about the Waterloo tech ecosystem?

The Waterloo tech ecosystem is exploding. It’s been amazing to watch it evolve. We moved to Waterloo in 2010 when it was focused around one, maybe two, big players. Since that time, there’s been incredible diversification of the technology landscape. This opens so much more opportunity for our community to find work and thrive in this innovative environment.

I’ve traveled around the world and seen many tech “hubs”, and none are like the Waterloo technology scene. The biggest differentiator is the community focus and collaborative vibe. We have government, education institutions, companies and individuals working together with the collective goal of making Waterloo an internationally recognized hub of innovation. We’re playing to our strengths.  This approach is reaping gains not only for the Waterloo region, but putting Canada on the map as a great place to do business.