Before Marci Marra could seize on a career helping to transform people and organizations, she had to go through a bit of a transformation herself.
A native Washingtonian, Marra — who is our latest Geek of the Week — left art school in the 1980s without a clue about what she would do. She took a job to hold her over in the pharmacy at Group Health Cooperative.
Several years later, still working in that job, she was given an opportunity to assist in the roll out of an automated cash system.
“Keep in mind this is really early days in personal computing technology, Microsoft had not yet released Windows and everything related to your medical record was on paper in a file room,” Marra said. “This launched me in a new direction. I had a curiosity about technology, and how it would impact people’s lives. I studied how people responded to the change, the fear it caused, their resistance and anger, and set out on a path to find ways to help people embrace change and technology together and see it as something positive.”
Marra spent some time at Microsoft, wrote code samples for the first version of Visual Studio .NET and landed in User Experience once again focused on adapting to change. Now, after more than 25 years of experience across multiple industries, and as a managing partner at Caiman Consulting, Marra considers herself a specialist in rapid transformation.
“I am a committed leader with a passion for inspiring people to innovate and make impactful changes,” she said. “I have coached and mentored senior teams to lead and manage strategic projects for Fortune 100 executives, where I have been responsible for developing the big picture and translating it into specific business strategies and execution plans to drive results.”
At Caiman, Marra spends most of her time working with Seattle and Bay Area clients and leading a People Development initiative across the company.
Outside work she’s passionate about rescuing dogs and creating art.
“If I’m not out walking or running with my husband and three rescued terriers, then I’m working on a creative project, whether it’s a large steel-and-glass sculpture, an intricate piece of jewelry, or knitting a sweater.”
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Marci Marra:
What do you do, and why do you do it? I’m a managing partner at Caiman Consulting. Every day is a mix of working with clients and consultants. I spend a good portion of my time consulting with our client to transform their businesses. Transformation is a lofty word, but can be something as simple as designing new processes and procedures and training people on how to do their jobs in a different way. It can also mean radical change, starting with a restructure of an organization.
The important thing in all of this work for me has always been the people. Being a management consultant has provided the opportunity for me to coach and mentor people at all levels, C-suite to fresh out of college. People and the relationships we have with them are what enrich our lives. At Caiman I get to focus on people, building a culture of inclusion, innovation, and learning. I’m excited to work for a company that invest in people, shows empathy, and compassion to others.
Sure, numbers matter. Technology matters. Quality matters. But they don’t matter nearly as much as people do. I’m blessed to be a part of a company that does put people first; it’s embedded in our culture and supported by our operating principles. It’s not always easy to function this way, but when you realize people are what matter most, everything else falls in line. To succeed in business, you have to understand and value people. It really is that simple.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Stay curious, ask for help, and try to learn something new every day. Consulting is a challenging business and the only way to stay relevant is to continue to learn and grow. Sometimes this means trying to predict future, so you stay ahead of technology changes. If you aren’t moving forward you won’t last in the consulting industry.
Where do you find your inspiration? From the amazing people I’m surrounded by, starting with my husband who has encouraged me to chase my dreams long before we even went on a date, to the wonderful consultants I work with and our brilliantly diverse group of clients. They continue to teach me about technology trends, gadgets, and how to be compassionate in our ever-changing world.
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? My phone! I never thought I’d be so attached to something that can be so annoying, but now I find I need it more and more to be truly mobile. I spend a lot of time traveling, by car locally, but also by air and I’ve gotten to the point that I can do about 90 percent of my work on phone, which saves from toting my PC everywhere.
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Caiman is a virtual company, so my workspace is always different. Some days I’m home, others I’m at client sites or popping into a WeWork office to use a conference room. The key for me is to focus 100 percent on what I must get done at any given time. If I’m doing 1:1s, then it’s all about who I’m meeting with and we will likely take a walk while we talk.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Don’t take yourself too seriously and set realistic expectations for what you will commit to. Don’t set standards for yourself that we wouldn’t hold each other to. Be your own biggest fan and give yourself grace and flexibility in what you need to get done every day.
I see people over-committed and stressed out all around me, but why not just be honest about what you can get done and set clear expectations. I find when I tell someone I can’t commit to an ask because I don’t have the time to focus on it and deliver at an acceptable quality level, they understand and appreciate to know that upfront.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Picard.
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Cloak of invisibility.
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … create an inexpensive and noninvasive micro GPS tracking chip to track dogs, cats, and other domesticated pets. We have software to find out phones and cards, yet I still see posts for so many lost dogs and cats.
I once waited in line for … iPad first version. I was so excited!
Your role models: My mother. She made a choice to stay home and raise me, while her friends ventured out into the working world. She made sacrifice after sacrifice, to make sure I felt supported, had every opportunity I could ask for and she never let me know the personal hardship she routinely suffered. I look back now and see the pain she endured, how incredibly brave she was and I am blessed to have her as a role model, friend and mom.
Greatest game in history Pictionary.
Best gadget ever: Mini USB multi-adaptor charger.
First computer: Commodore 64.
Current phone: iPhone 7 Plus.
Favorite app: Fitbit.
Favorite cause: All animal rescue efforts, but one particularly close to my heart is Amigos de Animales of Barra de Potosi, Mexico. I recently had the pleasure of spending a few weeks with them as a volunteer.
Most important technology of 2019: Data and analytics in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. I am seeing things clients are doing with data and I’m in awe. Pursuits in this area will enable us to live longer healthier lives.
Most important technology of 2021: Virtual reality for the masses. This year we’ve seen a lot of exciting advancement in the technology, but it’s still not ready for the masses. I hope by 2021, we are able to really connect using VR. Present a topic at a conference that is 100 percent virtual, yet we are able to interact as if we are all in the same room. We can break out into focus groups, meet 1:1, and connect without having to waste time traveling.
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Before you try to create a solution (software or otherwise), make sure you truly understand the problem that needs to be solved and who is the audience.
Website: Caiman Consulting
LinkedIn: Marci Marra