Our Industry Innovators series interviews senior leaders across industrial technology industries, exploring the latest trends, upcoming technologies and pressing hot topics that are shaping the future.

We help business leaders in the warehouse automation and intralogistics markets grow their teams and I recently had the privilege of speaking to Heather Carroll, Global Chief Revenue Officer and industry expert with over 20 years of experience in the supply chain space. Heather discusses various aspects of the industry and shares her insights and experience.

Watch the full interview here, or read the full transcript below.




Thanks for your time again, Heather. Please introduce yourself. 

I’m Heather Carol. I have been in the supply chain space for probably 20+ years now. I’ve spent a lot of time, mostly in the software space. So, I started out working in AI for retailers, and from there I went to a company and was a part of the management team on a warehouse execution software called Reddwerks.

Reddwerks was then acquired by Dematic and I spent about 15 years total with Dematic working in various roles and leadership positions there, and then I went on to work for Take Off as Chief Customer Officer focused on micro fulfillment and their customer base. I then left take off and went to Covariant, and I was the Chief Revenue Officer for Covariant where I had global responsibility for all go to market functions.


What do you think are the key challenges that end users face and how can you offer them solutions to overcome those challenges?

I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen across the various different applications that are implemented in automated solutions, is a lot of times when you work with a supplier, you’re looking at a very specific part of your warehouse or your order fulfillment process. So, you’re looking for automation to take walking out of your picking process or you’re looking for automation to drive your receiving process.

What tends to happen is, you end up speeding up that one area of your building and that’s great, and you hope to achieve the ROI that has been presented to you from the supplier for what can be done in that one area of the building. But what often happens is customers struggle to get the full benefit out of the solution, because it hasn’t taken into effect, the upstream and downstream consequences of what’s going to happen to your total operation when you optimize just one area. I’ve seen that be consistent whether it was software solutions that were being put into place without considering what the impact of the mechanics would be, or what the impact of the people would be and then move forward all through my time at Reddwerks, Dematic and Covariant.

And now, people are putting in robots to replace the function that a person is doing. And oftentimes, what gets overlooked is the change management piece and the consideration for what it’s going to do to your workflow upstream and downstream.


How have you seen solutions adapt over the last few years to account for the increased cost of money?

We’ve seen the rise of SaaS type solution software as a service or robot as a service where apex can be used instead of capital. And that has been something that we’ve seen a lot particularly in the robotic space over the last 18 to 24 months. That’s a way to help companies address that capital constraint, but it’s also very cache consumption for those suppliers that are offering those services. So, I think while we’ve seen that over the last 18 to 24 months as a solid way to purchase some of these solutions, I think we’re going to start to see a shift whereas capital becomes tighter, it’s also becoming tighter for those suppliers. And I think we’re going to start seeing a shift in the market of how some of these companies are going to market with these solutions as well.


You’ve been a go-to market executive for many years. What have been the key ingredients to create a high performing sales culture and a high performing sales team?

So, one of the things that I think is critical is really building the right team. And that has to do with leveraging your network and working with people that have produced an outcome or results in their prior roles. That’s not always possible when you’re building a team, especially when you want to bring in younger folks into this space, you need to look for different attributes in those people and it’s not always the education. It’s not always where they went to school or what their GA was. Those things are good, but to me the more important thing is really looking for someone that has grit. And I don’t know if you’ve read Angela Duckworths book? It’s fantastic. And she did this extensive study and found and started really with graduates of West point and took it all the way through looking at what makes someone successful. And the common element is this concept of grit. And that’s just being able to focus on something and stick with it, no matter how hard it is for an extended period of time. And so that element is something I always look for.

That to me is way more important than where you went to school, honestly. Because if you’ve been able to stick with something and per server and get through, that’s what it takes in this environment because we’re going to have ups and downs in the market and as a salesperson. And so, are you gonna fall apart and not be able to handle it when things get tough? Are you going to dig in and just find a way to push through that and come out on the other side, better? And so that to me is the number one element that I look for when I’m putting a team together.

“It’s not always where you went to school or what their GA was. Those things are good, but to me the more important thing is really looking for someone that has grit. If you’ve been able to stick with something and per server and get through, that’s what it takes in this environment.”

You introduce the kind of theory or the element of working with people that can produce results. I imagine this is one of your non-negotiables in how you hire and how you have hired in the past?

Yeah, for sure. I mean, someone took a chance on me, and that started this whole thing for me and it’s true. We need to be bringing younger folks into this industry and into this space, and we need to be bringing diversity into this space as well.

When I was at Dematic, I was one of the cofounders of our diversity equity inclusion group. And it was really about bringing all kinds of voices into the company and into the industry and to our customers, because we as suppliers or teams and our business should reflect our customers, teams and their businesses. And you need to have that level of diversity on your teams. That’s also something else that I look for.


How can we encourage more diversity and encourage more women to consider a career in the supply chain industry?

I remember when the retail industry leaders association first started their women in supply chain group and it was small and it was these amazing women in retail and there weren’t a lot that were from suppliers. These were mostly women from large retailers. And I remember being in that room and there may have been 30 of us. Now, this year, you can’t fit all the people in the same room. And what they did was they reached out to everybody. It is a women’s group, but there are a lot of men in that group too. And that awareness and the ability to tap into those voices as well to help get advocates in the rest of the organization.

I mean, everybody’s got a mom, lots of people have sisters, lots of people have wives and they want the best for their families and it’s a conversation that needs to be had. And I think more often than not, there’s a lot of openness to it. And I think by opening the doors to those groups so that you’re having more conversations around. It is a great start.


What can we do from more of an early careers perspective for example, women, instead, what can we do to encourage more diversity there too?

Yeah. I think that’s a great question. I’m in a Women and AI group, and one of the things that we talk about often is, what are we doing to go out to the high schools where our kids go to school to speak? ‘What are we doing to go out to colleges and be a guest speaker at a program to talk to women about, ‘hey, these are opportunities out there.’ What are we doing with our hr teams and our people teams to say, ‘hey, are we going to these conferences and do we have good representation to make sure we’re talking to a broad group of students that would be interested in this or might be a great candidate to take this path that they weren’t aware of?’

I found a lot of it honestly starts at home – conversations with your kids, friends and conversations at school when they’re just getting started and just taking those first science courses that spark an interest. That’s where a lot of it starts from. And if you can start to see yourself reflected in those positions and other places it begins to really start. Turning in your mind that ‘oh, that’s something I can do to.’


You’ve been in the industry for 20 years now. What got you into warehouse automation robotic software?

That’s a funny question. So, I worked for an AI company, a software company in Nashville where I live. And this was back in the late nineties when no one had heard of AI. But I was with that company for 9 years and we grew it to about 450 people. I think I was the 12th employee when I started but I was on the management team. We grew the company and we sold it to a private equity firm. And after that, I stayed on for about 4 years to help that company new leadership transition. And I worked with opening our offices in Europe and doing lots of cool fun things, but I was on the road all the time at the time. My family was really young, my kids were really young. So, at the end of that, 4 years, I just said, ‘I’m gonna stay home. I need to figure out what I want to do.’ I had some equity in the company, and it was a great ride. And I’d been home 4 to 6 weeks and I get a phone call from the CFO of that former company in Nashville as well as the SVP of Operations, and they had gone to this little company in Austin, Texas called Reddwerks and they called me and said, ‘hey, let’s do it again. We don’t have anyone here that knows how to sell into retail and how to build a go to market team. Come do this again with us.’ And at that point, I’d never stepped foot in a warehouse. I didn’t have a what one looks like.

And so at first I was like, ‘yeah, I’ll consult with you guys for a little bit and see if there’s a good fit here.’ And after doing that and seeing some successes with some very large retailers that were interested. I got excited and that’s how I got there.

It was I guess being influenced by somebody in your life. And somebody who is excited about it, who shared that excitement with you that got you into the space. And knowing that the skills that we had to take a technology that at the time, no one had heard of, it was an AI based configure or it just it was so much like going to Reddwerks when they had a warehouse execution system in the early 2000’s, and no one had ever heard that term. So, there was a lot of similarities. It was a disruptive technology; it was a new space. It was gonna be something that was difficult to explain to customers what they were buying. And all of those challenges I really loved and building a team again and being able to do that from the ground up with the goal of building the company and then having an exit strategy was exciting. And we did that, and I ended up there for 9 years and we sold to Dematic and then I was at Dematic for another 6 years after that.


What are your top technology innovation picks for this year?

I know everybody says it, but I have to say it because it is so true in this space right now and it’s Chat GPT, because prior to that, you would go in and talk to a Chief Supply Chain Officer about the benefits of a robotics and they would just go, ‘right?’ You just you can see it glazed over. ‘I should care about this, but I don’t.’ Nobody even knows what AI is. I don’t really, but once people saw Chat GPT and downloaded it or got on the site and started playing with it, once they could see what it would do, and then you started seeing these articles, and you’re like, ‘what in the world is this thing that changes the conversation now?’ Executives understand, I may not understand it, I may not know exactly what it is, but I need to pay attention to this because this is disruptive. And for me that’s the number one enhancement.

The second would be in the PU and edge computing space. Because to make this work, you’ve got to have really powerful computing systems to do this. And I think that’s probably the next 2 that I would say are also. There have been a lot of advancements in that in the last 12 to 18 months.


Was it like a switch clicked overnight and they all of a sudden had a bit more of an awareness of kind of what the conversation was? How did that adapt and how did the conversation change there?

Yeah. Well, so let me say it’s not everybody. It’s not everywhere. But the ones that there has been, there definitely has been a difference. And I would say that you now can have a conversation where you can correlate your product and service and how it depends, and leverage depends upon and leverage AI to their experience with Chat GPT.

The more data it has access to, the smarter it gets and being able to put some examples together around what your product is doing and how it’s leveraging AI.  I’ve got to at least get my team on it or put some resources behind understanding it because it’s definitely something that’s going to change the industry.


As a sales leader in the space, where do you actually see the next generation of talent coming from and how do you attract and recruit from it?

Yeah, that’s a great question, and one I need to spend more time thinking about. But I’ll tell you, I have kids that range from 14 to 28, so I have kids  and they are in all different stages of life in different ages. I’ve got one that’s married. One’s about to get married. You name it. They’re starting to get into the workforce and they think about work in a different way. And one of the exciting things for robotics is a lot of these kids would never ever have thought about or wanted to go and work in a warehouse. But when you talk about going and working with an AI robotic system that is exciting and it’s the ability to evolve. Some of the jobs that are being done in supply chain to be something that is gonna be more interesting to some of the younger folks that are coming through.

And I think there’s great – programs now starting to focus on tech, and this emphasis that not everyone has to go to a 4-year university. There are great programs that are a tech path. And I think that some of that is also an area that we could spend more time recruiting from and pulling from. Particularly when it comes to some of the very technical maintenance that needs to be done on some of these systems that you need in house in your supply in your warehouse.


Supply chain and warehouse automation specifically is traditionally a network heavy kind of recruitment industry. So how do we move away from not network heavy recruitment? How do we supplement our network hires with this young generation of talent and the future leaders of automation?

I think you have to really think about what your sales team needs, what kind of product are you really selling, and that is going to inform you on where you can go to look for some different talent. For example, if you are a tech startup in the supply chain space, and you are in growth mode, then you’re going to need some people that can sell a vision because you don’t have hundreds and hundreds of installs and 100 years of doing something. So, you need a different skill set and that skill set needs to be able to sell the vision of something and the outcome that’s gonna be produced, which is not a tangible. It’s very different than selling a widget that they can see, and they know exactly what it’s gonna do and they can predict exactly what the payback or the results are gonna be at that. Those are different skill sets and I think it really depends on what is the product or service that your sales team is taking to market.

And then you look at that and say, okay, what are the skill sets that really are needed to be successful at this? And then you go and find different profiles that would work for that skill set. And some of the SaaS companies are great ones to look at. Because there’s a lot of different roles in a SaaS business that’s primarily software focused. Those folks can have a good 1-3 years in some of those senior or management roles that give them a really good base of understanding of sales skills that then you can take from there and put into a more junior role on your team. Those are some of the places I would say to look.




For more inspiring stories, check out our Women Revolutionizing series. Or, learn more about our dedicated Automation and Intralogistics recruitment team and automation jobs