HPW’s Inspiring Women series profiles remarkable Greek-American professional women whose stories of success inspire and encourage us to achieve our own career goals and aspirations.
Group Chief Information & Digital Officer, National Grid plc
Corporate Director, Perrigo plc & Advance Auto Parts
Adriana (Andi) Karaboutis is recognized for her success as an innovative technology executive and a business leader across a range of sectors that include industry giants, such as, NATIONAL GRID, BIOGEN, DELL, FORD, and GENERAL MOTORS. She was appointed Group Chief Information & Digital Officer for National Grid in August, 2017. As a member of the company’s Group Executive Committee, she is responsible for the development of an enterprise-wide digital strategy, delivery of information systems and services, digital security and risk, as well as overall security. Previously, as Executive Vice President for Technology, Business Solutions, and Corporate Affairs at Biogen, Ms. Karaboutis had a broad set of responsibilities that included information technology, digital health and data sciences, and corporate affairs.
Prior to joining Biogen in 2014, Ms. Karaboutis was Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Dell, Inc. and previously spent more than 20 years at General Motors and Ford Motor Company in various international leadership positions including computer-integrated manufacturing, supply chain operations, and information technology.
Ms. Karaboutis is also currently on the Board of Directors of Perrigo Company plc, and Advance Auto Parts. Additionally, she has served as a Board Member of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; President of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT); a Board Member of the Manufacturing Executive Leadership; and on the Babson College Advisory Board for the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL).
Ms. Karaboutis received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, and was a Merit Scholar. Additional education includes graduate courses at Wayne State and completing the accelerated Marketing Strategy Program at Fuqua School of Business (Duke University).
What is your passion?
My passion is technology and leadership. There is nothing more professionally rewarding than helping a company or organization realize its vision and strategic goals by assembling high-performing teams and applying digital technologies and new processes for improved or breakthrough outcomes. New business models, improved customer and employee satisfaction, new opportunities for top and bottom-line growth are all within reach when great teams are assembled and boundaries are lifted around technology and creativity.
I have always maintained that technology is my ‘backbone’; staying current and taking it from one industry to the next allows me to bring experiences and lessons learned and a different perspective to new opportunities.
What motivated you to move into your profession?
My parents would not allow me to go away to a University, but insisted that I do go to a University. I earned a full merit scholarship at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan (10 miles from home) –and received a fantastic education. When I started, I enrolled in mechanical engineering as I really enjoyed the challenge of math. I wanted to push myself in an area that didn’t necessarily come easy, but I enjoyed the results of hard work. After my first class in Pascal programming (aging myself here), I was hooked on Computer Science and never looked back. From there, the opportunities to work in technology roles kept surfacing. Today, I thrive on technology leadership and management.
Who stands out the most in your mind as a mentor?
My mom is my #1 mentor. She married my Dad at age 16, came to the US from Greece not knowing a word of English. Despite my father’s insistence that she doesn’t need to drive, doesn’t need to work, doesn’t need to finish school and shouldn’t care about investments — my Mom proceeded to do all of the above. She taught me that ‘no’ can always be challenged (except, of course when she said it).
We recently lost my Dad and it has impacted us all tremendously. But my Mom continues to be the matriarch and the voice that always says “of course you can”.
Tell me about a few of your most proud accomplishments?
I’m very proud to have been inducted into the Wayne State University Engineering Hall of Fame and to be serving on the Board of two excellent public companies: Advance Auto Parts and Perrigo. I’m also very proud to have had the opportunity to hold CIO and Digital officer positions at such great companies such as Dell and currently National Grid. I’ve earned awards during my career from Forbes, and the broader technology community –but what I’ve gained from this community far outweighs what I’ve given.
What I take the most pride in, however, is my family. My husband, Harry, who is my biggest supporter and the most confident and self-assured man I know. My sons, Elias & Constantine, who have turned out to be wonderful men and have started great careers of their own; and, Sarah and David who make it easy to forget the “step” in step-children.
Was there anything you would have done differently?
There was a period in my life when I worried too much what others thought. It caused undo stress in my life. Today, I consider what others think but have learned to filter much better what to take on board and what to let pass. I hear everything, but I listen to a subset of everything.
What is your leadership style?
I am very direct, transparent and assertive. My thesis has always been, “velocity is more important than speed in achieving goals”. In other words, a team needs to be pulling in the same direction to win. Moving fast in multiple directions (speed, not velocity) will cause us to get nowhere fast. The direction may not always be right, and that’s where clear course correction happens –but you have to move together.
What advice would you give to professional Hellenic-American Women today in their careers?
Find your passion, aim high, don’t be afraid of the road less traveled (technology, engineering, science careers), and….lose that little voice in your head that says ‘you’re not good enough; you’re not qualified; others are smarter and more experienced’! Those are useless messages that many of us (Greek) women carry around with us. You are good enough, you are qualified and you have what it takes. It just takes working hard and working smart. I worked long hours, researched and studied what I didn’t know, went back to school (Harvard Continuous Education) to fill gaps as my responsibilities increased –and maintained a hunger to stay relevant in an ever-changing technological environment. I accepted there was always something more to learn to get to the next level or next company.
Secondly, don’t confuse the concept that because something is challenging, you don’t like it. Too often I hear people say “math is too hard, I don’t like it”. Running a marathon is hard –but it’s so rewarding. Untangle those “hard” and “don’t like” wires –they aren’t the same thing.
What impact has your Greek heritage had on your career and professional life?
A huge impact! My Greek heritage taught me perseverance; hard work and above all “FILOTIMO”. It is my favorite word in the world –and one that is so hard to translate. It is a priceless Greek gem –It is about good will, caring, giving, empathy, wanting everyone to feel included, sharing, eating last, honoring others and doing good. When you have Filotimo, positive things come to you.
Are you involved with the Greek community?
I moved to Boston 4 years ago and am still breaking into the community. I attend the Greek Church in Weston, MA., and I frequent the Greek food stores, and have some friends from my biotech stint. But, I go back to Detroit a lot, where I grew up, and that’s where I am most immersed.
Who has inspired you in your career? Let us know at email@example.com