Inspirational Woman: Carmen Greco | Co-Founder & Chief Financial Officer, iCoolKid

Carmen Greco - iCoolKid

Born in Canada, Carmen attended McGill University in Montreal, and in 1986 began her career in finance working for the Royal Bank of Canada as a floor trader on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

She specialised in trading dually listed equity securities and equity derivative products.

In 1991, Carmen moved to New York City and began working at the investment bank, Goldman Sachs as a Proprietary Derivative Trader.

She spent nine years working primarily in Equity Derivatives Sales, Sales-Trading, Trading and Structured Products. In 1999, she moved to London to manage the High Net Worth Derivative Sales & Trading Business and then moved on to set- up and manage the Emerging Market Derivative Sales & Trading business.

In 2000, Carmen became the company’s first female Managing Director in Europe. She worked at Goldman Sachs in New York and London for more than 16 years until 2006 when she moved to UBS as Managing Director until late 2008. She spent a total of 22 years working in investment banking.

Carmen then went on to co-found Haoma Medica Ltd. in 2009, a biotech company that focuses on the development of drugs for the treatment of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. She focused on the fund raising, financial budgeting, strategic planning, marketing and all legal aspects associated with developing and the eventual granting of global patents. In 2012, she co-founded Aventum Devices Ltd, a medical device company that focuses on the development of Glenoid Positioning Guides for the use in shoulder implant procedures.

Carmen currently holds the position of Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer at both companies in addition to her latest venture iCoolKid Ltd, a newly formed joint venture with her 12-year-old son Jenk.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I was born in Canada, and attended McGill University in Montreal, and in 1986 my career began in finance working for the Royal Bank of Canada as a floor trader on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Whilst in this role, my specialism lay within trading dually listed equity securities and equity derivative products. After this in 1991, I moved to New York City and began working at the investment bank Goldman Sachs as a Proprietary Derivative Trader.

I spent a total of nine years working primarily in Equity Derivatives Sales, Sales-Trading, Trading and Structured Products, and in 1999, I moved to London to manage the High Net Worth Derivative Sales & Trading Business and then moved on to setup and manage the Emerging Market Derivative Sales & Trading business.

In 2000, I became the company’s first female Managing Director in Europe. I worked at Goldman Sachs in New York and London for more than 16 years until 2006 when I then moved to UBS as Managing Director until late 2008. In total, I spent 22 years working in investment banking.

Following this I then went on to co-found Haoma Medica Ltd. in 2009, a biotech company that focuses on the development of drugs for the treatment of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. I focused on the fund raising, financial budgeting, strategic planning, marketing and all legal aspects associated with developing and the eventual granting of global patents. Following this, in 2012, I co-founded Aventum Devices Ltd, a medical device company that focuses on the development of Glenoid Positioning Guides for the use in shoulder implant procedures.

Currently I hold the position of Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer at both companies in addition to my latest venture iCoolKid Ltd, a newly formed joint venture with my 12-year-old son Jenk.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The truthful answer is never enough, which is why I try and encourage people to spend more time on thinking through their career options, and outlining strategies to put them in the best possible position to achieve their goals. Thinking about your career as a company and dedicating time each week to think through how your company, ‘Me Inc.’, is doing and what the next steps are goes a long way in formalising your career thinking process. The best advice I can give is to form a Career Board of Directors, a group of people who you can meet with each month to talk about challenges you’re your goal oriented next steps.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Every day, every week, every year. Challenges are the norm in one’s daily life, not the exception, and the faster you learn to see them, face them and deal with them; the better the outcome will be. The trick is being able to forecast them!

I have learned the hard way to deal with challenges, and I wish that in some of my past experiences I knew then what I know now. The first step is to accept it is real and that it won’t just go away, and then face the possibility that you alone may have to be the one to fix it.

Do you have a typical workday? How do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m not sure that I would describe any day as being ‘typical’, as the nature of my work means that there are always different challenges to tackle, or projects that I’m working to complete – no two days are the same! However, most days will start with reading time followed by email or social media responding time. The next step is to prioritise my daily agenda items. I like to highlight three ‘must complete before sleep’ items, everything else is a bonus.

Once the team from iCoolKid arrive into the office the dynamic of my day changes from being me-focused to team-focused. We begin with an iCoolKid editorial meeting where we discuss upcoming content plans, the latest trends, and typically what Jenk has noticed his peers have been talking about and how we can use this for the website.

Typically, I dedicate the first half of my day to iCoolKid and the second half of my day to the biotech and medical device companies. After dinner, I quite like recapping where I stand on the things I looked to achieve that day, and set myself up for a better day tomorrow. It normally ends quite late as is typical of a start-up environment.

Carmen and Jenk

How do you find working with your son?

Jenk and I have always had a very good relationship and I believe that working so closely together on such a passionate project has, to-date, allowed our relationship to go from strength to strength. It’s so rewarding to help Jenk develop his ideas from scratch and essentially help turn his dreams into a reality. I can’t quite believe sometimes that we are where we are today, but I genuinely believe this is down to our collaborative way of working and our ability to bounce ideas off each other and use our own strengths in iCoolKid’s everyday activity. This said, I can’t always say we always see eye to eye – sometimes I will suggest content for the website and Jenk will shoot me down straightaway for being ‘uncool’.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I strongly believe in the power of mentoring. One of the key pieces of advice I have given to Jenk, which I’ve already mentioned, is that he should have his own ‘career board of directors’. It’s incredibly important to gain impartial advice from your peers, colleagues, and those friend and family members who might hold a specific position of authority or be excelling in their own career.

Start by thinking of a group of people who are good listeners and who want to share their time and advice with you. For example, my advice to Jenk is always to pick a friend maybe two to three years older than him, a couple teachers from school, his favourite relative, an older cousin or family friend – until he has four to five people he can count on to bounce his ideas off and give him honest advice.

I think everyone can use this method, however high up the career ladder you are, and it’s something I have stuck with throughout my career to date.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

The women themselves! My opinion is that women need to be much more confident, believe in themselves, strive for higher goals, recognise what is working around them, and be able to take constructive feedback no matter how it is delivered to them. The better you receive the feedback; the more likely people will be to keep giving it. Receiving and acting on constructive, honest feedback is one of the keys to moving ahead. Seeing and managing the gap between perception and reality is a constant journey that needs to be part of the overall career strategy.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Professionally, it was becoming the first female Managing Director at Goldman Sachs in Europe and secondly, reinventing myself as an entrepreneur using the tools I learnt in 22 years of banking. Personally, it was always putting my family first and trying my best to be there in person to share all their favourite moments and achievements.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I would like to see the companies develop, prosper and become financially independent and sustainable, all while making a difference to people’s lives. Concerning Haoma Medica Ltd., Osteoporosis is the most degenerative disease in the world, it affects 250million+ people every day. If we can make a difference by developing drugs to improve people’s daily quality of life, that would be very satisfying and make all the work worthwhile.

What is iCoolKid?

iCoolKid Ltd. is a multi-channel digital lifestyle brand from eight to 15 year olds comprising of a website – iCoolKid.com – a collection of social media platforms, weekly curated music playlists on Spotify, professional ‘club quality’ playlists housed on Sound cloud, and a full London based production facility & stand-alone filming studio referred to as ‘The Garage’. In addition to this, there is also a soon to be launched clothing line – iCoolKidGear. We have officially been in operation since late 2016, and have been really pleased with our success to date, which has also resulted in Jenk being recognised as the UK’s youngest CEO. We are currently the UK’s biggest digital media platform of our kind with over 2,500 original articles spread across seven topical channels.

How did the idea of iCoolKid come about?

Jenk has always amazed me with his confidence to do what he wants to do, no matter what all the other kids are doing. Jenk’s always had an extensive extra-curricular schedule – wanting to learn and try new fun skills in his spare time. Back in 2014, when he was just years years old, he came to me with the idea of sharing all the exciting extra-curricular activities he was taking part in every week, as well as the cool shows and performances he was attending, with his school friends. He wanted to share what else was out there and available to his peers to a wider audience.

What started as a simple email to his classmates and their parents from Jenk and I, was soon being shared across wider communities and schools by parents and kids alike. Jenk then presented the formal idea of iCoolKid within a show & tell session in a school assembly, and it’s grown from there into the unique business model as it stands today.

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