COMTO is pleased to introduce our Emerging Leaders Spotlight which will focus on young professionals who’ve demonstrated talent, tenacity, and commitment to progressing towards the highest ranks of a career in transportation. The Emerging Leaders Spotlight is brought to you by the Emerging Leaders Subcommittee of the Membership Committee which works on initiatives to engage COMTO professionals seeking to build the requisite skills to advance toward the rank of Officer or Executive in public or private organizations within the transportation industry. Emerging leaders demonstrate a desire to produce at the executive levels within the transportation industry in his or her current role.
Our first feature in this new series is COMTO member, Carita Ducre, Managing Partner and Sr. Consultant, Insight Strategies, Inc.
What do you do in your role as Managing Partner and Sr. Consultant, Insight Strategies, Inc.?
As a Managing Partner, I serve on Insight Strategies’ leadership team along with our CEO and COO. I help with goal setting and guiding our future direction. I also help train, supervise, and motivate our team. Being a Sr. Consultant is the fun part! I help our clients, many of whom are in the transportation field, strengthen their capacity in a variety of subjects including strategic planning, culture change, leadership development, team building, conflict resolution, organizational and departmental assessments, and 360-degree feedback assessments among other things. I’ll never forget the day when a CEO of a transit agency told me, “You help me think things through, Carita.” It’s so rewarding to know that my advice and consultation is valued!
Please describe the journey to your current position.
I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1991 with the intention of becoming an English professor but got side-tracked into pharmaceutical sales instead. After months of intensive training, I realized that rather than being a salesperson, I really wanted to be one of the trainers! In 1992, I moved to Los Angeles and worked in a variety of sales, training, and management positions before I met the Insight Strategies team in 2000. From 2001 to 2013, I worked as a part-time consultant for Insight Strategies while working full-time at other companies. I even purchased a retail store in 2012 and ran that for 3 years. Little did I know that all that on-the-job experience was preparing me for the work I do now – it was like getting a real-world MBA! I became full-time with Insight Strategies in 2014 and can’t imagine doing anything else.
What has been the most valuable tool(s) for you during your career journey?
This might sound like a strange answer, but I’d have to say “faith.” I always had faith that God would guide me in the direction he wanted me to pursue and I firmly believe that’s been the case. Every job I’ve had has prepared me for the next one without my realizing that was happening. Now when I work with clients, I’m not just sharing book knowledge. I have the experience to back up my consultation and advice. It gives me a lot more confidence and increases my credibility.
What in your opinion constitutes a great leader?
A great leader is a relationship-builder. That might sound simple but think about what it takes to build and maintain a relationship: emotional intelligence, communication skills, conflict resolution, listening, empathy, trust, honest feedback, belief in others, keeping a clear mind under pressure, and more. Great leaders possess all of those and actively employ them when the time is right. For me personally, I’d add that the greatest leaders I’ve had have all pushed me out of my comfort zone. They have believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.
What are some leadership traits you possess and how do you work on improving them?
About 5 years ago Insight Strategies created a 360-degree leadership assessment that was customized for the transit/transportation industry. We started by surveying GM’s and CEO’s around the country to gain their perspectives on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that were necessary to be successful as a leader. Using those results as my guidepost, I’d say I possess business acumen, honesty and openness, strategic thinking skills, communication and listening skills, change hardiness, persuasiveness, and emotional intelligence. The skill I work on improving most is conflict resolution. I’m personally conflict averse and overcoming that will be a lifelong journey! Interestingly, I get a lot of satisfaction from helping others to resolve conflict.
What is your personal leadership philosophy?
My personal philosophy is “leadership is a verb.” It’s not a title or a position. It’s active. And becoming good at it takes intention and practice.
Please describe how you’ve been active in COMTO and in your community at-large.
I live just outside of New Orleans and, unfortunately, there’s no local COMTO chapter here. The good news is that I’m supporting Bacarra Mauldin at the RTA in her efforts to open a local chapter. We were making great progress until COVID-19 interrupted our plans, but it will happen eventually! In addition, in 2018 I was asked to join COMTO’s Emerging Leaders Sub-Committee. I currently serve as one of two Tier 3 Program Managers. In that role, I help to curate career and professional development opportunities for COMTO members who have self-identified as Senior Management. It’s been a rewarding experience for me!
How have you benefited from being a COMTO member?
The networking that COMTO offers is priceless! I already knew several COMTO members around the country – about 50% of the work Insight Strategies does is in the transit/transportation space – and their passion for COMTO was contagious. Plus, as a Black woman, I wanted to be more intentional about supporting other people of color as they continue to develop their skills and advance their careers.
What words of advice do you have for up and coming transportation leaders?
Pick the brains of the ones who’ve come before you! I’ve had the pleasure of talking with people like John Catoe, Kenneth McDonald, Keith Parker, Carolyn Flowers, and so many more! Their experiences and lessons learned are invaluable for professional development.