Carter’s Kemper Seay on Building World-Class Teams
Kemper Seay’s passion for delivering transformational projects was fostered early on by her career in consulting at Sapient during the dot-com boom. This passion would eventually lead her to the project she’s most proud of: bringing Carter’s and Oshkosh B’Gosh online with e-commerce for the first time.
“It is very rare that you get the privilege of bringing two 150-year-old, iconic American brands online for the first time,” Seay exclaims.
Following consulting, Seay went to work at The Home Depot where she ran a re-platform of the Homedepot.com website and order management system. She spent several years there, running the PMO (project management office) and a portion of the e-commerce business until, in 2009, she was hired by Carter’s to build their online presence.
For more than eight years Seay led cross functional teams, business, and technology to launch and ultimately run the rapid growth of Carters.com and Oshkosh.com.
Three years ago, Seay rejoined the IT department, where she initially managed a significant portion of the shared services team, including the PMO, infrastructure and support services. Most recently, Kemper has added the CISO role to her responsibilities.
RIS recently had the pleasure of recognizing Seay's impact on the retail tech landscape by naming her to the “Top Women in Retail Tech 2020” list, and she shared her insight and experiences in the following Q&A.
Q&A: KEMPER SEAY, VP OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND CHIEF INFORMATION SECURITY OFFICER, CARTER’S
RIS: What new and emerging technology have you and your team recently deployed that helps set your organization apart?
Kemper Seay: At Carter’s we are taking a “pragmatic” approach to our cloud strategy. We aim to implement cloud technology where there is significant business value, then expand and learn. We have recently implemented Five9 Contact Center in the cloud for all four of our call centers. This solution added immediate value to all of our call centers. Carter’s enabled a suite of features and capabilities including customer self-service and auto call back features, all while realizing a significant savings.
RIS: What were the strategic objectives of this technology? How has the deployment performed against objectives?
Seay: The objective of the Five9 Contact Center in the cloud project was three-fold. First, Carter’s needed to replace an antiquated technology that could no longer scale to the mega peak that we experience during the holiday period. Second, our business needed a tool that allowed them greater control over configurations and modifications, such as changes to the IVR. Lastly, we wanted to find a cost-effective tool that provided flexibility based on usage. This tool gave us all of those benefits.
RIS: What project have you led that you are most proud of?
Seay: The project of which I am most proud in my career is bringing Carter’s and Oshkosh B’Gosh online with e-commerce for the first time. It is very rare that you get the privilege of bringing two 150-year-old, iconic American brands online for the first time! We picked best-in-class technology with Salesforce Commerce Cloud and IBM Sterling OMS to power a business that has skyrocketed since 2010.
Watch: RIS News' Top Women in Retail Tech 2020
My favorite part of the journey has been that in addition to bringing the brands online came the ability to build world-class teams and their careers along the way.
RIS: How has women’s role in the industry evolved over your career?
Seay: Women’s role in technology has changed quite a bit over the course of my career. Early in my career it was not uncommon to be the only woman in an IT meeting. In today’s offices, it is clear that IT career disciplines have vastly expanded over the past 20 years, including new areas of expertise such as cyber security, library sciences, artificial intelligence, and data analytics.
With this expansion in disciplines, and the need for more and more talent in our organizations, we are seeing more and more women in IT and as an extension, in IT leadership positions. So, I suppose the industry has evolved quite a bit. This was evident when I was talking to my daughter this week about our security team when I mentioned that we currently have an all-female leadership team!
RIS: What are your long-term goals for your career? What would you like to accomplish before you retire?
Seay: Long term I would like the opportunity to be a chief information officer, but my current focus is as the CISO at Carter’s. My biggest objective is to keep learning, keep growing, and keep developing my teams. My father taught me early on that life is as much about the journey as it is the destination. I intend to make the most of my journey.
RIS: With the retail industry in a state of uncertainty thanks to COVID 19 what technology is having the greatest impact now as retailers adjust to the new normal? And where should retailers be investing once a level of normalcy returns?
Seay: COVID-19 has thrown us all for a very unexpected loop in retail. We have had to temporarily close our stores, pull back on our wholesale deliveries, and ensure our ecommerce business is up and running to meet our customer’s needs. Our e-commerce platform, OMS and distribution systems look a lot like holiday peak as they carry the load for our entire retail division during this difficult time.
Carter’s has been investing in omnichannel capabilities to deliver product from multiple DCs and stores, which will be a key to meeting our customers’ expectations once we start to return to normalcy.
Our corporate IT operations have had to shift to a 100% work from home workforce. During this uncertain time we quickly turned on Microsoft Teams and accelerated our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). These technologies have been critical for establishing connectivity and communication. They have also transformed the way we work. I look forward to greater flexibility and agility once we establish our new normal.