Start with Compassion: Holly Cooper’s Advice for Aspiring Leaders

December 1, 2021

Conduent Transportation’s General Manager of Public Safety and Curbside Management, Holly Cooper, was recently selected to participate in HFS Research’s Shero Diaries podcast sharing her insights on everything from her personal journey to career drivers and the leadership skills women most need to succeed.

HFS’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Nischala Murthy Kaushik regularly profiles prominent female executives in the Shero Diaries podcast series. Holly was interviewed about her 20+ year career, during which she has built security projects for data centers, industrial and commercial properties, as well as integrated solutions for schools and churches. In her current role, Holly is passionate about delivering solutions that utilize analytics and automation to improve public safety and curbside management. She also promotes social equity by focusing on ways to reduce bias in public safety operations.

Holly first recognized her interest in technology at the age of 13 when she rebuilt a family computer to make it operate faster and more efficiently. She also installed a modem so her family would have their first internet connectivity. Holly went on to graduate from Indiana Wesleyan School of Business, acquired a technology degree from Purdue University and landed her first management position at age 22. She also married her high school sweetheart, Steve, at age 19 and has two children, Tyler and Dylan. She credits her family for her multitasking wizardry, and as her inspiration to drive continuously forward in her career.

These days, Holly frequently speaks on the importance of leading with compassion and empathy. She is an executive sponsor of Conduent’s Women’s Impact Network, where she mentors associates on achieving their personal and professional goals.  When asked why it’s important for women to be educated, Holly explained, “You must stand on your own. If you are married and your spouse dies, you must be financially stable. Having an education is key to setting yourself apart from your peers. For women, this often means making sure you have as much or more education than your male peers.”

She also credits her love of reading both non-fiction and fiction, but especially crime novels, to helping expand her vocabulary and to reimagining herself in different scenarios. “Reading opens one’s mind to imagination and is crucial to critical thinking,” she explained.

Asked to share her advice on the three most important skills women need to succeed in leadership roles, Holly offered the following:

  1. Control your emotions. Finding a way to stop, think and manage emotions is critical to success. It’s not about removing emotion, so much as focusing on not overreacting. Developing this skill can help you respond appropriately, even in stressful situations.
  2. Learn to manage up and down. It’s important to communicate with those in positions of authority, and encourage those who report to you as well. It’s easy to be nervous when talking to those in positions of authority, but you must understand that regardless of title, CEOs are people, too.
  3. Public speaking is key. Speaking in public requires you to organize your thoughts, which is crucial in everything we do daily. If you can communicate your thoughts to show you understand, can show compassion, and have passion for what you do, you will succeed.  And while many people are fearful of public speaking, it’s important to overcome that and learn to communicate in a way that’s strong and not overbearing.

As Holly explained, “You must dream big, think big and use these skills to move forward in your career.” 

To learn how she views the impact of technology in improving diversity, and more about what she’s reading, among other hot topics, listen to Holly's HFS Shero Diaries podcast, here.

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