I’m excited to introduce, Carey Jaros, Chief Strategy Officer at GOJO Industries — inventor of PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer, Surface Spray, and HEALTHY SOAP®.
For over a decade at Bain & Company, and more recently, as an executive, board member, and investor, Carey has worked with and in more than 50 organizations, from startups, to established public and private companies, to non-profits. Today, as Chief Strategy Officer at GOJO, Carey drives strategy development for the Enterprise, co-leads the innovation process, and oversees Marketing and Product Management.
Carey lives in Shaker Heights with her husband, Brett Farmery, and their three daughters. She is a Trustee of the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation; a Trustee and the Treasurer of Laurel School; serves on the Board of In Counsel with Women; and on the Harvard Business School Dively Awards Committee. Carey is also an angel investor and serves on the Advisory Board of WISR, a Cleveland-based edtech startup.
Tell me a little about what you do/your role at GOJO.
I have functional responsibility for Strategy, Market Research, Marketing/PR, and Total Solutions, which is what we call Product Management. But at GOJO, our functional responsibilities are only part of what we do every day. As a highly collaborative, networked organization, much of our critical work is done in cross-functional teams whose members bring complementary skill-sets and competencies to bear. For example, this year, the Chief Science Officer and I co-sponsored the team that developed our breakthrough PURELL® brand CRT HEALTHY SOAP®, which removes germs better than regular soaps, but doesn’t contain harsh antibacterial ingredients and preservatives. And, it saves six gallons of water per refill. In order to bring this innovative product to market, we needed all kinds of diverse skills, perspectives, and competencies to break the soap paradigms that have been around for decades! Our unique GOJO Ways of Working are critical to delivering on our Purpose of Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions.
When did you know you wanted to go into this field? How did you get where you are today? What were some of the key decisions you made professionally or achievements to land in your current position?
I didn’t have any idea that I would end up in business until it happened…I was concentrating in Public Policy at Brown, working for the Governor of Rhode Island, and assuming I would go to law school (our family is filled with attorneys, including both of my parents and my brother). I went to a career presentation by Boston Consulting Group one night — mostly for the free food and drinks. The presenter gave us a bunch of business case interview questions to solve, and I fell in love. I ended up at Bain & Company after graduating from Brown, and spent the next 12 years there. After three years as an Associate in Boston, Bain paid to send me back to Harvard Business School, then I returned to the firm for another 6 years in London, Amsterdam, and then back in Boston. I absolutely loved my job and the firm, but I was working 75-80 hours a week and living on the road, and after our first baby was born, my husband and I decided to make a change.
Brett had always loved my hometown of Cleveland, when we had spent time there, and at his urging, we decided to give it a try. We moved here in 2010, and I stayed with the firm, both to see if I could make it work, and to hedge our bet if Cleveland didn’t work out. Bain was incredibly supportive, but to make Partner I would have had to travel 5+ days a week, since there wasn’t a Cleveland office, and after just a few months back home, I knew really wanted to be part of the local community and the great things happening here.
After a networked job search, I took a role working for Scott Mueller at Dealer Tire, to build a newly created strategy team. It was an amazing experience. A year in, while I was on maternity leave with my second daughter, I was promoted to leading strategy and Financial Planning & Analysis/Budget. After another year, I was given the opportunity to roll out into a P&L role, managing half of our business. My time at Dealer Tire was a tremendous learning experience, getting be part of one of Cleveland’s great success stories.
In the summer of 2014, I was put in touch with Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, GOJO Vice Chair, a third-generation member of the family that founded GOJO, and the Co-Founder of Walnut Ridge Strategic Management Company, the Kanfer Family Office. We had an incredible connection the first time we met, and what was just a networking breakfast became the beginning of an amazing partnership. I joined Walnut Ridge later that Fall as the first-ever President, with New Ventures, Finance & Accounting, Estate Planning & Wealth Management, and several startups reporting into me. I also became a Board Member at GOJO. In the Spring of 2016, I moved over to GOJO to become Chief Strategy Officer.
From a professional standpoint, what keeps you up at night?
Practicing yoga and meditating daily has helped me greatly in managing my stress level. I can honestly say that I sleep well most nights. That said, I had a rare night this past week when I had trouble sleeping. I had kicked off some new projects, and the to-do lists were swirling in my head. I was extremely anxious to get the projects organized and the team members deployed productively. After laying awake for an hour or so, I picked up my phone, made a list of everything I was thinking and worrying about, as well as all of the ideas I’d come up with to address these things, and I was able to roll over and fall asleep.
I had a great mentor tell me once:
“You’re smart, you work hard, and you care deeply. Don’t ever question whether that’s enough. If you’re overwhelmed and need to call uncle, I can guarantee you most of the people around you got there a LONG time before you did. Even if you think you can push on, you owe it to all of them to call it for the night!”
Sometimes that reminder helps me step back, get perspective, and get some sleep.
How do you describe your job to your daughters?
My 8- and 6-year-old both know the GOJO Purpose is Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions, and that we do this by constantly developing new products to keep our skin and the surfaces we touch, clean and free of illness-causing germs.
I was one of many alumnae in STEM fields recently invited back to Laurel School to talk to students — including my own daughters – about my career. I brought a GloGerm kit, which includes a blacklight and powders and lotions that mimic germs on skin, and we explored how germs are passed between our hands, surfaces, and other people. I taught the girls how to wash their hands, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and they got to practice, using the breakthrough new PURELL® brand CRT HEALTHY SOAP® we just invented. This really brought to life for these girls what me and my colleagues do every day – develop products to help keep people healthy. When I was at Dealer Tire, my older daughter always said she wanted to sell tires…now they all want to work at GOJO. It’s a great feeling to see them so excited about the work I do and to know they want to be a part of it.
Women In Action is a series dedicated to telling stories of how women have faced and overcome challenges throughout their career. I’ll be interviewing different women across different career paths, generations and industries to showcase how they’ve achieved their success.