Karen Parkin

Karen graduated from Wits University with a degree in Economics and Business Administration. She joined IBM South Africa and, after several years as a systems engineer, she moved to Switzerland. There she worked in IT for more than a decade at the European Headquarters of Dow Chemical. As Project Manager for R&D she was responsible for developing and maintaining international computer systems and applications which involved meeting the scientific and commercial needs of very diverse client groups. She was responsible for transforming the Help Desk and telecoms support into a professional Service Centre. And, as head of IT application development, she managed project teams of professionals from 30 nations. During this time her technical and Project Management abilities were finely honed. She developed outstanding leadership skills, and was a natural choice to lead and facilitate Dow’s IT Total Quality Management program.

In the early 1990’s, Karen moved to London and, together with her husband Godfrey, started up a creative technology company. The company, CyberClass Ltd, now trading as Pepper’s Ghost Productions, was created to build and market internet-based training simulation products, computer games, and animation properties. As VP of Production, Karen was challenged with delivering on all creative and technical aspects of the business – not easy when forging new ground in both technology and creativity. She lead the company’s initiatives in defining innovative processes and tools to make commercially viable what to date had been impossible, and patented a number of technologies that are still in use today. She led the creative strategy of the business, melding the talents of writers, designers and artists, film directors and musicians, and games programmers to create engaging entertainment experiences. Karen was the prime interface between the company and independent owners of intellectual property.

After selling out to partners, she joined the BBC to lead the Digital Archive Project, a vast project to restore and digitize the BBC’s entire archive of audio tracks and video footage, and make it accessible to producers and webmasters using web technology. This high profile project was critical to the BBC’s transition into a real-time new-media organisation, and required not only superb management and communication skills, but also a great deal of diplomacy and negotiation at high levels across the organisation.

In 1998, Karen relocated to the USA and joined EURO RSCG, an online interactive advertising agency that is part of the Havas Media empire. There she managed e-commerce and web development projects for a global client base that included Lockheed Martin, Intel and The Humane Society of the USA.

A few years later she moved to Marriott International’s corporate headquarters in Washington D.C. to internationalise and localise the online marketing and reservations of their hotels worldwide. She managed the evolution of reservations systems to support multi-country implementation, and led the creative production of the online marketing experience. She pulled together teams of writers, designers, information architects, and user experience research experts. She managed external agencies (from Argentina, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, Germany, UK, and the US) for web development, localisation, translation and search-engine marketing. And she interfaced with IT to design, develop, test and implement the technical solutions. In only eighteen months, Marriott Hotels International went from a US-only web site to an international presence in 20 countries in 9 languages. Marriott’s sites now take over $10 million a day in online hotel reservations, for all of its 2,800 hotels around the world.

Karen’s intimate involvement with individual marketing and sales executives internationally and with Marriott hotel properties taught her the intricacies of the hotel marketing business and earned her an enviable reputation for her “e” expertise, excellence in cultural awareness, customer service and project execution.

In May 2006, Karen returned to South Africa and, together with Godfrey Parkin, formed Britefire. She plans to contribute significantly to the growth of the Project Management profession, e-commerce, and web development in South Africa, and will continue to develop and leverage her experience in international and multicultural projects.
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