Axle Member Spotlight

Kathryn Roy
Precision Thinking

Kathryn Roy is another ex-Loti who transitioned into consulting. Her present company helps mid-size companies and start-ups figure out how to restart growth after initial setbacks.

Kathryn Roy, 2002

In 1992, Kathryn started at Lotus as Director of Product Marketing for 123 for Windows. After working with the 1-2-3 team for a while, she moved across the street to head up Strategic Marketing where some will remember her as the (dastardly?) pricing czar. In 1995, she left Lotus to consult for “a couple of months” for Cliff Conneighton at BBN Planet (now Genuity) while waiting to hear from the Peace Corps on her application. Two months grew into fourteen months during which Kathryn became vice president with P&L responsibility for BBN Planet’s domestic Internet service, a $100M business.

Then, the Thursday before Labor Day weekend in 1996, the Peace Corps called to offer Kathryn and her husband an assignment in Papau, New Guinea. Before heading up to their Labor Day white-water kayaking trip on the Penobscot River, they stopped at a bookstore to buy the Lonely Planet Guide to Papua New Guinea to learn more about the country (like where it was). Against all odds, someone on that trip in the wilds of Maine knew of a couple who had just returned from serving in Papua, New Guinea. Tuesday morning, following the weekend, Kathryn called the poor couple at 7 a.m.; grilled them for a good hour; and resolved to take the assignment.

Here are a few facts: PNG is the eastern half of the 2nd largest island in the world, New Guinea (Greenland beat it out for 1st place). At its closest, PNG is 36 miles north of Australia. The country has a population the size of Rhode Island in a territory the size of California. The entire island accounts for 1/3 of the world’s languages. The 2,000 people on Kathryn’s mountain spoke Numanggong. [Note: If you are interested in learning more, take a look at the bestseller from a few years ago - Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond. The author devoted Chapter Three to explaining why New Guinea is still run by natives while its close neighbor, Australia, was taken over by Europeans.]

Kathryn Roy, 2002

Once a month, if vehicles were running, Kathryn and her husband would resupply in the second largest city in the country (5,000 people). They had a three-hour trip in unreliable vehicles from town to the end of the road on their mountain, followed by a 1/4 mile hike.

Their village, at the altitude of Denver, was protected from the equatorial temperatures of the lower lands. Their house was made of grass and bamboo, equipped with a bucket shower (the spring was 5 minutes away) and a private latrine.

The locals were seemingly unimpressed by Kathryn’s Harvard MBA, Masters degree in Operations Research, and her background in high-tech marketing - especially when they caught her pulling up corn seedlings by accident when she was supposed to be weeding her garden or falling down the muddy mountain paths.

Kathryn and her husband worked on a variety of projects mostly to help villagers earn more money. They taught a lot of basic math. Since skills were so poor, you could make money by buying carrots at the market because the seller might give you more back in change than you gave them in bills. They taught people how to repair sewing machines and build cement water tanks. They helped improve coffee yields and introduce higher margin crops.

After 2 1/4 years of service, they took nine months to tour Asia before returning stateside. With impeccable timing, Kathryn managed to leave before the dotcom boom blasted off and to return just in time for the crash

A brief stint as CFO and vice president of Marketing at a technology start-up helped her realize that consulting was much more to her liking. Many ex-Loti, including Bob Weiler, Cliff Conneighton, Eileen Rudden, and Rob Perry, have been extremely helpful building up her contacts and practice. Other ex-Loti who consult, such as Barbara Baird, Elaine Salloway, Carole Gunst, Pam Campanga, Mary Beth Shoening, Jacqueline Franklin, and Sue Balzano have generously provided very helpful practical advice. What a great network!

Kathryn Roy, 2002

Based on lessons learned at Lotus, Interleaf, Origin Systems, and Palladian Software, Kathryn wrote an article with advice on organizing marketing departments, which she is happy to share with anyone involved in those areas. Other articles have been published in Mass High Tech and HBS’ Working Knowledge. For more information on Kathryn’s consulting business, go to http://www.precisionthinking.com.

October 29, 2002

Previous Members in the Spotlight:

Ben Shelton
Jeff Todd
John Briggs
Michelle Goguen Hurley
Ron Herardian
Ezra Gottheil
Jim Bernardo
Michael Kolowich
Kathryn Roy
Larry Roshfeld
Jeff Anderholm
John Rudolf
Betsy Kosheff
Greg Jarboe
Rob Perry
Chris Mann
Carrie Snyder Griffen
Sue Madden Moore
Tim Davenport