Tracey Armstrong has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) since July 2007. She brings almost 30 years of experience in rights management, helping transform CCC’s solutions to meet the needs of today’s digital world. Armstrong works with publishers, authors, universities, businesses and industry associations around the world, addressing global copyright issues and establishing new alliances.
She serves on the Boards of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO), PublisHer, and Harborlight Community Partners. She has emerged as one of the most influential voices on global copyright. Armstrong’s journey has created a powerful example for others to follow. Driven to succeed and break barriers, her career is characterized by constant innovation and a will to do more.
What led you to this career path?
My journey to CEO was more organic than intentional. I took a roll-up-sleeves approach to every job I had and made it a personal policy never to say, ‘that’s not my job’. Instead, I asked for assignments I thought were interesting and which challenged me intellectually. I learned my most valuable lessons in the field. I was fortunate to progress through an on-the-job MBA, and still believe that experiential learning is the most powerful for strengthening institutional knowledge for the future.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I think the aspect of CCC that really differentiates us is our ability and willingness to collaborate with stakeholders in the market – customers, policy makers, trade associations and other vendors – to create solutions together. CCC is committed to copyright for the common good and works to create market-based solutions to preserve choice in the market. And, in many cases we have thoughtfully used our role as a convener with deep expertise in copyright and licensing to foster industry dialogue which has led to new solutions.
Examples of this include CCC’s work to convene stakeholders on text and data mining which led to numerous new market offerings from a variety of companies, including CCC’s XML for Mining. And, CCC’s work to convene stakeholders on the challenge in scientific publishing around universal access to content: anywhere, any device and anytime. Most recently, CCC has partnered with Outsell to convene stakeholders to discuss the massive transitions in the scholarly publishing ecosystem and to find common ground as the industry explores new business models, including transformative agreements.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
The years I spent early in my career have had a tremendous influence on my leadership style. By starting in an entry-level role and working across various internal groups, I gained a unique perspective on what it takes to make a project successful from multiple angles. I learned how important it is to listen – to the customer and to the people around you. I would advise any other business leader to take the same approach – have a good understanding of how your teams operate, listen as closely to them as you do to your customer, and have a solid understanding of what people need to succeed.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Hire the best talent you can attract and, whenever possible, people who are more talented than you in their discipline. Communicate constantly, set clear goals, hold people accountable and learn to trust. To succeed in a large structure, you need to trust your team and delegate. Recognize that mandates do not work and that as CEO, there are very few levers you can move to actually effect change in your organization. It is your team, from your direct report to your front-line team members, who are the real influencers in your organization. Your job is to create a positive learning environment to foster growth in these team members which will ultimately result in growth in your bottom line.
Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are?
One of the most important mentors in my career was the late Karen Hunter, a long-standing director on CCC’s Board. For more than 40 years Karen was an icon in the publishing industry. One of the first female Senior Vice Presidents at Elsevier, Karen was an innovative and collaborative leader and a trusted mentor for numerous women in scientific publishing. Through her pioneering roles as product, strategy and senior executive leader, she cleared a path for all women in the industry, for which I am forever grateful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think corporate social responsibility programs can be very effective. I also believe the annual holiday charity drive, while important, is insufficient. I believe in creating an environment where we can help foster individual social responsibility – making it easy for people to find an outlet for their time, money and in-kind contributions amid their very busy lives.
We are still working on developing a good cadence for our 12-month approach to this concept at CCC and have already created numerous opportunities to contribute both globally and locally – giving our employees choices and building on our theme of the power of individual action, which also applies in the work context.
For example, CCC team members can choose throughout the year to prepare and serve meals at a local shelter, contribute to our local hospice chapter with time, money or other donations, run in a charity race, including the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, or donate to the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence or the American Himalayan Foundation. We have also run programs for children entering foster care and other children’s services organizations.
I’m particularly proud of our annual ‘We Not Me’ initiative, where 500 CCC team members in the US, UK, Spain, and Romania volunteer in more than 24 charitable organizations, ranging from those serving economically disadvantaged people, victims of domestic violence, and disabled persons to those working on local farming and supporting the environment.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest good to the most people, what would that be?
During the annual Frankfurt Book Fair last October, I co-hosted an exclusive dinner bringing together women in publishing, as part of the PublisHer initiative, created by Bodour Al Qasimi, Vice President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and Founding President of the Emirates Publishers Association. PublisHer is a call to action to develop a global agenda for coordinated efforts to tackle the publishing industry’s long-standing gender diversity and inclusion challenges. Its goal is to build a community of empowered women in the publishing and broader creative industries who share ideas and collaborate to seek creative solutions to current and future industry gender diversity and inclusion challenges.