Awards and Events
Profile of a People Leader: Thomas Karthaus
nparish // January 25, 2022 // 8min read
Qualtrics Life (QL): Tell me a little about your career journey, and how you ended up here at Qualtrics as a leader.
Thomas Karthaus (TK):
My sales career journey began in large part because of my father. I've always looked up to my dad as a role model and he has been in sales his entire career. After school, I had an opportunity to work as a Sales Development Representative (SDR )/Business Development Representative (BDR) but at the time I did not 100% know I wanted a career in sales. The opportunity presented itself and I wanted to see what was possible. Within a short period of time, I was able to demonstrate a natural fit for a career in sales. I think I had a really good role model who I learned from for many years before knowing what I was learning. Thanks, pops!
As an individual contributor, I was able to promote through sales roles supporting Enterprise accounts before joining Qualtrics. I was actually on vacation when I received an initial call from the Qualtrics recruiter. (Hey Sidney!) One of the things that drew me the most to Qualtrics was the opportunity individual contributors have to move into leadership. It was based on meritocracy, and once I heard that, I knew I would be able to achieve the goals of being a leader. I was fortunate to receive an opportunity from Qualtrics as the first Account Executive for Corporate Canada and was able to achieve the criteria needed to move into leadership.
QL: When did you know you wanted to be a people leader?
TK: I have always thought of myself as a leader, so there wasn’t one specific point in time where I made a conscious decision to be a leader. I was always a leader or captain in team sports and extracurriculars. I found that I naturally gravitated towards those leadership roles because I got so much satisfaction and joy out of seeing other people succeed. I was successful at selling as an individual contributor but it felt better to help others. My purpose is to help others wherever I can and I can do that more as a leader than as an individual contributor.
QL: Why did you choose Qualtrics to be part of your journey as a people leader?
TK: During the interview process, I asked the same question of all the companies I was interviewing with, “What do the growth and development opportunities look like at your company?” At Qualtrics, the leadership and promotion path wasn’t subjective. It was defined and based on meritocracy and rooted in results and tangible numbers. I’m a transparent, candid, passionate person with a large personality. Personalities like mine can sometimes come off the wrong way and can be called into question and viewed as a weakness when it comes to leadership. I knew that if I could be in the right environment and see the path to a management role, I could walk it and do it quickly. I went from an individual contributor to a leader in 2 years and I didn’t miss a target.
QL: What’s your personal leadership philosophy or style?
TK: In my opinion, the greatest leaders of our time don’t have one style. They flex their approach based on who they’re leading or working with. They should have a purpose, direction, and goals but they should be able to adjust their styles for the team they’re working with because people work differently. I have 4 leadership tenets that are flexible enough to be made specific to the individual and situation:
- Focus on psychological safety. Create an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing their honest and authentic voices.
- Encourage vacation. I will actually go as far as to tell people to take off because I can tell when people need it.
- Enable each individual to be better each week. I do this by being available to them.
- Care personally. I care personally about each person on my team and I do this to earn their trust and respect. I find that when I do this, the numbers will follow.
QL: How do you measure your success as a leader?
TK: For me, it’s all about the people. By looking at a combination of manager effectiveness, employee engagement, retention, tenure, and the number of promotions on your team you can see if people want to stay and grow their careers with you. I also ask for feedback to get that validation. Am I leading and guiding them in the right way? That said, I’m in sales, so numbers also have to be taken into account. But, if you lead with a people-first mindset, the numbers will follow. To me, if my team is engaged and effective, that’s a mark of success.
QL: Are there any highlights or memories from your time as a leader last year that stick out to you?
TK: This award. Receiving the validation and recognition from my peers and the leadership cohort has been one of the greatest honors of my career. Earlier on, I was told not to be a leader. Someone told me that I’d be better off as an individual contributor, that I’m built for enterprise, and that I'd make better money if I stayed that course. I could have just as easily been influenced to follow their advice, especially being a young, fast-moving sales professional, but it actually pushed me in the opposite direction. Regardless of what they told me, I knew it was what I was supposed to do. I knew that path wasn’t for me and I took a bet on myself because I knew I was meant to be a leader.
QL: What does this award mean to you?
This award means a lot to me because it wasn’t a self-nomination - it was based on data. Over the last year, we had 99% manager effectiveness and 98% engagement scores. Being able to achieve this and leading a successful team throughout the pandemic has validated that I made the right choice in becoming a leader. I’m grateful for Qualtrics for tracking manager effectiveness because it means that we care about our people. We don’t just talk about it, we actually DO.
QL: What would most people be surprised to learn about you?
TK: My idea of peace and relaxation involves 0% connectedness to the outside world. If I had it my way, I’d live out in the wilderness, raise animals, and live among the trees. That’s where I feel the most at peace. Also, I’m most proud of my family. I’m a girl dad, I have two amazing beautiful girls and an amazing wife. They motivate me to advocate for all of the things right and important so that I can make the world a better place for them.
|Thomas is an alumnus of the University of Guelph and Niagara County Community College and started his career at Filogix.|
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