Kelley Lear: Driving Innovation and Successful Leadership in the Business World

The Most Influential Women in Business To Follow, 2023

Kelley Lear is a distinguished professional serving as the Vice President of Partnerships & Alliances at Thomson Reuters. With a wealth of expertise, Kelley excels in fostering collaborative endeavors that propel companies towards market expansion, growth extension, and transformative disruption through groundbreaking products and solutions tailored for the global arena. Her proficiency spans various domains, including Business Development, Professional Services, and Product Management, each underscored by an impressive track record of delivering cutting-edge technology and comprehensive services across diverse industries. With her adept skill set and proven history, Kelley Lear continues to be a driving force in driving innovation and success across the business landscape.

Aspirations to Mastery in Tech and Global Business

Kelley always knew she’d have a business career, though not necessarily in tech. She initially thought she would pursue a joint JD-MBA degree but ended up completing an MBA. Her role at Thomson Reuters still involves contract work with legal teams, aligning with her interests. However, her real passion is technology and solving customers challenges in new and unique ways.  She started as a Project Manager for international expat tax software, despite lacking development leadership experience. Her people skills were valued in a team of skilled experts, where she thrived on the challenge, creativity, and limitless possibilities of technology. This led her to international HR, tax, compliance, risk, and legal content and technology, highlighting the need for innovative solutions in global business. Kelley’s career evolution underscored her problem-solving skills and adaptability in a complex landscape.

Breaking Barriers

Early in Kelley’s career, she achieved an impressive milestone by ascending to the Director level, solidifying her status as one of the youngest women to attain such a position within the organization and the then male-dominated realm of tax technology. Frequently finding herself as the lone woman in rooms filled with male counterparts, she navigated this dynamic and the predominantly male composition of her technology teams.

However, Kelley was guided by exceptional mentors who actively challenged the status quo. These mentors not only advocated for her but also played a crucial role in introducing more female engineers into the fold. This support was particularly essential given the potential skepticism that surrounded her experience and technical prowess.

A defining moment emerged when Kelley transitioned into a development project management role for a project that was behind schedule and over budget. While met with initial resistance from seasoned architects, database administrators, and engineers, her advocacy and innovative methods of real time problem solving was upheld by the Development leader. This simple alteration proved instrumental in fostering a culture of collaboration, ultimately propelling a complex project to successful fruition, maintaining adherence to deadlines and budgetary confines.

Kelley’s close collaboration with a Partner/CIO added another layer of support to her journey. This Partner, known for his open-door policy, engaged deeply with Kelley’s challenges and innovative solution proposals. His endorsement and prompt implementation bolstered Kelley’s self-assurance and willingness to champion what she believed was right for both clients and the organization, even if her strategies challenged conventional norms or established policies.

Commitment to Excellence in a Complex World

Thomson Reuters stands as a remarkable company that brings immense pride to Kelley for her association with it. While most people are familiar with its globally renowned “Reuters News Agency,” which perfectly embodies foundational “Trust Principles,” the company’s impact extends far beyond this recognition. Thomson Reuters’ guiding motto encapsulates its purpose: “We pave the way forward by delivering reliable content and cutting-edge technology that professionals and institutions require to make informed choices.”

In essence, this entails a diverse array of content and software solutions tailored to support professionals in areas such as corporate tax, trade, accounting, legal matters, and risk management. These solutions are designed to aid a wide range of organizations, from small entities to large corporations and even government bodies. They facilitate essential tasks such as planning, computation, compliance adherence, risk mitigation, reporting, and global transaction oversight.

Thomson Reuters’ collaboration with clients doesn’t just stop at providing solutions – it extends to reshaping the very foundations of society. By embracing digital transformation in tax and legal fields, advocating for a vibrant free press, facilitating commerce, and upholding the principles of justice, the company catalyzes profound shifts in the operations of professionals and institutions. Its bedrock is the set of Trust Principles that steer Thomson Reuters, underscoring the company’s commitment to offering not just technology and content, but also industry expertise.

In an era characterized by growing complexity, Thomson Reuters steps in to automate mundane tasks, deliver valuable insights, and streamline processes, all of which have tangible benefits. This, in turn, liberates the company’s clients, enabling them to redirect their energies towards cultivating meaningful connections with their own customers.

Path from Obstacles to Opportunities

Kelley has encountered numerous setbacks and obstacles throughout her years, most of which have arisen from significant shifts either in customer dynamics (including people, processes, or technological landscape), internal operational contexts within Thomson Reuters, or the broader external economic milieu. Change, she recognizes, can either be a supportive ally or a formidable adversary. Through her experiences, she’s observed that the most accomplished individuals she’s collaborated with have harnessed change as a propeller toward even greater success.

Kelley’s approach doesn’t involve expending energy on apprehension regarding alterations or negative sentiments. Instead, she dedicates her focus to foreseeing potential changes and devising constructive solutions that capitalize on such changes. This proactive stance empowers her to transform shifts into opportunities, propelling both herself and her endeavors forward.

Wearing Many Hats

Throughout her journey, Kelley has worn multiple hats, from a Project Manager overseeing development to a Product Manager, and further stepping into the role of a Consulting or Professional Services Leader. In these capacities, she has successfully overseen various undertakings, including custom development, implementations, and financial transformation initiatives. Each role has contributed to her diverse skill set.

Currently, an exciting new chapter has opened for Kelley as she takes the reins in Technology Partnerships and Strategic Technology Alliances. This endeavor goes beyond mere channel expansion for exponential growth. It entails forging collaborations with other technology enterprises to not only broaden Thomson Reuters offerings but also to invigorate products for the benefit of the customer base. What’s more, this initiative carries the potential to disrupt existing markets by introducing innovative solutions and novel work methodologies. The scope of possibilities appears limitless, granting the latitude to shape and extend the solution ecosystem in unprecedented ways, thereby ushering in fresh avenues to serve customers.

Dedication to Mentorship and Impactful Leadership

In her current role and personal life, Kelley is dedicated to mentoring numerous young women who are navigating their way in the professional world. Setting a tangible example, she consistently carves out time each week to guide and nurture others. A focal point of her efforts involves ensuring that the women she collaborates with have access to mentors and influencers from various spheres, both within and beyond the company, encompassing diverse fields. This comprehensive approach cultivates a richer understanding of perspectives stemming from different stakeholder groups within an organization.

Kelley’s commitment to mentorship extends to her involvement on the Board of Directors and as a mentor for Take Stock in Children. This organization takes on the responsibility of providing mentors, college success coaches, and scholarships to support at-risk youth. This multifaceted engagement underscores her dedication to making a positive impact across various domains, showcasing her fervor for mentorship and empowerment.

Personal and Professional Triumphs

Kelley holds that her most profound accomplishment is personal, centered around the birth of her son, Finnegan, and the privilege of being his mother. She finds each passing year with him and her husband Gordon, to be an enhancement over the previous, a source of joy and growth.

Professionally, her standout achievement prior to Thomson Reuters was embracing a career leap and joining a startup led by the former CIO of Arthur Andersen, a significant early mentor in her business and technology journey. In this capacity as a Managing Director, Kelley assumed a multitude of roles, encompassing development, product management, marketing, sales, and more. This dynamic role involved shaping the company, ultimately leading to its acquisition by CCH – Wolters Kluwer. This endeavor coincided with a pivotal stage in her life, marked by the youth of her son and the flexibility to learn, evolve, and innovate toward success.

Making Dynamic Technology Partnerships

In her capacity as Vice President of Partnerships & Alliances, Kelley oversees the Technology Partner Program and Strategic Technology Partnerships. This role encompasses the evaluation of a wide spectrum of opportunities, ranging from small-scale to larger integration partners,  ERP’s, hyperscalers, and other content and technology solution providers. These partnerships are established through various avenues, including referrals, re-selling, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreements, white labeling, and other innovative approaches aimed at introducing fresh solutions to customers.

Kelley’s responsibilities extend beyond initial partnership assessments. Upon bringing new partners on board, she spearheads collaborative efforts across both organizations. This involves enabling representatives and stakeholders, forging connections between engineering teams, fostering joint marketing and sales initiatives, and streamlining on-the-ground go-to-market strategies. These concerted efforts accelerate the process of delivering solutions into the hands of the end customers.

Quest for Excellence

Kelley acknowledges that while she wishes she could claim she personally keeps her team motivated, she firmly believes that her team is inherently driven to achieve success. The team comprises individuals who are the best and the brightest, characterized by a profound hunger for knowledge and an eagerness to innovate, expanding both the solutions and the channels at hand. Fondly referred to as the “Crush It Squad,” the team even has its own logo. However, the core focus isn’t just on enthusiasm; it’s on continuous improvement, challenging norms, and collaborative optimization.

Kelley and her team have cultivated a unique approach. Embracing a fresh perspective, they’ve empowered less experienced team members, who are Partner Associates, to lead their Alliance Excellence Program. This program serves as a mechanism for ongoing self-assessment and improvement. It’s a testament to the team’s commitment to constant growth and exploration of novel ways to enhance their processes and approaches.

Harmonizing Passion and Presence

Kelley is passionate about her work yet ensures her family feels her presence. Shared family meals and no work during quality time emphasize her work-life balance. To counter stress, she enjoys diverse physical activities beyond the gym. Running, biking, swimming, kayaking, and fishing keep her grounded and positive.

Kelley also dedicates time to nurture her relationships with friends and family, recognizing their importance in her life’s equilibrium. With the advantage of needing minimal sleep, she adeptly balances her responsibilities as a working mom, effectively allocating time for both work and personal pursuits. This ethos of “work hard, play hard” embodies her approach to life’s demands.

Technological Transformation and Accelerating Growth through AI and Open Data

Kelley views this as a pivotal and thrilling phase for Thomson Reuters. The company is shifting from a holding structure to an operational powerhouse. The recent completion of the “Change Program” supports this transformation, propelling it toward becoming a content-driven technology force. With the evolving political, regulatory, economic, and social landscapes, the way organizations like Thomson Reuters adapt is changing. Responses need to be faster, more precise, and integrated across a broader technology ecosystem.

In light of these shifts, a pillar of the growth strategy revolves around leveraging APIs and an open data framework. There’s a strategic emphasis on amplifying and expanding the partnership program and community. Concurrently, substantial investments are directed towards the burgeoning realms of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The acquisition of legal AI firm Case text, valued at $650 million, along with planned investments totaling $100 million into AI/ML, underlines the commitment to these transformative technologies.

The swift pace and profound potential of AI/ML designate them as core growth pillars for Thomson Reuters’ content and technology teams. This strategic direction aligns Thomson Reuters to excel in an era where AI/ML redefine industries.

Success for Kelley

Early in her career, Kelley held the belief that success was defined by surpassing her career objectives and ambitions. As time progressed, her perspective on success evolved into a more profound understanding. For Kelley, success entails infusing passion, bravery, and relentless determination into every endeavor, spanning personal, professional, and philanthropic domains. With a history of assuming leadership roles within the technology sector, she garnered the insight that limitations are often surmountable given the right blend of time, resources, intellect, and determination.

Consequently, this outlook informs her approach to any obstacle she encounters, whether in her personal or professional spheres. While grounded in pragmatism and attentive to priorities, strategic coherence, and return on investment, Kelley remains undeterred by challenges that align with her convictions. Moreover, she maintains the conviction that true success emanates from a focus on others, an authentic penchant for attentive listening, and a perpetual willingness to actively assist those around her.

Pursuit of Knowledge, Impact, and Empowerment

Kelley’s personal goal for the upcoming years is to deepen her understanding of emerging technologies and enhance her strategic prowess, both in her current role and beyond. She aspires to drive transformative change with increased speed and effectiveness. She firmly believes that the opportune time for astonishing change is always the present moment.

On a personal level, Kelley finds immense fulfillment in serving on the Board of Directors for Take Stock in Children Sarasota County, a national organization that operates locally. This involvement aligns with her belief in effecting change at a grassroots level. She advocates for the idea that everyone can make a significant impact by focusing on their own passions and community. Kelley’s mission extends to mentoring young individuals, instilling in them the belief that they possess the power to effect change immediately, across all facets of life. She encourages them to maintain positivity and a proactive mindset, emphasizing solutions over challenges. Her overarching message is that united efforts can achieve remarkable outcomes.