People & Places

Focused on the future: ImOn CEO Patrice Carroll loves solving problems

'You have to be ahead of the curve or you get left behind'

ImOn’s ribbon cutting ceremony in Iowa City. (Courtesy photo)
ImOn’s ribbon cutting ceremony in Iowa City. (Courtesy photo)
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In the spring of 2007 ImOn Communications opened it doors for business. Patrice Carroll served as general manager for the new endeavor.

The small company inherited a network, infrastructure and a few customers from the former McLeodUSA, but had no management structure or systems in place.

By September 2013, Patrice Carroll was promoted to the rank of CEO at ImOn Communications and in the four-plus years since has led the company’s transition from an internet startup to a fast-growing player in the Corridor’s telecommunications market. Folience, parent company of The Gazette, is an investor in ImOn.

ImOn Communications has steadily increased its footprint throughout the Corridor, offering business services in the Iowa City/Coralville market, in addition to its residential and business services in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha. Most recently, the company expanded its footprint into the business sector in Dubuque.

Leading a fast-paced, growing business in what has been primarily a male-dominated industry, Carroll hopes more women will pursue a career in telecommunications in the future.

Born with an aptitude for math, she credits her second-grade teacher for setting her on the right path.

“Sister Bertha told me I was good at math,” she laughed.

“I’ve been fortunate all my life in that people were always pushing me — guiding me — into areas a bit out of my comfort zone,” she said.

When it was time for college, she majored in math and physics.

Today, Carroll describes herself as a problem solver.

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“I love the engineering side of things, and I like looking at trends and patterns in this industry to see what direction we need to follow.”

Carroll believes another factor from her childhood serves her well in working in such a rapidly changing business environment. And that is her ability to adapt.

“I was a military child,” she said. “We moved around a lot, didn’t stay in one place very long and I had to adapt to new things because of that.

“You have to be flexible in order to keep up with the trends in the telecommunications industry,” she said.

“This industry is constantly remaking itself, and you have to be ahead of the curve or you get left behind.”

In her first job after college, she worked as a software programmer. When her husband accepted a new job, they moved from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Iowa City, and she took a job in the IT department at Teleconnect.

“At one point in my career, I was the only woman exec out of 200 in the company. I never really thought of myself as being a woman on the job. I was there to do the job, do what needed to be done and do the best I could.”

- Patrice Carroll, CEO of ImOn Communications

“When MCI took over, I told my supervisor I don’t do well if I am bored,” she said. She worked as a network system engineering manager and continued to rise through the ranks at MCI, WorldCom and McLeod.

When she was part of the team that started ImOn Communications in 2007, the company had 30 employees. Today, Carroll leads a team of 110 employees.

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“We want to grow, but we want to grow markets at a pace that we can handle and provide that customer service that we like to do. We don’t provide our customers with just a connection,” she said. “We are in it with them — we stay involved in their service.”

Carroll points out that keeping up with technology as a business is very different than as an individual.

“You have to keep your eyes and ears open and decide what is a fad and what is here to stay.”

She studies trends and patterns in the telecom industry and stresses the importance of knowing the difference between a sound business venture and jumping in just because every other company is doing something.

Carroll is passionate about sparking interest among girls and young women to pursue math and science.

“I believe it is important to be aware of how we are presenting these subjects to them to encourage their interest.

“Math is the language of life,” she said. “Everything comes from math.”

Carroll feels it is important to encourage women to enter once male-dominated fields and to aim for the jobs at the top.

“At one point in my career, I was the only woman exec out of 200 in the company. I never really thought of myself as being a woman on the job,” she said.

“I was there to do the job, do what needed to be done and do the best I could.”

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Since taking on the lead role at ImOn, Carroll has sought to expand not only the company’s involvement in community affairs, but her own as well.

Her business, technology and leadership talents are shared widely as an active member on several boards and committees in the Corridor.

She sits on the Cedar Rapids City Managers Advisory Council, serves with Iowa City Area Development, Junior Achievement and the Economic Small Business Alliance, as well as Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust’s Board of Directors.

Recently, she was appointed president of the Board of Directors for Theatre Cedar Rapids, where she has found a new creative outlet, making hats for the theater.

“When they first asked me to do that, I told my husband, ‘I don’t have time,’ but he said it was important that I make time and do it. He said I needed to do it for myself.”

She now loves making hats, a non-analytical activity that feeds her creative side.

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.