Barbara Martin Coppola is the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) for Ingka Group. Ingka Group, known as IKEA, is the world’s largest home furnishing retailer and owns and operates 367+ stores in 30+ markets (FY18) under franchise agreements with Inter IKEA Systems B.V.
Barbara started her career with IKEA in 2018 and has the overall responsibility for leading the company’s digital technology capabilities and overall transformation. Barbara has over 20 years of experience in the technology sector and has lived and worked in more than nine countries worldwide. Prior to IKEA, she held leading positions in several global businesses such as Google, YouTube, Samsung and Texas Instruments, to name a few. Barbara has a successful track-record of transforming and innovating large-scale companies.
Barbara holds a Master of Science in Telecommunications Engineering from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, a Master of Science in Mobile Communications from E.N.S.T (Telecom Paris), and an MBA in Business Administration and Management from INSEAD. She is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
In her spare time, Barbara likes to travel and experience new places & cultures with her family. She also enjoys music and is an avid pianist.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given
When I was growing up I used to admire people that were achieving big things and showed lots of confidence. In my imperfection, I felt so far from them it seemed impossible that one day I could get even close to their greatness. But at the same time I was dreaming big and had energy in me. When I was 12, I wanted to be one of the top engineers of my generation.
Growing up, I had Mr Cassam as a Math teacher. One day he asked me: “Barbara, if other people can, why not you?”. I reflected on his question. It helped me realize that nothing is impossible. You have to believe in yourself and do one step at a time. Towards whatever is important to you. Work hard at it. Never give up trying.
I have been applying this way of thinking since then. I have made mistakes along the way but mistakes happen to those who try. I have courage and energy to continue trying. I hope this advice will help you too.
Worst piece of advice you’ve been given
Be patient as good things will eventually come to you. I find this advice too passive for what I have experienced in life. Good things come to those who actively try, work at it and put energy into what they do. The journey of trying and not the destination is what it’s all about. The learning, the connection to others, the effort. Whether this journey results in success or not is not the point, it’s whether the journey enriched you as a human being and your live is better as a result of it.
What would you tell your younger self?
Life is long and the unexpected happens. One needs to adapt to the changes with the best attitude possible. In every situation there is opportunity, and looking at things with positive attitude helps. So don’t worry that much, younger self, and have courage to live a life of unknown and adventures.
And another advice, younger self: trust your guts when times of decisions or cross-roads. Pay attention to the unspoken communication and your own feelings. What you feel inside is a compass helping you along the way to make the right choices.
What excites you most about the future of your industry?
In partnership with consumers, the retail industry can redefine consumption to be more sustainable and convenient. Contribute to a planet positive and a circular economy when resources and materials are reused instead of created from scratch. Business models need to be reinvented, practices and operations need to be adapted. This is exciting as it is full of possibilities. I have faith in human beings and I believe covid and the crisis we are living will bring the best in us to pave the way towards a sustainable new economic system.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is watching my kids’ sparkle in the eye when they experience simple things. They remind me of what is important in life, oftentimes involving new experiences, human connection and nature. What if we remained children in our spirit as growing up? We would probably look at the world around us with more awe, we would respect it more and we would concentrate on the here and now.