Karen Clark Cole

Karen Clark Cole
Karen Clark Cole

Category: Presidents' Alumni Awards 

Name: Karen Clark Cole

UVic degree and year: Bachelor of Arts, 1991         

Other degrees: Information Technology & Multimedia program at Capilano University

Current hometown: Seattle, WA                   

Birthplace: Victoria, BC

Karen Clark Cole is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Blink UX, an award-winning, global experience design firm. Her leadership philosophy is grounded in what she calls being a “Possibility Thinker.” Her optimistic, fully present approach to life enables her to turn big visionary ideas into action and plant a seed for what is possible in everyone she meets.

Through her work at Blink, Clark Cole was a winner of the 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year award and a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015. In 2016, Blink was listed on Forbes Magazine’s Best 25 Small Companies in America list. She writes a column for Forbes.com on the Entrepreneurs channel discussing many topics, including how UX is revolutionizing business.

Clark Cole is executive director for Girls Can Do, a non-profit she founded in 2014. Girls Can Do hosts an event series for girls with the mission to inspire a generation of possibility thinkers and ignite a vision for equal opportunity. In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a keynote video address, and Clark Cole received a thank you letter from President Barack Obama for her work with girls. Clark Cole lives in Seattle, Washington, where she loves to trail run, garden, backcountry ski, kitesurf and hang out with her amazing daughter.

Q:  Many people are not following one career for life. What other work might interest you in the future, even as a hypothetical?

KCC: I also run a non-profit organization called Girls Can Do, which is an event series for girls. I started it to bring attention to the many, many women who are doing great things and to give girls a vision to move towards. Too often we focus on what is not going well, rather than seeing the great examples of progress and success all around us. The mission of Girls Can Do is to: ‘Inspire a generation of possibility thinkers and ignite a vision for equal opportunity. To encourage young women to have big dreams and pursue them.’


Q: What is a favourite book you read in the last five years and why?

KCC: Bend, Not Break, by Ping Fu. It’s an incredible story of resilience and a tribute to the human spirit. It is beautifully written as it alternates between her life growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution and her wildly successful career as a high-tech innovator in the US. 


Q: What is your advice to younger people entering your line of work or who feel lost or confused about their future?

KCC: One step at a time. Just get started and each day tackle something new. You don’t have to figure it all out before you get going, just start. Be open to feedback and willing to make refinements, adjustments, and pivots as you go. Most important is to make sure you are having fun and find ways to laugh. It has to be fun.


Q: What’s a part of your daily routine that you can’t do without?

KCC: Exercise. I use my morning run as active meditation. It sets me up for the day with a clear head for critical thinking and lower stress.


Q: What is your favourite memory of being a student at UVic?

KCC: I loved all of UVic. I worked in the Athletics and Rec department as the Intramural Coordinator, played water polo and lifeguarded—so I spent a lot of time walking between the McKinnon building and my art-history classes. I had an art-history major, and visual-arts minor, and took so many classes I could have had a double major in the end. The campus, the students, and the professors were all top notch. The profs were all so accessible and engaged it created a very personal and intimate learning experience.


Q: What do you hope you and your work will ultimately contribute toward a better future for people and the planet?

KCC: At my company, Blink, our mission is to enrich people’s lives. The most obvious way we do this is with the digital products and systems we design, but we also created a cultural framework that sets employees up for leaving at the end of the day feeling valued. There is research that shows when someone feels valued, they feel happy. If an employee goes home happy, they are going to have a positive influence on their families, friends, neighbours and in their communities. My goal is to provide a positive work environment for as many people as possible, so the world can have more happy people.


For the full list of 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, click here.