5 Questions with CEO Carla Bourque

I asked Carla Bourque, the CEO of Rebrandly, to share some of what has helped her become a CEO.

In my 20+ year career in tech, I have had the opportunity to work with strong, smart, and highly accomplished women who held roles ranging from CMO to COO and from VP of Sales to VP of Engineering, but until I joined Rebrandly in August of last year, I had never worked at a company where a woman had the top job of CEO. 

FH: You have an accomplished career in tech that has led to your current position as CEO of Rebrandly – but you didn’t start as a CEO.

How did you get started in your career, and what is one piece of advice you would like to share with women who are getting into the workforce today?

CARLA BOURQUE:  The advice I give women is the same that I share with anyone who is looking to find their path forward – which is before you set your sights on a role or a title:

  • Do the personal work to understand who you are at your core 
  • Your intrinsic values and what you care about
  • Set goals that will support your learning and growth in that direction
  • Create and design the life – and the work – that fulfills you. 

A little background

My career actually started when I was 14 working on a local family farm in New England. I could have chosen to work at MacDonald’s (not many other options back then!), but I knew I wanted to be outside and active so off to the fields I went. Farm work was physically challenging (and my friends thought I was crazy – always dirty) – but also incredibly satisfying.

At the end of each day, I could look back at the fields I had plowed, the crops I harvested, or the irrigation I had set up and know that my work had made an impact. I worked on that farm all throughout high school and college, supporting myself with the money I earned, picking up more responsibility and skills over the years:

  • Leading teams
  • managing inventory and sales operations
  • interacting with vendors and customers

My time on the farm was an invaluable experience that taught me much about responsibility, building trust, resource management, forecasting & pricing, scaling for growth, and market dynamics. I draw on that experience often in my role as a CEO and in life. 

People often tell me that they want to be CEOs someday, and the first thing I always ask is, “Why?” As every individual and business is different, no two CEOs are alike. It’s really important to be honest about what motivates you and what your strengths and weaknesses are (an objective peer or self-audit is a great exercise to capture feedback) so that you can position yourself for success and create meaningful value—for yourself and others.

FH: In a challenging market, it seems every business is looking for growth…

What are some opportunities you are seeing that businesses might be overlooking right now? 

CARLA BOURQUE:  Often times companies focus too heavily on the external factors that could accelerate their growth trajectory (M&A, new tech, channels, geos, partners, etc.) and overlook  internal opportunities to cultivate growth through optimizing existing assets (e.g. product, pricing, packaging, people, systems, and processes) that capture and create value.

Growth is the result of a number of variables (back to my farm experience – each crop requires certain conditions to thrive – soil, water, light, pruning, adjacent crops, pest mitigation, etc.), and it’s important to look at all of the available levers  and evaluate them (along with their associated costs and risks) based on their potential impact and time to value. 

When it seems as though every business  is looking for (and expecting) growth, especially during challenging market conditions, smart growth investors and business leaders focus on efficient growth vs. growth at all costs. While steady, efficient growth may not be as sexy or headline-grabbing as wild valuations or rocketship IPOs, the past few years have shown us that without solid cash positions and scalable business models, the growth at-all-costs playbook doesn’t usually end well.

Companies that demonstrate efficient growth and scalability in high-growth segments are well-positioned for success – especially in the current financial environment with interest rates, international markets, and inflation in flux.

FH: What is something you learned recently that changed your perspective? 

CARLA BOURQUE:  How to rock-climb!

I’m still very much a beginner, but the process of understanding the equipment, the importance of energy and timing, choosing a trusted partner for belay, getting certified, and tackling steeper and more challenging routes.

  • All of it has helped me understand how rock climbing challenges you to solve problems with physical grit and a mental game
  • Preparation and perspective can impact whether you make it to the top or not
  • Especially if you lose your grip and need to regain your position

As in life, with rock climbing, there’s always a new route to explore, and sometimes, you need to drop to the ground (or reset) to get a clear view of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

FH: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

CARLA BOURQUE: Don’t worry. Keep going!

FH: What is the most underrated leadership skill?

CARLA BOURQUE:  Effective leadership requires many skills, including:

  • Understanding
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Strong decision-making
  • Trust
  • Accountability

In my experience, great leaders are the ones who also exhibit and cultivate curiosity. Leading a project, team, or business requires a lot of discipline, skill, and coordination, and if the purpose or mission isn’t clear to everyone involved, things can go sideways quickly.

Leaders also need to always think about the Why? and ask questions that will reveal the essence of the individual, opportunity, challenge, or risk. Curiosity requires intellectual and emotional humility, the self-awareness to know that you don’t know everything, and being vulnerable and open enough to say:

  • “How could this product work better?”
  • “What can we learn from this failure so we can do it differently next time?”

FH: What is on your Spotify playlist?

CARLA BOURQUE:  So many playlists!

I love music –  – even better when heard live.

I just discovered Big Thief – bluegrassy and poetic – the lyrics of “Change” give me goosebumps.

My all-time #1 is Blue Sky (Allman Brothers).

And since I live in California, some of my favorites are here. 


Anybody who knows you knows you spend a lot of time outdoors, on the hills, in the snow, on long hikes, runs, and bike rides.

What is your “outdoor activity” tech stack? 

CARLA BOURQUE: I love this question!

My outdoor tech stack varies based on the season, but anytime outdoors is precious time – even better when enjoyed with my dogs and good friends.

  • Skiing, Biking (Gravel, MTB, Road)
  • Trail running 
  • Marathon or Ultra-running (50k+)
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Swimming
  • Surfing -total beginner
  • Golf

I’m the happiest and most productive when in motion. It doesn’t have to be an official competition to be fun and challenging – just getting out, testing limits, and trying new things motivates me to push myself and keep moving.

Onward and upward!

Feather Hickox, Vice President of Global Marketing at Rebrandly.

Carla Bourque, CEO at Rebrandly as well as a board member, advisor, and investor.