She started her career as a petroleum geologist at Amoco, now part of British Petroleum, and worked there for eight years, from 1982 to 1987. She joined Montreal-based Alcan in 1988. In January 1996, she was promoted to managing director of the Aughinish Alumina division, located on Aughinish Island, Askeaton, County, Limerick, Ireland. Alcan is the world's second-biggest aluminum producer, behind Alcoa. Since 2002 worked with the Montreal, Canada headquartered Alcan, as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Primary Metal Group.
With a master’s in geology and 25 years of experience, Carroll was not new to the industry, but her 2007 appointment to the top spot at London-headquartered Anglo American made headlines in the male-dominated mining community. The first woman and non–South African to lead the 95-year-old company, Carroll, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, was hired as a change agent, and her combination of compassion, strategic vision, and business acumen has had a deep impact not just on Anglo American, but on the entire mining industry as well.
Her reputation has also been built on strong management and excellent financial performance. Her comprehensive internal reorganization and strategic partnerships have led to greater efficiencies and ongoing growth. In her six-year tenure, Carroll has diversified the mix of commodities the company holds through partnerships and acquisitions.
Some shareholders see her modernisation plans as too radical for a company that has historically had such an important role in the South African economy, while others complain that the company has been undermanaged, and that she has not yet delivered on her proposals. And Anglo’s recent decision to suspend its dividend has drawn criticism.
The life of any CEO of a multibillion-dollar company involves long hours, and given that Anglo American has a presence in 43 countries, Carroll spends more than half of her time traveling. A mother of four children ages 12 to 18, she works hard to balance career demands with her family. Her husband, David, put his career on hold in order to help take care of the family.
On 26 Oct 2012 Cynthia Carroll announced on that she is resigning from the company. The decision to go had ultimately been Carroll’s, whom had a “transformational impact on the business.”
The board said it would not rush to pick a successor for Carroll and that the 55-year-old would stay in place until a replacement was appointed, which could take months.