In its 16th year, American Banker will be hosting their annual “Most Powerful Women in Banking” awards dinner. Protiviti is proud to be the exclusive Diamond Level sponsor for this prestigious event. In anticipation, we are excited to spotlight inspiring women who work within the financial services industry (FSI) here at Protiviti. While these women do all have their industry expertise in common, their stories are all unique and each offers wonderful perspective. We hope you enjoy our #ProtivitiWomenInFSI series!
“It’s a different time now. When I began my career over 15 years ago in banking, it was very uncommon to see women in leadership positions. Women would be doing the work, but we were not promoted or considered for roles where we made leadership or strategic decisions. Now, it’s 2018, and it’s a disparity the industry is acknowledging. As we step forward, I recognize I’m not only setting the stage and tone for my career, but also for all the rising junior women and men in this field. The work we collectively do today will absolutely impact opportunities presented to the next generation. Policies we set forth now will evolve, shape and impact the society my children inherit. So, I take being a female leader very seriously and it’s an honor to represent my gender.”
Meet Kat, a Director in Risk & Compliance out of our Los Angeles office. A mother of two, a wife to one of our brave U.S. military service members, and a rising star in our profession… she truly does it all! I was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Kat and discuss her career and pick her brain about success, challenges, mentorship and leadership.
Having strong leaders is hugely important for career growth. Can you talk a little about some of the leaders and mentors that you’ve worked under and how they’ve impacted you?
“I was fortunate enough to work under one of our Managing Directors, Shelley, both here at Protiviti and at a prior consulting firm. I’ve known her for many years and her style of consulting is poised, genuine, and grounded in true subject matter expertise. She’s the real deal. So, whenever I find myself in a client meeting with her, I always leave thinking about how I can instill that same confidence and deliver client messages in a similar way. Shelley, as a mentor, has been transformational in my career, providing me with so much growth opportunity. I remember the day I got promoted to senior leadership at our prior firm. She held me back after dismissing a larger team meeting and I was concerned there may be a client or personnel issue to address. Instead, Shelley advised I was being promoted to Director and that I ‘earned it’. Those two simple words – I’ll never forget. The next day, I was so pleased, I fashioned a bow-tie to wear during the firm-wide meeting where my promotion would be announced. I hope that young people at Protiviti have opportunities like this that follow them throughout their career – where they look back and remember the day they got ‘called up to the Majors.’”
If you could offer 3 pieces of career advice, what would those be?
Listen. “The most successful leaders are the people that are really plugged in to what is (and is not) being said. We waste a lot of time and energy on inefficiency, waiting for someone to finish their thought so we can share our own. Strong listening skills help get to the root of the problem we’re looking to solve. In consulting, it’s just as important to be a good listener as it is to be a poised speaker. It’s critical to understanding and solving for the real problem.”
Find a champion. “Another important piece of career advice is to look for champions (i.e. mentors) at every stage of your profession. It might take a while to find the right fit for your aspirations, but I encourage people to consider selecting a champion that has a style different from their own. I participated in a leadership exercise where we self-identified with different characteristics (like Myers-Briggs), and the conclusion was that team members opposite your style would be the most beneficial to collaborate with in a work setting because you played off one another’s strengths. To truly grow and diversify your experience, perhaps consider mentoring with someone who has a different consulting style or even subject matter to offer.”
Love what you do. “I just wrapped a training for a client regarding very dry, very boring, very technical subject matter at a time of day (… before lunch) where the audience was generally distracted (…and hungry!). But, as a person who genuinely loves to ‘nerd out’ on regulations, I brought my energy and enthusiasm to the stage. The audience was engaged and participated throughout. People sense when you really enjoy the work that you do, when you believe in the work that you do, they feed off that positive energy – and that’s when the real magic happens.”
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
“In general, in financial services, women are historically under-represented, but the conversation is changing and it’s moving in the right direction for inclusivity. I have personally been subject to discrimination, and unconscious bias, being both female and a minority. People are born with unconscious bias, and it’s unfortunate, but it’s something I’ve had to overcome. I’m still going to deliver my best even though someone presumes something about me based on a bias. For example, women have this added responsibility to be consciously aware of our tone when speaking with our clients. Initiatives like diversity and inclusion are important in combating these biases. We’re not there yet — but we are making progress!”
What are some of the successes you’ve had in the industry?
“The year I got married was also the first year I taught a three-hour fair-lending class at The American Bankers Association. At the end of the class, still high on the adrenaline rush of fair lending (see? I’m a Compliance geek), I turned to my co-teacher and I said, ‘This is the best day of my life’ and he replied, ‘You’re about to get married, are you sure about that?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I think this is the best day ever!’. And what I meant by that is when you build your career in a certain field, and then you get this rare opportunity to teach people how to do it themselves, that experience is so cool, so gratifying. You are working with the next generation of compliance professionals who are committed to doing business right by their consumers. Today, I still serve as a faculty member for both the ABA Intermediate Compliance School and Advanced Compliance School, and teaching continues to be a highlight of my career.”
If you could have any job in the world, what job would you have? : “I would be an actor. I used to perform in the Washington, DC theatre scene. I started out auditioning for plays in college as prep for real life job interviews. Suddenly, I was getting cast and it turned into a passion of mine.”
If you could only have one food for the rest of your life, what would that be? : “Bacon, obviously. But if I could pick a second, it would be sushi!”
Book and/or Podcast Suggestion?: “ ‘Bossy Pants’ by Tina Fey. Female comedians have had a similar journey in the entertainment industry as females in financial services, tackling unconscious bias, discrimination and double standards. Tina covers everything from the rise of her career to motherhood. This is a straight-forward, humorous and honest must read.”
On behalf of Protiviti, we’re proud of all that Kat has accomplished and we know she has many successes to come. Thank you for being a strong female leader in management and for inspiring us each day!