Q&A with Kari McKee, DiversityMBA 2017 TOP 100 Under 50 Emerging Leaders
Burwood Group is proud to announce that Kari McKee, a Consultant on our Business Communications and Applications team, has received DiversityMBA's Top 100 Under 50 Emerging Leaders Award. The award celebrates outstanding achievements in community, leadership, and education. We sat down with Kari to discuss this recognition, her leadership style, and what inspires her to keep achieving her goals.
First, a big congrats on your Emerging Leaders Award. Tell us what this recognition means to you.
The award means a lot to me because I've always considered my purpose in life to positively impact people. I come from a family of educators and have grown up around community-based organizations, so my purpose naturally calls for me to reach back and lead wherever I see the need.
When I was an adjunct instructor at ITT Technical Institute, I was able to mentor technology students on their career path, give them advice, and provide recommendations whenever needed. So the fact that this award recognizes both my professional and personal accomplishments really validates my purpose and obligations to society. And although I have many years of industry experience and lifelong community involvement, this award is a great reminder that it's just the beginning for me. I'm a work in progress and I still have so much more to contribute. I just have to keep writing my goals down every year and continue to do my best.
What do you believe is the role of diversity in the workplace?
Diversity is incredibly important in building thriving, creative, innovative teams within any workforce. It promotes growth and positive change by bringing new perspectives, knowledge, and ideas to the forefront. I also believe workplaces are significantly benefited when there is an established body or task force that focuses on diversity and inclusion, particularly in larger organizations. This helps foster an environment where employees of various ethnic, gender, or sexual orientations feel supported and are able to take on active roles that contribute to the growth of the organization.
I'm a third year Girl Scout troop leader for K-3rd graders and our theme is about empowering girls to be open to math and science related fields. As we all know, there is still a significant shortage of women in the IT field. To me, the story begins here. If we can encourage young women from the start, then we're on the right track. I hope that through my work with the Girl Scouts and other community groups I can bring awareness and support to young girls so that this gap is one day closed.
You were named a Top Emerging Leader in 2017. How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is creative, empowering, and fearless. Leaders can encompass a wide variety of traits, so there is no magic formula for the ideal leader. I think the first step in leadership is to have a strong sense of who you are and to stand firm on that. Don't be afraid to have an opinion on topics that matter to you.
When it comes to a particular leadership style, I believe that for people to truly to develop, they must grow beyond what they don't know. As a leader it's my job to help get them there. It's important to empower people to voice their own ideas and solutions because even if I have a firm position on a topic, I still want to hear what you think. The entire team is carrying out the decision together, not just one of us, so it's critical to foster a collaborative team dynamic.
Which leaders do you look to for inspiration?
I've always been inspired by Steve Jobs. He started with an idea and built a team of the greatest minds around him to help see his vision through – and not just see the vision, but believe in it too. His creativity and ability to motivate others is still matchless.
Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox, is also one of my favorite leaders. Her story is incredibly inspirational. She was the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company and is an absolutely fearless leader. She empowers others and is a strong advocate for women in IT. Her story includes hardship and challenges, and is a motivation to many women, including myself. I had the pleasure to hear her speak at a Cisco women's conference and have been inspired by her ever since.
Tell us what you're working on currently that has you excited.
I'm excited that my work at Burwood is moving in a direction that is aligned with my purpose. I also love the spirit and energy of the people I work with. Currently my work with our healthcare clients is really exciting. This is an industry that I know and love – my mother has been a nurse for nearly 30 years, so our healthcare projects are really rewarding to me. Lately I've also found a lot of joy in being impactful in the buildout of our lab which will help us test and demo new solutions and will also be a tool for our new associates to utilize and grow in their own areas of interest. Anything I can do that is impactful to others keeps me very excited and motivated.