A nontraditional career path and a dedication to 'paying it forward' helped shape Cathy into the person she is today.
Q: What do you do at Baxter?
Cathy: I lead the Business Transformation Office (BTO), where we look at how we (at Baxter) work, how we’re organized, how we spend our money – and how we can do those things better to ultimately serve more patients.
Q: How did your career path lead you to your current role?
Cathy: I’ve had a very nontraditional career path. I graduated with a degree in interior design and spent my first eight years out of college at a commercial architecture firm, working on hospitals, hotels, airports and office buildings. This was before computers were mainstream, but the firm was large enough to procure a CAD (computer aided design) system and that’s when I discovered that my logical brain was much more developed than my creative brain. I ended up working for the CAD company and then in IT for one of its customers. From there, I moved through multiple IT roles, which is what brought me to Baxter about 12 years ago. After working on multiple divestitures and acquisitions, I led a program that was part of the BTO and focused on improving how we work. About two years ago, I assumed the role I’m in today.
Q: Tell us about your mentorship work.
Cathy: I’m a huge believer in mentoring. When I was growing up in the industry, there was no such thing as an official “mentor,” so I naturally gravitated toward bosses that could serve informally in that capacity. For the most part, I have remained in touch with them throughout the years. I want to give back and make a difference in other peoples’ lives, which is why I mentor through Baxter, through the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, and for former colleagues.
Q: What do you think is key to a successful mentoring relationship?
Cathy: Mentorships involve trust and respect. A strong mentorship is a two-way street, where both people get something significant out of the relationship. My favorite way to build trust is by focusing on active listening, and asking key questions that get people to think, as opposed to me telling them something directly. The relationship is an investment in time, and I thoroughly enjoy it.
Q: Why do you think supporting women in the workplace is so critical?
Cathy: I could provide 50 different responses to this question – ultimately, why wouldn’t it be critical? I’ve always thought the synergy among a diverse group of people is where the best solutions and ideas originate. The fact is, the working world hasn’t completely adopted that belief, and society still has a lot of work to do.
Q: Is there a piece of advice you received as a young professional that continues to resonate with you?
Cathy: I’ve always liked to feel a sense of accomplishment, of finishing a task or project. Under one boss, who served as a quasi-mentor to me, our team had a lot on our plate and I had a difficult time not being able to get everything done. He told me: “You have to know your crystal balls from your rubber balls. Rubber balls bounce on the floor, and you can pick them back up. When crystal balls fall, they shatter.” Prioritizing is essential.
Q: If you could give your 25-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Cathy: Don’t be afraid. Fear not. Take more chances. Be authentic. Don’t try to fit into “the mold.” It’s important to figure out what you want to be true to, and use that as your guiding light.