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Lessons Learned from Working Solution’s Female Leaders

A Retrospective on International Women’s Day

On a day where we honor women everywhere, we’re thrilled to share insights and lessons learned from a few of Working Solutions’ leaders, including our female founder. These trailblazing women candidly reveal their advice and experiences to the benefit of any aspiring career professional.

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Kim Houlne, President & Chief Executive of Working Solutions

Kim Houlne CEO Working Solutions

 

  1. What advice would you give a woman who is starting her first business?
    • “Stay focused on your primary objectives, and don’t layer in too much too soon. Build a strong base (and be patient, it rarely happens over a night, a year or even ten years), and if you’re building a team, hire slowly and fire quickly. A great team must practice through much repetition before they achieve their goals.”
  2. Was it difficult to find funding, and if so, why?
    • “Timing is everything – and fortunately, I found the most perfect time for our company to take on a financial partner. In the early days, I learned to seek out money when you don’t need money.”
  3. What factors impact a woman’s ability to lead others?
    • “I’ve always led a team in some form or fashion, so it comes naturally – starting back in high school. I wouldn’t call myself an overachiever, but for whatever reason, I was always leading a group of people, even taking on easier management roles while in college, while working my various jobs. I must remind myself that just because someone asks me to take on a leadership role (in volunteer work, board work, or in my social life), I can’t possibly find the time to lead everything, because, let’s face it, it’s a lot of work!”
  4. What is the most important lesson you have learned from your experience?
    • “It’s very cliché, however, it is imperative a leader surround themselves with people they enjoy working with, respect, and that are smarter than them!”
  5. How have you built confidence and resiliency in your career?
    • “By always having a backup plan! If you have a plan B (and C), you know you’ll have a solution, which creates confidence.”
  6. What skills do you use most often in your leadership role?
    • “Ironically, I majored in communications, and it has always been the most useful tool I have – being able to listen to a variety of opinions and perspectives, and provide productive feedback.”
  7. How can women develop their leadership skills?
    • “I think parents can encourage their daughters to take on some type of group responsibility early on, such a volunteering to be the group project leader in middle or high school. It’s just as important for people wanting to take on leadership roles to surround themselves with strong leaders. I remember there were very specific times when, as a young professional, my manager was ‘not optimal.’ I’d encourage women to drop those jobs as quickly as possible and seek out solid teams who don’t belittle or berate.”
  8. How can we be a support system to the female business owners in our lives?
    • “Provide them with amazing and meaningful feedback. Don’t hold back.”
  9. What’s the benefit of mentoring other women?
    • “It’s important to know that not everyone wants to be mentored. I think women enjoy time with each other in a relaxed environment, sharing common stories and providing advice based on their experiences. For me, I try to seek out those I see as a ‘good person’ who has an interesting story to tell. Whether they’re female, male, or non-binary, makes no difference to me – the true benefit comes from the wisdom you gain, no matter the gender.”
  10.  What has been one of your biggest joys or benefits as a leader?
    • “Watching our team and agent community thrive financially and professionally, as well as reaching personal goals.”
  11.  What woman inspires you and why?
    • “Brené Brown has an uncanny way of bringing to life perspectives that people think, but have never said out loud. She has a super interesting story, is a fantastic speaker, and loves to get out and have fun.”
  12.  What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
    • “Strong leadership from your direct manager matters. Don’t stick around a minute too long if you feel as though you aren’t given credit for doing amazing things.”

Kristin Skiko, Vice President, Talent Management

Kristin Skiko VP Talent Management

 

  1. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? What was the most significant barrier for you?
    • “I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t experienced this personally, and it’s never been a concern at Working Solutions. I think because women tend to be the ones who take time off to raise children or care for parents, they can lose momentum on career advancement, as opposed to their male counterparts and it can take longer to reach the same goals.”
  2. What is the most important lesson you have learned from your experience?
    • “To try and get past fear of failure. I still struggle with it, but the saying is almost always true… It is better to try and fail, than never to try at all.”
  3. How have you built confidence and resiliency in your career?
    • “Time takes care of a lot of this on its own, but working in a place that values calculated risk-taking helps, too. It’s hard to build confidence if you aren’t given space to try things, and learn what works and what doesn’t. Resiliency has come mostly from realizing what’s important, and learning not to sweat all the small stuff. And there’s a lot of small stuff!”
  4. What skills do you use most often in your leadership role?
    • “Listening. Communication in general. Honesty. Trying to get to the heart of an issue so you can lead your team to search for solutions to the right problems. Empathy and encouragement.”
  5. How can women develop their leadership skills?
    • “Find opportunities to lead projects, especially with cross-functional team members. Volunteer for leadership roles in clubs or charitable organizations.”
  6. What has been one of your biggest joys or benefits as a leader?
    • “Seeing someone on your team accomplish a goal they struggled with; Learning to give them the tools and support they needed, but not doing the work for them, so they can feel that sense of accomplishment that leads to more confidence and more accomplishments.”
  7. What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
    • “Work for progress, not perfection. Again, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t be afraid to fail. If you’ve done the research and thought things through – take the leap!”

April Wiita, Vice President, Program Success

April Wiita VP Program Success

  1. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? What was the most significant barrier for you?
    • “Lack of confidence… As women are starting in their careers or taking on a new role, I would say that confidence is shaken, and doubts set in. The ability to be brave and daring comes once you know your value, and have the courage to stand up for your ideas, beliefs, and the wisdom to know what battles are not worth fighting.”
  2. What is the most important lesson you have learned from your experience?
    • “I am not always right, but I need to find a way to get it right.”
  3. How have you built confidence and resiliency in your career?
    • “I can recall many times sitting at my desk with my head in my hands. I cared so much about the work that I was doing that I took EVERYTHING personally. It took me many, many years to understand that negative comments or reactions are rarely about me or about my team. I have found when I take emotions out of the mix and focus on solutions, things resolve rather quickly.”
  4. What skills do you use most often in your leadership role?
    • “When I started leading teams of customer service agents many years ago, I came across this quote: ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’ I realized at that moment how important it was for me to truly get to know my team – to listen, to empathize, and to understand.”
  5. How can women develop their leadership skills?
    • “Seek out a role model or mentor, and have authentic conversations with them when it comes to matters of your heart. Being totally vulnerable to sharing your struggles, areas that you feel need improvement, and listening to their suggestions and stories.”
  6. What has been one of your biggest joys or benefits as a leader?
    • “I absolutely love to see my team succeed and win. That feeling of watching your team grow, overcome challenges, and succeed both personally and professionally is everything to me.”
  7. What’s the benefit of mentoring other women?
    • “Women leaders have a responsibility to help lift other women up. They have been through the trenches, and can share life experiences that provide wisdom and examples to help other women succeed.”
  8. What woman inspires you and why?
    • “My Grandma Helen will forever be my greatest inspiration in leadership, business and being a strong woman. At a young age, I watched my grandma run her own business. I didn’t realize at the time her gift of leadership, service, and customer experience. She was always two steps ahead of her competition, served all who walked through her doors with a smile, and treated her staff with kindness.”
  9. What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
    • “It always works out. Period. It always does.”

Tracey Sloan, Vice President, Innovative Solutions & Support

Tracey Sloan VP Innovative Solutions & Support

  1. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? What was the most significant barrier for you?
    • “One’s own confidence in their abilities.”
  2. How have you built confidence and resiliency in your career?
    • “Realizing that even the most prominent leaders doubt themselves at times, and don’t have all the answers. Observing others, asking questions of mentors, and most importantly showing up with transparency and integrity.”
  3. What skills do you use most often in your leadership role?
    • “Listening, following through, and showing my team that I will roll up my sleeves to help where needed.”
  4. What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
    • “Speak up more! Don’t wait until you have more experience. Your input is valuable, even at the early stages of your career.”
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