Meet Katie Kulikoski, Chief People Officer at Progress

Meet Katie Kulikoski, Chief People Officer at Progress

March 23, 2020 0 Comments
Meet Katie Kulikoski Chief People Officer at Progress_1200x620

We’d like to introduce you to some of the people from around the world who make us who we are at Progress. In this post, meet new Progress Chief People Officer Katie Kulikoski.

After a recent companywide meeting that took place in the Progress Hyderabad office, Progress Chief People Officer Katie Kulikoski was excited to have the opportunity to attend two Progress for Her events in India focusing on Women in Tech. We recently sat down with Katie to get her take on these events and the success of women in the tech industry, and to find out how life at Progress has been going for her as a relatively new member of the company.

You joined Progress just a few months ago. How's it going so far?

The people here are wonderful. I’ve been really impressed with our commitment to our business and our customers. It’s a unique thing being an almost 40-year-old tech company who’s still innovating and looking to do new things and create new offerings for our clients—it’s a great place to be because you have a lot of established practices and people who have been with the company 20 or 25 years. That’s unheard of. And especially with our company’s acquisition strategy, there’s this opportunity for a regular infusion of new ideas. It’s really cool.

Before joining Progress, you were the CPO at Brightcove, and you have extensive experience in HR. Tell us more about the experiences/moments that have made you who you are today as a professional?

I’ve always gravitated towards a company because it’s had a different or unique challenge to solve for. Sometimes that’s been hypergrowth or new market creation. Often it’s been a different take on an industry within tech. Each one has shaped me in a different way, but one thing that’s been pervasive is that there’s always been change and some element of risk. I like that and I think it’s encouraged me to think about things innovatively and not come to any table with a playbook that’s ready to go.

How did you start your career in HR, and why?

I totally fell into it. I went to school in California and then moved to New York City to be a fish out of water. I started temping and the agency thought I’d be a good fit for HR. I think they were right.

At that first job, I was part of a new HR team with a piece of a business that hadn’t had a dedicated HR team before. That gave me an appreciation for creating value where there previously wasn’t any, and I came to understand the overall mission of Human Capital, which is to help our people have a great experience where they work and growing into the next best version of themselves.

When it gets really good in HC, you’re helping people achieve new heights. I think that’s a pretty noble endeavor, right? So I fell into it and decided to stay in it. And I’ve been lucky to join innovative and growing tech companies where the people and the knowledge they possess are really the biggest asset.

Progress for Her has a stated mission to empower women at Progress by providing leadership and networking opportunities, as well as amplifying women's ideas to ensure an inclusive environment within Progress and beyond. While you were in India you were able to attend two Progress for Her events—to start off, can you tell us more about what happened at each one and how they went?

We had events in both our Hyderabad and Bangalore offices. In Bangalore, the office is smaller, and it actually felt less like an event and more like a casual conversation, which was nice. It worked really well with the culture and size of the team there.

At both offices there were also teamwide events happening, so it was great to have an opportunity to talk both to a broader audience as well as to interact in a more intimate setting where it was just women.

In Hyderabad we were hosting Family Day, which is sort of like a corporate holiday party, but with multigenerational families included—so Family Day is not just spouses or partners, but also employees’ children and parents. Family Day, which starts after-hours, is a really appropriate day for employees to work from home and avoid the extra round trip to bring their family in. Our Progress for Her Event was in the middle of the day, and I was really impressed that so many women came into the office to attend in person—it felt like every woman in the office probably attended. I was interviewed by two great women in the office who asked really thought-provoking questions.

Can you share some of the interesting questions/learnings that came up?

I was asked some great candid questions about everything from work, family/life balance, my own career choices and what it’s like to operate at a table—like an executive table—where there may be only one or two women.

A few women sort of grabbed me after and we had some intimate conversations about what it’s like balancing work and a husband, or work and children. It was really interesting to have that conversation prior to Family Day where I got to see these support networks, and share with them my own—I had just traveled across the globe and left my own two young children with my husband and father-in-law.

We talked about the concept of allyship and what it is to appreciate the men in our life who are asked to play roles that are different than they may have played 10, 20, 30 years ago. What’s interesting about In India in particular is that the role of the family and workforce changes have come with a rapidity that far surpasses the U.S., so traditions are being challenged in a much more condensed way than some other parts of the globe.

What activities do you enjoy the most once the working day is over?

I have two young girls who are 6 and 8, so pretty much all of my outside of work life is dedicated to my family. Sometimes I feel terribly boring when I don’t have a ton of hobbies outside of work, but, you know, that’s just the right answer for right now in my life. I do believe in self-care and taking time for yourself, and I love great food and movies and traveling. Luckily those are things I can usually do with at least some element of my family.

How do you balance your work, social activities and personal life, especially as a mother?

I try to maintain a balance, but there are a lot of days when you feel like maybe you only did one of those three things well. I think it’s always interesting to talk to people about how they prioritize those things.

There was a great question about this in Hyderabad that made me think about this in a new way, and I realized that it’s important to get comfortable with not feeling like you’re winning everything all the time. Some days I am not going to finish my work because my kids need me, and other times I’m not going to get to spend the amount of concentrated time I would want to with my kids. Understanding that it’s a daily juggle and you don’t have to win all of them every day is one of the best lessons I’ve learned over the past few years.

As someone with a successful career in the tech industry, are there any other lessons or advice you'd like to share with other women looking to advance their careers?

Embrace mentorship and the power of your network. Those are two things I wish I’d done even earlier in my career, but I’m glad that I’ve invested the time that I have in the past 10 years in both of them. Find people who you respect and who you can learn from, regardless of whether they’re in your discipline or company. You can formalize it or you can just have someone that you can tap from time to time.

A third thing is risk taking and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. There’s an interesting study that we’ve talked about in our Inclusion and Diversity work that shows a difference in approach for applying for a stretch role between men and women—for example, if there’s a role with 10 requirements, a man with six out of 10 is more likely to go for it, where women are more likely to spend time getting to 10 out of 10 before applying. That slows down career progression and has been described as the broken rung.

It goes hand in hand with imposter syndrome. It’s important to figure out how to quiet your imposter voice. But at the same time, as a friend wrestling with her own imposter voice told me once, it can actually be a good thing if you look at it right. That feeling means you’re in the right role, one where you can continue to push and learn and innovate. It’s good for both you and the company.

Wrapping up, if you had to describe your favorite parts of working at Progress so far in just three words, what would they be?

Opportunity, smarts and roots.

danny-shain

Danny Shain

Danny is a lover of tech and has been writing about the technology industry for more than a decade. As a writer immersed in technology, he is passionate about understanding complex subjects and creating content that bridges gaps and is easy to understand.

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