Written by Corinne Garcia Tuesday, March 05 2013
Snapshot: Kath Carter, Partner at Ernst & Young and the Midwest region transaction advisory services leader
Even when she was told that she was working in a “man’s profession,” Kath Carter, a partner and the Midwest region transaction advisory services leader at Ernst & Young, found herself fueled by a passion to become a service-driven leader like others she admired. Today, she oversees more than 220 professionals and takes her own service-driven approach to leading her division towards growth with the highest regard for quality customer service. Here, Carter explains how she found her calling and her tips for finding success in your chosen field.
Womenetics: When did you know you had found your calling, and what was the experience that caused you to know that you had found it?
Kath Carter: When I was in college, I always knew I had interests in two areas that didn't seem to go together on the surface. I loved the technical side of my accounting courses, and I really enjoyed the creative side of marketing. So I pursued a double major, studying both.
Working for Ernst & Young allows me to use both interests on a daily basis, especially in my role as the leader of the Midwest transactions practice. And while my initial calling was to focus on these two skill sets, soon after taking on this current role, I realized I had found my true calling: being a service-oriented leader.
In this role, not only do I get to do what I love, I also have the opportunity to encourage, motivate and inspire others to reach their goals. The mentoring and empowering components of my role are very satisfying.
Womenetics: What has inspired you along the way?
Carter: In my 20s and 30s, achieving personal growth drove my success. I was motivated to exceed expectations when others told me that I was working in a man's profession that wasn't right for "little ladies." I was determined to prove them wrong and show myself, and the world, that I could do it.
As I have matured, I have experienced how much more rewarding it is to focus on others and their development. I’m now inspired by service-oriented leaders, and I have tried to emulate them along the way.
Womenetics: Who are your mentors and why?
Carter: I am fortunate to have many mentors, including men and women both inside and outside Ernst & Young. Many of my clients have become mentors, as we have given guidance to each other. I have gravitated to mentors who will be brutally honest with me, who have no hidden agenda and, with their candor, have my best interests at heart. I’ve reciprocated in return and found mentoring others to be professionally and personally rewarding.
Womenetics: You oversee approximately 220 people. What’s your secret to doing so successfully?
Carter: I’m not sure I have a secret, but I am very fortunate that I am a people person and believe in the power of teaming. I feel my energy increase when I’m able to work collaboratively, so I focus on staying connected to people. The more I invest in them, the more they feel empowered to be their best and the more energy they provide back to me to reinvest in others. We all win.
Womenetics: What kinds of strategies do you use and promote to drive growth?
Carter: My mantra for our Transaction Advisory Services (TAS) practice for 2013 is: "We are better together.” None of us can do as much alone as we can with a team. So, I use strategies that empower others to believe in the power of "we." I have heard it said and I believe that "we cannot do anything of real value alone.” That is the Law of Significance. So, I focus on creating the right behaviors and culture and focus less on the desired outcome. In doing so, I fully believe we will achieve the outcome.
Womenetics: What does success look like to you, in your career?
Carter: Success in my career is waking up every day and loving what I do, while creating an environment for those whose lives I can influence to empower them to do the same. If I am passionate about what I do and inspire others to be passionate about what they do, that is success.
Womenetics: How about in your personal life?
Carter: Success in my personal life is the same. I make time for the things I am most passionate about, like spending time with family and friends and giving back to the community. I have to take care of myself, my mental and physical health, if I am going to be able to be there for others.
Womenetics: What do you find the most challenging aspect of your life to be?
Carter: The most challenging aspect of my life is fitting in all the things I want to do each day and still getting enough sleep to function. I’m an active person who loves to be on the go, so slowing down is a constant struggle.
Womenetics: If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
Carter: I would find a platform I’m passionate about and be a nationally renowned speaker (this is a wish, right?). I would use my voice to influence and empower others. I just need to find the right platform for me.
Womenetics: What don’t most people know about you?
Carter: That is a really good question because I try to be transparent, honest, real and authentic in all aspects of life. However, most people may find it hard to believe that I’m an Iowa farm girl at heart, and I love nature and hiking in the mountains. Don't let my high heels fool you!
Womenetics: What do you do to relax and blow off steam?
Carter: I love to work out, and I enjoy extreme hiking and am very disciplined about making time for it. Physical activity allows me to take care of my mind, body and spirit. I also love to travel, read, spend time with friends, drink red wine, eat dark chocolate and I’m always open to new adventures.
I am also starting to write my first book, which is a great way to relax when you allow yourself to let the book write itself. The book is about my mission trip to Nicaragua. I thought the most profound part would be serving the families and children of one of the most underprivileged remote villages, and while indeed profound, it was the nine strangers coming together and forming an unbreakable bond that continues long beyond the trip. Long story short... One doesn't have to travel to Nicaragua to make a difference in someone's life.
More 2013 Chicago POW! Award winners:
Gail Rosseau makes being a neurosurgeon sound easy. She even finds time to eat breakfast in bed, read three newspapers a day and run marathons.
Taffy Jo Mayers of Zurich NA shares how she fell into her role as an advocate for women and gradually became passionate about investing in the advancement of women's careers.
Connie Lindsey of Northern Trust urges women to fully capitalize on their earning potential through bold negotiation. She says, "Know what you’re worth and what your skills will demand in the marketplace.”
Corinne Garcia is a freelance writer and editor living with her husband and two young boys in Bozeman, Mont. She has also written for Women’s Adventure, Christian Science Monitor, Northwest Travel, Pregnancy, Fit Pregnancy and Fit Parent.