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Winning Voices: Kate Atkinson, Executive Vice President, Harris Computer

Winning Voices: Kate Atkinson, Executive Vice President, Harris Computer

Katie Atkinson
Executive Vice President
Harris Computer
Program/Concentration: Jack Welch MBA

PLEASE SHARE MORE ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL ROLE AND RESPONSIBLITIES.:

As the EVP of the Cogsdale business unit at Harris Computer, I am responsible for all functional areas of the business: sales, professional services, customer support, and R&D. Additionally, I am accountable for supporting the growth and development of our people, setting our strategic direction, and meeting our financial commitments.

WHY WERE YOU LOOKING TO GET AN MBA?:

After graduating from my undergraduate program in 2001, I worked in the wholesale and retail energy industry. In 2020, I aimed to transition into the software industry, specifically in software that supports municipalities and utilities (electricity, natural gas, and water) — an area where I had prior implementation experience. Pursuing my MBA was a logical step to facilitate this transition, and it has proven beneficial.

HOW HAS THE JWMI CURRICULUM HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?

My MBA experience has significantly contributed to the growth of my financial acumen. I have successfully implemented numerous practices learned during my MBA journey. These include but are not limited to, effective strategic and team communication, building diverse and inclusive teams, assessing our current economic situation, employee development, coaching, analyzing financial statements, improving forecasting accuracy, evaluating M&A fit and its critical factors, developing and executing winning strategies, implementing Six Sigma and operational excellence principles, and driving successful change management by emphasizing communication and creating a sense of urgency.

Since completing my MBA, I have experienced remarkable career growth. I was promoted from the position of VP of Operations to running my own business unit. I firmly believe that my MBA played a significant role in facilitating this advancement.

Shortly after commencing my MBA studies, I made a career transition and assumed the role of Vice President of Operations, overseeing professional services and support. Since then, I have further progressed to the position of Executive Vice President, responsible for running my own business unit. It has been an incredible journey, and I am thrilled to have reached the same level of success I previously attained in the energy industry. I have no doubt that JWMI played a pivotal role in helping me achieve this milestone.

DID YOU FIND THE CURRICULUM WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE? PLEASE EXPLAIN.:

Absolutely! The program had a remarkable ability to closely mirror real-life situations, making the knowledge gained instantly applicable. The program’s design facilitated the seamless implementation of what we learned into our work environment, resulting in long-term retention of the material instead of simply cramming and forgetting. As a result, I have become a more proficient leader, equipped with a wider range of tools in my arsenal. If I encounter a challenge and my initial approach doesn’t yield the desired results, I now have additional tools at my disposal to explore and try alternative strategies. This enhanced toolkit has been invaluable in my professional growth.

LOOKING BACK AT WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT AN ONLINE PROGRAM WHEN YOU FIRST EMBARKED, WHAT WAS YOUR OVERALL IMPRESSION NOW? DID IT MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS VIA DQ BOARDS, EOP VIDEOS, FACULTY ETC?:

Initially, I had reservations about the DQ boards (discussion question boards) and engaging with classmates online. However, as I advanced through the program, I came to appreciate what a fantastic tool it was. I gleaned valuable insights not only from the program content but also from the experiences shared by my classmates, which played a significant role in my learning. The same applies to EOP videos and the faculty, each contributing a different dimension to my education.

HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE JOB, FAMILY, AND WORK? WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU IMPLEMENT TO GET IT DONE?:

I prioritized staying organized and, most importantly, staying ahead throughout my entire MBA journey. Recognizing that unexpected events could potentially derail progress, I maintained a buffer of nearly three weeks ahead in my coursework. This proactive approach significantly minimized day-to-day stress and improved the quality of my work, as I wasn’t rushing to meet deadlines.

WAS THERE A PARTICULAR PROFESSOR OR MEMBER OF THE STAFF THAT YOU FELT HELPED YOU TO EXCEL? PLEASE ELABORATE.:

I think the quality of the professors at JWMI is outstanding; however, Kathryn Armstrong (Financial Management 1), Alfred Sanders (Financial Management II), Leo Giglio (Strategy), Dr. Laverty (Operational Excellence), and Dr. Burgett (Organizational Change and Culture) made a particularly excellent impression on me and excelled in my learning.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE IN THE PROGRAM?:

Completing my capstone was the most rewarding experience. This three-part project integrated all the courses into one, making it highly beneficial and applicable in the real world. It also allowed me to reflect on what I learned and apply it again, enhancing the long-term retention of the material.

IN JUST A FEW WORDS, DESCRIBE WHAT “LEADERSHIP” MEANS TO YOU.:

Leadership is the ability to discern the type of leader each situation requires and to embody that leadership style; being a good leader also entails knowing when to be a good follower.

PLEASE SHARE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW STUDENTS EMBARKING ON THE MBA JOURNEY.:

Be organized and save all your work locally before submitting it; the ability to refer back to your work in the future is invaluable. I have frequently revisited assignments and concepts over the last few years. Set reminders in your calendar for tasks like responding to discussion questions and meeting assignment deadlines. Utilize available tools, such as checklists in Canvas or Blackboard, and take advantage of communication coaches to review your work before submission. Most importantly, stay ahead; unexpected things happen, so staying ahead ensures you never worry about missing a deadline. Work as far ahead as possible to minimize stress.


Connect with Katie Atkinson on LinkedIn

For more information on the Jack Welch Management Institute, visit us.

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