Simmons Leadership Blog

Career Advice from Kathy Garcia

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A recognized leader in the IT services industry, Katherine Garcia is Senior Vice President of Applications Services for HP Enterprise Services. Her organization supports clients across all industries and located in more than 170 countries, applying innovation to modernize and manage their applications portfolios to enhance business results. Before joining HP, Garcia held several senior management positions at IBM that enabled her to gain a global perspective and to develop expertise in high-growth markets. In her most recent position there, she served as general manager of IBM Global Business Services, Growth Markets MTN, a global telecommunications company. In this role she was responsible for creating and executing strategic plans to initiate business operations across Africa. Previously in her career, Garcia was president of Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems.
Kathy Garcia talked to us about career advice, lending support to other women, and more!
What woman do you most admire? What has she taught you?
What I most admire in a woman is strength of character, authenticity, courage and humor. My mother had all of these qualities and after my father died at an early age, she became the rock for our family. She had a remarkable work ethic and you always knew where you stood with mom - she was open, honest, fearless, and results-oriented. Yet, she was also a lot of fun. I would have to say that the qualities my mom modeled for us as a family on a daily basis significantly influenced my work ethic, my values, and my outlook on life and career.
Was there a turning point in your career when you "jumped the curve," breaking an old pattern to change the course of your career? What did you learn from that experience?
When I reflect on my career and how the journey evolved, there's one particular event that stands out as a significant turning point for me. At the time, I was a third-line technical manager working in the Federal Systems Division of a large Fortune 500 company. The General Manager for a multi-billion dollar division in this company offered me a position as his Executive Technical Assistant. I was heavy into my technical role at the time and felt comfortable with the work I was doing and I declined his offer. As an experienced and insightful leader, he knew that I was the right person for the job and that this was the right time for me to move forward with my career. He told me I had no other option than to report first thing in the morning to begin my new assignment.
As stressful as this abrupt change was at the time, it turns out that moving into this position was a significant turning point in my career. Now I had to learn all the aspects of running a successful, multi-billion dollar division. This included marketing, sales, systems engineering, software, hardware, manufacturing, operations, production, finance and HR. This opportunity quite literally forced me to rapidly move beyond my comfort zone. From that point on, every two years I moved into increasingly prominent roles, which fluctuated between technical and business positions. The lessons I learned were to never underestimate my abilities, to continuously stretch to succeed in new and increasingly influential roles, and that when you embrace change, anything is possible.
What's the best piece of career advice you've gotten along the way?
There are three things I've learned along the way that have served me well, and I hope these can guide others as they move forward in their careers:
  • Gain experience in every job you do and be a mentor to others - in other words, always "pay it forwards."
  • Take on new challenges with an open mind and learn from every opportunity.
  • Every two years do something new. Stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Amazing things will happen when you take that leap.
What was the last book you read?
The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan. Golf is my passion when I'm not working and Ben Hogan is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
How do you think women can support other women on their path to success?
Take the time to make yourself available to mentor other women and share your experiences and lessons learned by participating in events such as this one as well as within your own organization. I frequently meet with aspiring women leaders in my company when I'm on the road meeting with clients. We make it a point to visit local HP sites and we organize a luncheon or an afternoon coffee talk. I enjoy these small get-togethers where we can learn from each other, create important connections, and solve problems. Not surprisingly, I find that I learn as much from these phenomenal women as they do from me. I always leave inspired by their passion for the work and their seemingly insatiable curiosity about how they can become great leaders.
Any tips for work/life balance?
That's a tough one for me because I'm on the road a great deal of the time meeting with clients and employees. I think what's important to remember is that it's up to each individual to make the time they need to recharge themselves. For me, I like to travel with my husband, I enjoy golf and I love entertaining friends and family at home. With technology hanging on to us 24/7 it can be difficult to break away to find some solitude and time for yourself. But solitude is important. As Deepak Chopra says, "...it's in the silence that you hear the truth and know the solution." I have found that some of the biggest breakthroughs come to me when I take a break and change it up a bit. It's also important to do what you love and love what you do. When that combination happens, the issue of work/life balance resolves itself.
If you could dine with anyone, past or present, with whom would you dine and what would you order?
That would have to be my dad. My dad was my mentor and I greatly admired him. He was a sports coach and he died at a very early age so I believe that if we could once again have dinner together, he'd have some very sage advice to share with me. We would of course dine on lobster and crab cakes.
Fill in the blank. People would be surprised to know that...
I designed, developed, tested, and deployed sonar and combat systems for U.S. submarines.

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