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BY Fairygodboss

Fairygodboss of the Week: Karen Catlin

Karen Catlin of Karen Catlin Consulting

Photo credit: Courtesy of Florida Polytechnic University

TAGS:Fairygodboss of the Week, Technology, Career advice, Leadership

Karen Catlin, who helps women in tech through her consulting business, is a true Fairygodboss who’s all about paying it forward. We love that in addition to advocating for women, she also coaches men on how to create inclusive workplaces. Her career advice will encourage you to tackle your public speaking nerves!

Fairygodboss of the Week: Karen Catlin

Advocate for Women in Tech / Founder of Karen Catlin Consulting

San Francisco Bay Area, CA

FGB: Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?

KC: In my first career, I spent over 25 years building software products, starting out writing code and over time becoming an executive. Most recently, I was a vice president of engineering at Adobe Systems.

I’m now in my second career, where I have my own business as an advocate for women in tech. I witnessed first-hand a decline in the percentage of women working in tech, and I now pay it forward by coaching women working in the tech industry on leadership skills. I also coach men on how to create inclusive workplaces. I love what I do!

FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?

KC: When I left my corporate job to start my own business, a mentor asked me, “Karen, do you do much public speaking?” I immediately thought of all reasons I hated giving talks: stage fright, not being very good at it, dreading the Q&A because someone might ask me a question I didn’t know how to answer, and so on. But I realized she asked me that question because it could be key to finding clients and growing my business. So I simply said, “I need to do more of it.”

I then set a goal for myself to speak in public once per month, to help me get over my fear and improve. That was about four years ago, and I’m happy to report that I've met my goal just about every month since then. In my busiest month, I gave six or seven talks, and I’ve even given a TEDx talk. And I’ve come to love public speaking!

Because I’m now a bit of a public speaking geek, I co-authored “Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking” with Poornima Vijayashanker. Poornima and I also teach public speaking workshops and online courses together.

FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?

KC: My co-author Poornima Vijayashanker. Her entrepreneurial spirit, enthusiasm, and can-do confidence is contagious, and I love collaborating with her on courses and writing projects.

FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?

KC: I love walking and hiking, and hanging out with my husband and our two college-aged kids. I’ll also mention that I knit with wire. Yes, wire.

Lightning Round

FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?

KC: Hillary.

FGB: What is your karaoke song?

KC: Anything from the 80s. That genre brings me back to college, and I love belting them out.

FGB: What is your favorite movie?

KC: Hidden Figures.

FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?

KC:  Little House on The Prairie. Not only is it a great story, it would help me deal with the challenges of living off-the-grid.

FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?

KC: I’d buy vacation packages. Lots of ‘em.

FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?

KC: Do more public speaking! Career doors will open for you because of the visibility you’ll get from sharing your expertise and experience, whether in a meeting at your company or on stage at an industry event.

FGB: Why do you love where you work?

KC: I get to work with talented people across the tech industry every single day.


Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women. So each week, we celebrate a woman who makes a difference in other women’s careers. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her here.

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