7 Ways to Grow or Pivot Your Career: From a Director (and Rock Band Violinist!)

Sponsored by CNH Industrial America

Cathy Starr

Photo courtesy of CNH Industrial.

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Fairygodboss
May 21, 2024 at 9:46AM UTC

Do you want to advance in your career or undertake a career pivot? If so, Cathy Starr, the Director of Global Parts Operations at CNH Industrial (and also a violinist who plays in rock bands in Chicago!) has some important advice for you:

  1. Network network network: Your network is like a houseplant, it needs attention to stay alive and even more attention to grow. Make time each week to network — block it out on your calendar and protect it.

  2. Every January, write down your goals for the year. These are your professional and personal goals that you should visit every quarter to see how you are doing. You should also find people that can help you reach your goals.

  3. Volunteer to take on assignments outside of your normal job. This is how you develop new skills, show initiative and expand your network.

  4. Solve a problem that your boss or internal customer has before they ask you to solve it.

  5. Ask to shadow someone who does a job that you are interested in. If this isn’t possible, ask them for one hour to interview them about what they do.

  6. Make a folder where you put everything you are proud of, including positive feedback from others and anything that just makes you feel good. Review this folder any time you are feeling imposter syndrome or negative emotions. It’s also great to have when you find yourself in a job interview.

  7. Your energy is valuable and finite, protect it. Find people that give you energy and avoid those that only deplete your energy.

To learn more from Starr, keep on reading…

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what were you doing previously?

I have been at CNH Industrial for 10 years. I’ve been in my current role, Director of Global Parts Operations, for three months. I manage a global team that is responsible for forecasting and ordering the hundreds of thousands of service parts that CNH Industrial offers through their dealers and that our customers need to service their vehicles.

What do you find most rewarding about your work? 

The absolute most rewarding part of my work is building and developing teams. I am endlessly amazed at how people that come from all different backgrounds, geographic locations and cultures can work together to solve problems. In a world where we are constantly reminded of what divides people, this gives me so much hope every single day. 

My favorite place on Earth to be is in a room (virtual or physical) with a group of people that are working together to solve a problem. The energy that people have when they feel safe to brainstorm and build off each other’s ideas is pure magic. Certainly not every meeting happens this way, but when it does, it makes all the other meetings worth it.

My goal is to create places where people can feel safe to share their ideas and their perspectives. We’ve all been on a team where it’s the same two or three people who talk. That can inhibit problem solving because, sometimes, the seed for an idea is within the most introverted person on the team, but they may feel hesitant to share a partially formed idea; however, that partially formed idea may be the key to solving the problem! So, it’s important to create safe collaborative environments where everyone can contribute.

I also enjoy feedback sessions with my staff and mentees. Feedback goes both ways, so I consider these discussions one of the most important parts of my work because it gives me an opportunity to understand how I am doing and address any gaps in my leadership — allowing me the privilege to coach my staff and help them grow professionally. My goal as a leader is to help people achieve their dreams so when someone on my team is promoted or grows into their next role, I feel an incredible sense of fulfillment and pride. 

What’s one way that you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?

A few years ago, I started using bullet journaling as a way to prioritize my time and work. My brain requires structure and, instead of fighting that reality, I embraced it. Bullet journaling allows me to have a structure to follow and the ability to see, in real time, patterns that help me define my priorities. It’s also a great tool to hold myself accountable to finish important tasks, even those that aren’t my favorite.

In my bullet journal, I also do another exercise where every morning I write down five things: three work tasks (on weekends these are home management tasks) + one family or community task + one fun or self-care task. So, as an example, today’s five things were:

  1. Task: Finish powerpoint for staff meeting.

  2. Task: Call Sarah about the job description.

  3. Task: Complete Fairygodboss questions.

  4. Family/Community: Teach Huxley (my son) how to tune his guitar.

  5. Fun/Self: Make a doctor’s appointment.

Then, each evening before I go to bed, I check in with myself. Did I complete all of them? If not, why? I don’t criticize myself or feel guilty, I simply ask myself what happened: Did something else take priority? Is the task not as important as I thought it was?

What are a few boundaries that you have established to separate work and home life?

I had some pretty good tools and routines established before the pandemic, but, like a lot of people, when the pandemic hit, most of these tools and boundaries were no longer effective. For instance, for most of my career, I was able to separate my work and home life during my drive to the office and drive home. 

To mimic this separation when working from home, I created a designated work area. When I’m in my work area, I am working. When I’m not in that area, I’m not. I encourage people to find a corner of their house, (it does not need to be a whole room), and make it a dedicated work space and fill it with things you love. Make it feel like your own personal space. This is a powerful signal to our brain (and our family!) to have some separation between work and home.

The second thing that I’ve done is turn my computer off and put it away every (ok most…) nights. This is another signal to my brain that it’s time to stop working. 

Finally, I work hard to protect family time. I only have about two waking hours a day with my son, one in the morning and one in the evening, so I work hard to protect those times. This is not always easy when working on a global team, but, for example, I have my calendar blocked from 7-8 a.m. each morning since this is when I eat breakfast with my son, do a silly morning dance party (which I highly recommend!) and go to school.

Do you have any recent projects or moments at work that you are particularly proud of?

There are two things that I am most proud of from 2021. 

  1. The first is managing a global supply chain team during the largest supply chain crisis in decades with zero turn-over during a pandemic. I am incredibly proud of my team and what we were able to accomplish in 2021 despite these unprecedented challenges. In early 2021, we started to see raw material shortages, then transportation constraints, a ship stuck in the Suez Canal, labor shortages, chip shortages, the Delta surge, weather disasters, and on and on. These happened one after the other with a culminating impact on our suppliers and customers. There are no shortcuts to motivating a team during difficult times (as there rarely are when managing people), and there was no precedence to this “perfect storm” of challenges.

    • The key to our success was communication and empathy. I increased my face time with my teams and ensured that it was consistent. We instituted weekly check-ins on Microsoft Teams where my team came together just to talk, vent and share successes and challenges. We celebrated even the smallest of successes. I am continually amazed at how motivating just a little bit of recognition, appreciation and celebration can be. 

  2. The other thing that I am very proud of is my work with CNH Industrial’s Women’s Affinity Group called iGLOW (Inclusion, Growth Leadership and Opportunity for Women). A colleague and I founded the group in March 2020, only weeks before the pandemic started. When the pandemic hit, we thought we might have to put it on hold, but we converted to virtual meetings and it started to grow. Now, we have almost 150 members and many CNH Industrial sites in the U.S. and Canada, and we have guest speakers and break-out sessions on a wide range of topics.

    • I am currently The Executive Chair, and I am super excited because, in 2022, we will be kicking off our formal mentoring program, which will connect over 50 of our members in mentor/mentee relationships to complete a 12-month mentorship program. We also plan to expand our reach to CNH Industrial’s plants and plan to develop partnerships with local community organizations that align with our mission.

What are you trying to improve on?

This year, I am focusing on becoming a better listener. I came up in my career in male-dominated industries and, most of the time, I was the only woman in the room. Over time, I developed ways to compensate and be heard, but I think it came at the expense of my listening skills. Especially now that I am in a senior manager position, I realize it’s really important for me to work on being a better listener, not just to the people that work for me, but also my peers, my internal and external customers and even my family and friends. I had some wonderful mentors and managers in my career who gave me the opportunity to express and explore my ideas, now it is time for me to do the same.

Let’s talk about CNH Industrial’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does your company help you succeed?

My first week at CNH Industrial, I knew I was in the right place — CNH Industrial was the company culture that I had been looking for. While the company and the business has changed a lot over the decade since I started, something that hasn’t is that CNH Industrial is a place where anyone can get their ideas heard

I love solving problems, it’s what makes my eyes sparkle and my spine tingle. And even more than solving problems alone, I LOVE solving problems in a group. CNH Industrial is a company that encourages people to solve problems and, even more importantly, supports people when they are truly passionate about something. CNH Industrial is a company that encourages people to reach across functions and regions to find the people that they need to solve a problem. CNH Industrial has also provided me with the tools that I need to grow my career, from mentorships and coaching to job shadowing, networking and professional development.

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