How a Military Veteran and Mom Took Chances to Experience Growth & Success in Multiple Career Paths

Sponsored by nVent

Katrina Clark. Photo courtesy of nVent.

Katrina Clark. Photo courtesy of nVent.

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Fairygodboss
April 22, 2024 at 4:12AM UTC

Katrina Clark, Director of Operations at nVent, says that her best advice for women in the workplace is to not be afraid to take chances and try something new — even if it's completely outside your comfort zone.

Surround yourself with a leadership team that is willing to invest in you and support you in your career,” she explains. “Be willing to accept feedback, no matter how difficult it is to hear, and do something with it. Most importantly, support each other.

Clark was able to utilize this advice when she started her own career journey and, ultimately, made a pivot partway through. This journey began when Clark was unsure of what she wanted to do when she graduated from college with a business degree. She ended up joining the Army to pay off her student loans and worked in the Signal Corps, where she assisted with communications and participated in a research project. After impressing her First Sergeant and Commander with her work, Clark was moved to manage the company operations and training program, which became her first experience supporting a large team from an administration and human resource (HR) standpoint.

“I continued in this role for the remainder of my military career with increased scope and responsibility over time,” Clark explains. Then, “when I became a mom, I made the decision to end my military career as my spouse was also in the Army. The transition to an HR role as a civilian made the most sense given my work experience.”

Clark’s decision to work in HR ended up giving her a diverse set of experiences — starting with her working as an HR specialist at a manufacturing plant, where she was challenged with special projects before becoming their global communications manager. After this company was acquired by a larger one, she also got exposed to not only working for a publicly traded company, but also to the possibilities of how a large organization could advance her career. 

“I began working for an HR director who quickly involved me in projects all over the company and increased my knowledge exponentially,” Clark says, noting that these experiences ultimately led her to make a career pivot to operations.

Here, we caught up with Clark to learn more about that career pivot and what she’s learned along the way during her journey with nVent.

What made you decide to make a career change and pivot to your current role?

I worked in HR through site closures, an acquisition, and a spin off to our current company, nVent. Then, I was promoted to a regional HR manager role with sites all over the U.S. It was during this time that one of my plant managers resigned, and I was listed as his emergency back up on our succession plan. I had worked at that site for six years and knew the people, the product, and the processes. I was given a crash course on the site's finances, and off I went. 

How did you make this switch, and how did nVent support you in this process?

When we were sourcing for a plant manager, I was the interim. In order for me to pivot from HR to the plant manager role full time, I had to enter the candidate pool and officially apply for the role. During my time as interim plant manager, I found that I really enjoyed the change. I approached my HR director and told her how I felt. She told me that while she would hate to lose me on her team, she would support me in any way that she could.

With the support and direction of not only my HR Director, but also a coach who invested in teaching me the needed skills to be successful, I was confident and excited for the opportunities ahead. I greatly appreciate nVent for allowing me the chance to prove my abilities within the organization despite having no formal operations background.  The transition from Plant Manager to Director increased my scope and responsibilities ten-fold.

I initially started with one site and during this time I took on the role of Integration Leader for a new acquisition. Following that concluded assignment, I retained the acquisition in my scope and was given another site shortly after. Eight months following, I accepted responsibility for the Reno Distribution Center as well. During the tail end of this time, they implemented my title change to Director of Operations.

How have you benefited from the skills/experience you’ve gained in your career pivot/journey?

I truly believe that my experience in HR learning how to manage people is why I was successful in pivoting into an operations role. In a manufacturing setting, people are the most important resource, so if a leader understands how to flex their style and work with all types of employees, they will find success.

Looking back on your career, what would you say has been your most valuable career mistake?

My most valuable career mistake continues to be trying to take on too much and not ask for help. When I behave this way, I burn out and my performance at work and my home life suffer. I have an incredible team that is capable of so much, and I am learning to empower them, much like my leadership empowers me. I’m also learning boundaries and how to be open and honest when I feel overwhelmed or stressed. This means being vulnerable and admitting when I need help, which is not easy to do. 

What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your current work?

The most rewarding thing about my current role is watching my team succeed. I have been able to support employees through promotions and career changes. I strongly believe that if I help nVent take care of our employees, then they will take care of the company, and this has been true for me throughout my career. The most challenging thing is balancing the needs of our employees with the goals of the company. We have to meet our commitments, but we also need to take care of the employees that help us do that.  

What is your favorite thing about working at nVent?

My favorite thing about working for nVent is that they invest in their employees and challenge us to take informed risks and own our results. It’s scary to be allowed to make mistakes, but it's incredibly important for growth.  



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