This is the sixth post in the Be Your Own Best Blog’s Inspirational Women series. This series highlights exceptional women across a diverse spectrum of occupations and industries, and allows them to share some of their insights with an equally diverse audience.
Meet Kristine Kelley
Senior Director, Editorial, Tax & Accounting U.S.
After getting my B.A.. in journalism from Michigan State University, I worked as a Chicago-based reporter for a McGraw-Hill group of trade magazines for the chemical industry. Over the next 10+ years I worked at a variety of publishers covering industries from hazardous waste to beverages to travel. As esoteric as it sounds, it was pretty fun, and helped me get comfortable with a very man-dominated world. I interviewed senior executives at some of the largest global brands, even sampling beers with Pete Coors and August Busch IV (in separate interviews). Being confident and relaxed was key to getting the information I needed to share with our readers.
Once the world starting going digital, I left print publishing for a news editing job at Arthur Andersen, which was building client portals with original industry-focused reporting. No one was actually paying for anything online at that point (late 1990’s), so we rolled the group into arthurandersen.com. After the collapse, I took a bunch of the team to Deloitte, where I led the global digital team until I landed my first consumer-facing spot as managing editor of motorola.com. It was a tremendous learning experience.
After Google purchased Motorola, I went back into the accounting world as head of editorial and content strategy. My team of two grew to a team of about 40 after the proposal-writing team and then digital were added to my responsibilities. A short time later I was recruited to work as head of the Research & Learning editorial team for Wolters Kluwer’s U.S. Tax and Accounting team.
How would you define a “successful” career and what needs to happen for more women to achieve that level of success?
I think the definition depends on your personal goals. Success for me is having grown over my career from staff reporter to team leader of 120 writers at a $4.5B global publishing and information services company. I build on what I learn in each of my roles, taking what works and applying it to the next thing. For more women – or anyone – to meet their “success” goals, they need to feel confident and empowered. At least part of that (at least for me) comes from listening – listening to your audience, your customers, your colleagues, bosses, family and your own self. When you digest all that, you learn what feels right for you. And when you do what’s right for you, you’ll feel you’ve succeeded.
What is your proudest career accomplishment and why?
Probably that I’ve made it this far on a B.A. in journalism. I considered getting an MBA because for a few years, it looked like you couldn’t move into a leadership role without one. But more school wasn’t for me, unless you count the time a few years ago when I took a bunch of botany classes, thinking I might drop out of this stuff and get a Ph.D. in plant biology and conservation. I decided my kids probably needed to get through college before I went back again.
Please describe a challenging problem that you had to overcome in your career and the steps you took to do so.
The Arthur Andersen shut-down took some serious navigation. As head of the global digital marketing team at the time, I was part of a small group that stayed on for several months to work through shutting down the .coms and archiving all of the content. Some of the biggest challenges were the mental and emotional ones. They wouldn’t let us throw anything away, so boxes were piled along the hallways, while at the same time movers were taking out the plants and artwork, and our colleagues and friends were let go. Cubes were left empty in the middle of meetings, as everyone tried to continue on “business as usual” until they were brought to HR for their final packages.
To get through it, I focused on seeing how much of my team I could keep together as we moved to Deloitte, and working with folks to get mail lists and resumes together.
And of course we used lots of gallows humor. One day we spent making lists of jobs we’d fall back on, including working at an ice cream store, driving the tram at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and becoming a professional bird watcher.
If you could be mentored by anyone, who would it be and why?
I’d stick with my mom. She’s done a pretty good job so far.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
There’s usually a whole lot more behind some of those decisions you think you’d do better at making than the person who’s actually making them. In fact, once you see what’s going on, you might find that you’ll make the same crummy decision. At some point, you’ll need to get over yourself.
What words do you live by?
Oh, that kind of depends on what’s going on. There are a lot of words, and I’ve made a living out of them, so I guess you could say I live by all words.
To address the sentiment, my current favorite meme is, “When something goes wrong in your life, just yell ‘plot twist!’ and move on.”
If you would like to suggest an inspirational woman for consideration, please e-mail Lisa Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org.