Christine, you’ve been part of the Körber team for 19 years – what does your role entail and what do you enjoy about it?
As a Strategic Account Manager on the enterprise side of Körber’s supply chain software business I’m tasked in supporting our strategic customers. I travel quite a bit as I really really like meeting my customers in person, seeing their operations and learning their business. I enjoy working with customers to help solve challenges, transform their operations and systems and help create real success stories.
Can you tell us a little about your beginnings at Körber?
Absolutely! I started here in 2004 when the company was known as HighJump Software. So, I was brought on as the Client Advocate which was a newly established role that was essentially the liaison between our customers and the various departments across the company – whether that was product development, support, professional services or sales. My role was to listen to and support our customers, provide feedback to the company, develop and present ideas for improvement and ultimately drive customer referenceability by creating what we called “raving fans”. I loved the role as it gave me the opportunity to establish relationships with our customers while having a positive impact on making Körber (or HighJump at the time) better.
Going back a little further, would you mind telling us a bit about your studies and background?
I went to college at first with a focus on accounting and finance and then I quickly shifted my major to marketing management. Through my course studies, I found I also had an interest and competency in computer science so that became my other emphasis along with marketing management. I really wasn’t certain where a degree in both of those fields would take me, but I knew they were the areas I had the most interest in pursuing.
By my second year of college, I was a single mom. So, I not only battled significant (and unexpected) personal challenges, but I was also navigating completing my education and working internships at the same time.
That must have been challenging – how did you persevere?
It definitely was challenging and certainly not the path I had planned. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment where I slept on the couch and my son had the bedroom. Financially it was precarious, but I was determined to defy the odds, complete my college degree and establish the career I wanted.
I think the way I was raised by my parents also had a significant influence on my ability to persevere through my situation. My father is a veteran of the United States Marine Crops who brought my mother stateside from Hong Kong to raise our family. His discipline and her adaptability were set in me in a way to help me overcome the many obstacles I faced. Both of them worked tremendously hard for our family and that was engrained in me through their parenting.
What has been your experience as a woman working in tech?
When I first started in this field… well, even before that - while I was in college, the technology field was very male dominant. I was often the only female in the room. And that was challenging and often intimidating. But I was fortunate early on to establish a couple of female mentors in the industry – one in particular was a leader of the first technology consulting firm with where I worked. She had a significant impact on me, as I saw how she demonstrated confidence and persistence in how she conducted business in a male-dominated industry. She acknowledged my abilities and gave me the opportunity to advance my career rather quickly. And I’m forever grateful to her for that.
Despite how I was advancing my career, I found myself constantly needing to take initiative, make my voice heard and display a level of fearlessness my male counterparts didn’t have to always do. There were constant challenges throughout the way. I remember in one situation, I was the only female in the room (which, again, was the norm) and my colleagues were talking over one another trying to solve a customer problem.
They weren’t making progress, so I stood up and mapped everything out on the whiteboard using logic, facts and reasoning to articulate viable options. It was a real defining moment for me, as it earned me credibility amongst my male peers.
This sounds like an experience that would contribute to your confidence at work. How did this change the way you thought about work from this point?
Absolutely. I’ve learned that having confidence, sticking to your values and not being timid about expressing your ideas is so important in the workplace. And in today’s working environment, diversity lends so much value to an organization – as long as leaders recognize, embrace and truly leverage it.
Last year, I attended the Women in Sales Summit in Napa, California. The event had an impressive line-up of phenomenal female presenters including tennis champion and entrepreneur, Venus Williams as the keynote. For me, this event reinforced my belief that whatever position you hold in a company, we need to recognize the traits and experiences that make us unique. At the same time, we need to have confidence in our value – whether you’re just starting out or you have years and years of experience. That’s where a genuinely inclusive environment can help nurture our potential. And I’m glad to say we have that at Körber which is one of the main reasons I have stayed with the company for almost two decades now.
Is there anything that serves as your inspiration for success?
I try to find inspiration and gratitude every day and from different sources. Lately, I’m inspired by my oldest son who recently made a career change (in supply chain and transportation, coincidentally) and he is putting his everything into simply crushing it! I’m truly in awe of him and while he is his own person, I can’t help but have tremendous pride as I can identify some of my traits in him.
Another maybe lighter source of inspiration comes from this TV show where the main character, Ted Lasso, after which the series is named is this new coach of a soccer team who brings wisdom and inspiration in unassuming ways. He places this yellow sign that says ‘Believe’ strategically above the door in the team’s locker room. So, before they head to the field, they see that word every time. And I love that, because it’s a reminder to stay true to your values and how self-belief can lead to prosperity.
Do you have any last words for our readers?
I’m so appreciative for the opportunity to share my story and to give a bit of a view into my background and how I came to be who I am today despite life’s challenges. I know everyone has their own story and that’s what makes us the unique individuals we are – yet, we always find common threads to connect and help make one another better as we continue our journey both personally and professionally.