Katherine Corich - An interview with WIL
Our Founder Katherine Corich was interviewed recently for the European Network for Women In Leadership, of which she is a board member. They discussed her career shift and what it takes to lead a successful transformation programme in the 21st century, as well as her extraordinary charity work in Brazil as Chairwoman of Happy Child International. Katherine also reiterated the importance of networks such as WIL Europe and shared with the group a lesson she recently learned through her millennial employees.
You can read the interview in full below.
After qualifying as a commercial pilot, you decided to pursue a career in information management and became an expert in business transformation. Why did you make such a career shift and what did you learn from the aviation sector?
Whilst working on an information technology project at the London Stock Exchange, I realised that principles completely evident and normal in one industry such as aviation could be used in another such as in the stock exchange. Principles ranging from simulation training and learning, the understanding of human factors, to the importance of culture and many more.
In particular, within aviation, we are able to learn from our mistakes through the black boxes fitted in every aircraft which records everything leading up to and during an accident or event. We are then able to learn from it, send out a notification globally and alter the training on this specific area. Not enough organizations adopt this mentality of learning from mistakes and acknowledge the change globally.
Therefore, I introduced some of the principles and insight of aviation in business to help organizations to be more successful, safer and more streamlined.
Founder and CEO of the highly successful London-based business-systems consultancy company Sysdoc, you have led various transformation programmes across various companies. How do you lead transformation in the turbulent 21st century?
Recently, we have become much more open and honest about the state the world is in. People have become more aware that business ethics make sense and profit at any cost doesn’t. If a profit degrades the environment or a community, removes water or pollutes the region, then it is not acceptable business.
Directors and Senior Leaders within companies need to ask those hard questions, change product services and revenue streams when they notice a negative impact. There is now enough global financing and funding in the world for a company to turn into a new area and stream of business that is good for the environment and for humanity.
One of the reasons I teach at Oxford University Business School is because it allows us to provide the finest leaders from the corporate world with a different way of thinking and encourage them to think about the wider issues and legacy they wish to leave behind. With this programme, and if they are true leaders, they can provide a much greater impact on humanity, we simply need those who are brave enough to lead the change as at this time, the impact is needed more than ever.
Alongside running your business, you have been involved in charities and you are on the board of numerous organizations, including the NGO Happy Child International, founded by WIL Member Sarah de Carvalho. Why did you become such a philanthropist and how do you think you can best help the charity sector?
I became a philanthropist because I believe it is a natural pathway for entrepreneurs. When one has had the privilege of running a strong performing company, then it is natural to give back!
We have always been a generous company and we pride ourselves of being one of the first to have vast female senior leaders and practices that attract younger mothers! However, we wanted to improve our generosity from simply donating money to making a real difference by using our skill sets as a team to make the greatest impact.
This is what led me to becoming the Chairwoman of Happy Child International. One of the Charity’s main focuses is of rehabilitating and reintegrating young girls and sometimes boys in Brazil, of the ages 11-13, whom have been prostituted on the streets, become pregnant and are now living on the streets. The charity rescues them and begins the often three- to four-year process of learning to love themselves and their baby as well as other basic skills necessary for their integration back to their family life.
We also work with the Brazilian government to focus on why the young girls are prostituted in the first place and who is responsible. Through our research, it is mostly foreign workers and visitors attracted to their cities by big sporting events. We have lobbied governments in the lead up to events, assisted police and social services throughout the event, set up help lines and raised awareness of the problem. Our impact has been enormous as we have been able to reach hundreds of millions of people, we have shut down brothels at Olympic parks, received thousands of calls to our help line and changed legislation for the criminalisation of abusers abroad.
Using our skills along with our money, we are much more powerful than a few donations could ever be.
You are also a Board Member of the European Network for Women in Leadership (WIL Europe), which has been acting over the last 10 years as a platform where senior-level women can meet and exchange, network and support each other. Why are such networks important and what changes in attitudes and policies are still needed to facilitate women’s professional advancement?
As a leader you are a trailblazer, you have broken through the mold and found a way to the top of what you are doing. Many refer to it as ‘breaking through the glass ceiling’. In my personal experience, most of the women leaders I have met have stated there might have been glass ceiling, they simply never noticed it.
To be a leader you must be brave and have the capability, courage and talent to just say ‘I can do it’. You build the great relationships and team along the way but arriving at the top can be lonely and this is why leadership networks are so vital. The networks of incredibly talented ladies such as WIL Europe give us the ability to collaborate, share ideas, share best practices, support each other and celebrate each other. It is great to be amongst other leaders who want to change their company, organisation or the world in such a positive way.
At WIL, we strongly believe that leaders are constant learners. What is the latest lesson you have learned in your personal and/or professional life?
I completely agree with your statement! I learn something new every single day!
The most recent lesson I have learned would be yesterday evening. I brought together all the millennials from one area of our business together to discuss mental health in the consulting industry, as I believe that as a company and human beings we need to constantly evaluate the environments we work in.
Millennials are trying to find their place in such a connected world through social media, new technologies every day, a world where money is a constant struggle and of course for British millennials, the impact of Brexit.
Therefore, I asked them how we are going to shape our mental health strategy, as we all experience bad physical and mental days at some point. I wanted them to feel in a safe environment, so we would be able to trial the strategy through building a support for each other, to call on one another, call on a colleague or the wider services to solve the problem through the network in place. The team needed to know the distress they feel regarding all the problems are valid and real and we will find a way to address them and through this, the team were willing to work hard to find the greatest strategy!
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