Catherine’s Circle: Kim Eaton, Vice Chairman of the Board, Aptean
Author: Catherine Tabor
I am excited to introduce a new feature of our Better Outcomes Blog: Catherine’s Circle.
As I mentioned in my post Celebrating Our Achievements, The Success of Others and Looking to the Future, at Sparkfly, we love to acknowledge and show gratitude to the people who have supported us. These amazing people, many of them women, have mentored and believed in us and we’ve designed Catherine’s Circle to showcase their stories and the lessons they’ve learned on their own journeys.
Our first profile is of Kim Eaton, the Vice Chairman of the Board at Aptean. I met Kim when she was the EVP of Marketing at Radiant Systems, we worked closely together there and again during her time as the SVP and GM of Hospitality at NCR. She is an inspiring leader and communicator and has been an important mentor for me as I work to build a strong, cohesive team.
Catherine: How have mentors played a role in your career?
Kim: I have had very special people influence my career progression, who I don’t think would have called themselves my mentors. They ultimately led (or pushed) me to each step in my career. They were individuals who I worked with who always challenged me and asked me to take on more, even if I didn’t believe I could do it. I feel so grateful that I have had people surrounding me who believed in me, rooted for me, pushed me into new unfamiliar territory and who weren’t afraid to give me tough feedback when I needed it. I owe much of my success to these non-traditional mentors.
Catherine: How have women mentors played a role in your career?
Kim: Believe it or not, I have not had a female mentor – my mentors have all been men. In some ways, this is what has motivated me to be a mentor to other female leaders. I definitely see the need for females to mentor and coach other women, because there are some specific female traits that can be reinforced and put to work in the right way, with the right coaching. These traits include multi-tasking, team-building, empathy, and listening, which are all critical leadership skills and are many times under-leveraged because we think we shouldn’t emphasize or play them up.
Catherine: What’s the best piece of career or life advice you ever received?
Kim: Something that has guided me for the last 15 – 20 years is to really know what your strengths are and how those strengths can help you achieve your goals. Don’t be so focused on the things you aren’t as good at – find others to complement you in those ways. There is a study that has proven that if you spend more time invested in honing your strengths you will not only be happier, but more productive. While this sounds like mostly career advice, it is actually as important in life away from work – recognizing what your strengths are and how they can impact your personal and family relationships has helped me maintain and grow these relationships while being focused on my career at the same time.
Catherine: How do you pay your mentoring experiences forward?
Kim: I am a mentor to both women and men that are part of the company I work for, but even more importantly I have been a mentor to many men and women who have progressed in their careers outside of the companies that I have worked for. It is really important to me to share and provide valuable experiences for these individuals at all stages of their careers that they can pay forward.
Being a mentor to several men and women has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me and I have learned so much about myself through that process which makes it doubly rewarding!
Catherine: Do you have a quote or philosophy that guides your career decisions?
Kim: There is a Dalai Lama quote that has been essential for me and I love to share it with others, especially my children.
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”
I can think of so many examples where this is true – it is motivating to me that we are always learning and growing, especially from things that are challenging or don’t turn out so well. I have an optimistic attitude and this quote continues to remind me that being optimistic is a good quality to have and one that ensures that I look for the positive in those negative experiences that we all have. I truly believe that if you do the right thing, everything will work itself out!
Catherine: What can we do to support more #WomeninTech?
Kim: 1) Keep recognizing role model women leaders in tech; 2) For those of us who are in tech we should keep mentoring other men and women – it is just as important to mentor men to allow other women to grow and make an impact, and 3) As women leaders in tech, be visible to our young women in school, at all levels, to give them something to aspire to and believe in.
Catherine: How do you de-stress after a long day?
Kim: I am a foodie, so either cooking or going to a restaurant with family or friends and trying something new makes me feel quite happy after a long day. If it has been a really long, tough day, nothing beats running a few miles to decompress and feel rejuvenated.
Catherine: How do you celebrate your achievements?
Kim: I am a pretty low-key person, so spending time with my husband, children, and other family members having dinner or playing golf together is a real treat for me. By spending time with them and sharing the accomplishment, it also reinforces their importance in supporting me along the way. I have to admit, I do love shopping so sometimes bigger accomplishments deserve something more tangible :)