Kathleen – Success Study

Head of Quality Assurance

Client: Kathleen was senior director of quality assurance at a company that manufactures synthetic DNA.

Industry: Biotechnology

Challenge: When Kathleen didn’t get a promotion she felt she merited, she left the company and sought an executive coach to help her self-reflect and understand how to market herself better.

Process: Kathleen made her resume shine, fleshed out her LinkedIn profile, and honed her interview and compensation negotiation skills.

Landing: Kathleen landed as head of quality assurance at a start-up using cutting-edge technology in the fight against Covid, a job she finds both professionally rewarding and personally meaningful.

Study: As senior director of quality assurance at a San Francisco biotech company, Kathleen directed 50 people in developing, and then supporting, a brand-new, quality management system and successfully achieving ISO compliance in record time. With this and other impressive accomplishments under her belt, and after four years on the job, she was looking forward to what she felt was a well-earned promotion to vice president. It never came. Instead, it became apparent that she and her supervisor had developed different values about how Kathleen’s program should be supported.

Kathleen ended up leaving the company, frustrated that she had not seen this outcome coming. Her first step was to hire an executive coach to help her process and understand what had happened.

“I thought that, because I didn’t get the promotion, perhaps I wasn’t doing something right,” said Kathleen.

She did an online search and found The Barrett Group (TBG). She had never used an executive coach before, but she wanted a professional to give her some perspective about her situation, help her handle uncomfortable questions that might arise about her sudden departure from her previous position, and offer her some guidance on how best to market herself for future opportunities. She started with what felt like a “soul-searching” experience in TBG’s Clarity Program.

“My Clarity coach had me address some really difficult questions, like how I might improve my work-life balance, assess what is truly important to me, and determine what I am really looking for in my career,” said Kathleen. “I found it useful. It helped me realize that I wasn’t very balanced – I’m a workaholic.”

In the next phase, Kathleen learned from her career consultant how to bolster her social capital.

“Greg helped me beef up my LinkedIn profile. I wasn’t active on it at all before. I had a profile, but I only dealt with it when I needed a job,” said Kathleen. “Now I’m much better about keeping in touch with people and helping them when I can. Keeping your network active and alive is really important because you never know if, tomorrow, you might not have a job.”

Kathleen also learned how to craft her resume for an executive position and began applying for VP roles, which she had set her heart on.

That is when Covid hit. Kathleen responded by boosting her resume-sending campaign and continuing to connect with people over Zoom. Months went by with few results from her job search, but there was an upside.

“It was good to take time off and decompress from working a lifetime,” said Kathleen. “It was an important mental break.”

Kathleen found the time to learn Spanish, take music lessons, and do gardening – and she reflected a lot on the terrible Covid crisis.

Then something extraordinary happened. One day at the end of July Kathleen received an email from a start-up biotech company expressing great interest in the CV she had sent them three months earlier.

“That was the first time I’d ever just sent my resume to a company cold and got a response,” said Kathleen.

The position was a bit of downgrade in terms of salary and title, but the opportunity offered a unique appeal – the young company was using cutting edge technology to battle Covid, and Kathleen would be lending her talents and skills towards that effort.

“When I began my job search, I really wanted a VP position – anywhere. Then Covid happened. And when this opportunity arose, I realized that I’m now totally fine with not being a VP. What is important to me today is helping the world get through this,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen turned to her career consultant to help her manage the hiring process.

“We did a practice interview and Greg helped me go over a presentation I had to give. Greg also helped me prepare for some tough questions – the hardest being, ‘Why did you leave your previous position?’” said Kathleen.

She also received help when it came to salary negotiations.

“Greg taught me how to ask for things in a way that didn’t sound demanding – and I got exactly what I asked for. I asked for a signing bonus and more stock and they didn’t hesitate. I never would have done that before,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen even received some great coaching about how to handle the issue of her title.

“They didn’t have a senior director position, so I made an agreement with them that, externally, they would call me “head of quality,” and in six months they would review my position,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen is thrilled in her new position.

“This is probably the best job I could have gotten because it’s so meaningful. I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines, I wanted to be part of the solution,” said Kathleen.
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