Cathrine Cotman

What are your key strengths and how have you leveraged those though your career?

My biggest strength is in being a problem solver. I take a lot of pride in figuring out how to remove obstacles and finding ways to convince people to adopt change.

I am also persistent.  Once I got the call on a Friday afternoon to put together a strategy recommendation by Monday for review with the CEO.  The strategy was an important initiative for the company. However, the same scope of analysis had been re-worked, re-packaged, and re-socialized many times previously without ever getting traction. Despite my skepticism, I spent the entire weekend pulling it all together for Monday integrating the best ideas from several prior iterations. This time the strategy was approved and finally implemented in a multi-year program. Had I not taken that Friday request seriously, I may never have realized what has ended up being an important life’s work.

 What issues are important to your client today?

Our focus is enhancing the Customer Relationship Management model, influencing line of business strategy, workplace strategy, the teammate experience, and of course reducing expenses.

In your experience, what are some critical factors for creating a high-performing team?

Having dedicated people with a sense of community, a strong positive culture, and a shared vision and mission.  I also think everyone needs to have a sandbox to play in. In other words people need to have autonomy within the scope of their roles so they can figure out their own path and be accountable for it.

Never to allow your self to feel like a victim. Instead, change the playing field to one that’s unlevel to your advantage.

What advice would you give young professionals, especially women, who are starting out in CRE?

Work hard, deliver results, love what you do, focus on relationships, and seek out mentors.

One piece of advice I will offer, especially to women, is never to allow your self to feel like a victim.  Is there still discrimination in the workplace? Yes.  Does the glass ceiling still exist?  In many institutions, I think it does.  Unfortunately the world isn’t “fair” for anyone, There is no such thing as a level playing field in business.  When you feel like you are not being treated fairly, don’t stew in self-pity or anger.  I have done that, and it only propelled my career downward into a temporary ditch.  Instead, change the playing field to one that’s unlevel to your advantage.

Seek out a senior leader whom you have a common bond, and inspire them to go to bat for you and be your sponsor. If you cannot find that person in your current organization, don’t be afraid to take a risk and go elsewhere.  The days of staying with the same company for your whole career are over. Organizations change, and the perfect environment one year may feel like a different planet a few years later. My average tenure at a company is 5 years, which included two 8+ year stints. For me, that has felt like just about the right amount of career change.

To be perfectly honest, I have never been deliberate about seeking out sponsorship, but in hindsight, all of my big career successes can be attributed to great sponsors that I have luckily stumbled across on my journey.

How have you artfully balanced a rising career with your young family?

I am very fortunate in that respect to have a partner, Tricia, who stays home full-time with the kids and allows me to pursue my career aspirations. I have an excessive travel schedule, so I make up for it by compartmentalizing my week and focusing almost all of my time and attention on my family every weekend.  Finding the right work-life balance is a very personal choice, and its definition is different for everyone.  For me, being present for my family and having quality time is more important than being there full-time physically.

Thanks You, Cat for a very interesting conversation. We wish you the best and look forward to talking to you again.


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