Meet The Role Models is a technology community series which highlights the stories of The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models. The success of the Ada Lovelace Initiative depends on the participation of technology professionals across Ireland & since September 2015, The Ada Lovelace Initiative voluntary speakers have reached over 4000 secondary school students between them. This series offers you the opportunity to learn more about the role models who make these school visits possible.
In our last instalment of Meet The Role Models, we had the opportunity to speak to Caroline Hynes who works as a Director of Product Management at Intercom. Caroline spoke about her experience visiting her old school Mercy College in Coolock Co. Dublin.
MEET KATHERINE FITZPATRICK
Today’s interview is the 18th installment of Meet The Role Models and features Katherine Fitzpatrick who is a Leadership Development Manager at Amazon. Katherine volunteered to take part in The Ada Lovelace Initiative this year and she visited the Transition Year pupils of Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy Co. Cork.
Hi Katherine! How would you describe your current role?
As a Leadership Development Manager, I have the privilege of working with manager-leaders and their teams in Amazon Customer Service across Europe. These folks make sure that Amazon customers receive the world class service for which Amazon is known. I design and deliver training courses to groups of managers, and coach some individually, to ensure they have the skills they need to support their teams in getting results.
What attracted you to this type of work in the beginning of your career?
My mother was a teacher, and my father was a doctor, both well-educated and well-read, always encouraging us to learn. I thought I would be a teacher when I grew up. Then I studied accounting in college and spent ten years working as a tax manager. Sometimes you have to do something for a while to know why you don’t want to do it.
What attracted me to learning and development was the opportunity to get out from behind the desk of tax work and get in front of people looking to develop themselves. I was in my late twenties. It wasn’t easy to train myself into a new career and develop the confidence to lead full day training programs to managers in some of the world’s largest organizations. I quickly learned that nobody knows what a trainer forgets to say, and that there’s just as much a trainer learns from a group of participants as they learn from me!
I also realized that even though I changed career path, I still had my accounting background, a lot of insight into HR (from having worked in global mobility for ten years), and I had business strategy gained through my MBA and business experience. This unique combination of skills distinguished me as “not just a trainer” and my coaching studies further ignited my passion for unlocking people’s potential through development.
What would you say is the best part of your work?
The best part of my work is when someone I coach or someone in one of my training courses – whether at work or at a school – has what we call an “ah ha” moment in learning something new.
I love seeing people get excited by a concept. I really like when people come back to me with stories about how they used some learning on their job or in their life and what results it got for them.
Another great part of my work is when you hear someone you trained or coached has advanced in their career. Their success is what gives the behind-the-scenes trainer / coach great satisfaction.
What would you say is a common misconception about your role type?
The greatest misconception about my role is that learning and development professionals don’t do anything when we’re not training or coaching. My job involves a lot of talking with managers, about managers, for managers, to get the most out of managers. That can look unproductive but it’s the backbone of delivering the right result in the right way.
I travel, design training, conduct training needs analyses, evaluate and report out on training activity, contribute to many meetings and mentor several people too.
What motivated you to get involved with The Ada Lovelace Initiative?
I attended a VMWare Event during which there was an exercise which prompted me to consider mentoring young women as future business leaders. I have two teenage sons so I feel I provide plenty of parental support to “my boys.” As a professional business woman, I felt I have a lot to offer young women as they consider their future careers.
I have volunteered with Junior Achievement in the past, and I really like how the Ada Lovelace Initiative targets the female student population. If we’ve helped today’s young students better understand the opportunities available to them and the difference they can make in work and in life, we will have done our part.
How would you describe your school visit for A.L.I. – My Story?
Visiting Loreto Convent in Fermoy was fantastic! These were fairly large classes of very interested students. They were engaged and excited as I shared my work and life’s lessons learned, some tips for success and I talked about my upbringing in New York and working for the world’s largest on-line retailer (what girl doesn’t like to hear about on-line shopping?!).
I would absolutely continue to support schools like these, especially in North Cork where I am based, to inspire these young women to stay open and curious to the opportunities that await them. As I told them, I was good at maths and enjoyed French in school. Who would have thought I’d become an accountant and then a trainer and work in some of the world’s largest and best companies?!
Did you feel differently before and after your visit?
Having two teenage sons, I’m never too sure whether I’m going to connect with young women as quickly or as well. Thankfully, the students and teachers were so welcoming and engaged that it really made it quite easy to fall right into working with them.
Now that you have completed your school visit, would you have any tips for other role models?
I would tell any role model to just be yourself, tell your true story and tell it from the heart.
Who is your own role model, and why?
I have personal role models like my mother who is still working at the age of 74 in a museum. As an artist in her own right, she’s right where she wants to be at this stage of her life! My grandmothers were strong characters, talented and strong and I know I got to where I am today because of the DNA!
Being a passionate tennis fan, I also adore Venus Williams for the work she did – and so gracefully – fighting for equal pay for women in tennis. Her efforts secured equal prize money at Wimbledon and the French Open and she’s been recognized by UNESCO for her work for women in sport. What a legacy to sport!
We would like to thank Katherine Fitzpatrick for sharing her story on Meet The Role Models and also for visiting the pupils of Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy Co. Cork. If you would like to learn more about The Ada Lovelace Initiative, please visit our A.L.I page.
We are looking for role models from every county, if you would like more information about visiting a school on our waiting list or your old school, please fill out our form here and we will be in touch shortly.