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2019 30 Under 35 Profile: Katie Connors

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Katie Connors, 26

Katie Connors
26
Project Manager – Strategic Projects; Capital Electric

 

While it’s not unusual to hear of people in electrical distribution who majored in finance, perhaps, or a supply chain-related major, Katie Connors completed a “two-for-one” academic path.

She attended the University of South Carolina and double-majored in finance and global supply chain and operations management.

On the advice of some faculty members at SC, Katie actually used two different resumes, one emphasizing her finance education and the other focusing on her supply chain-related studies.

She caught the attention of the hiring managers at Capital Electric, a Sonepar company, when they set up shop at a campus career fair, Katie said.

“I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to do and Sonepar offered a rotational program to get into the business,” she explained. “I saw that and thought it’s the best of both worlds. I wasn’t familiar with electrical distribution, but those particular subjects, supply chain and operations management, and finance, applied well to the industry.”

After graduating, Katie entered Sonepar’s Sales and Operations Leadership Development program.

She started in the warehouse, of course, spending time on shipping, receiving and stocking, initially working on the night shifts. While the schedule was busy and at times tiring, she soon found herself loving the atmosphere and the people.

“With transportation, you’re riding along with the truck drivers going to customer sites or replenishing branches, kind of learning where all the action happens from the start of the whole process,” she said.

While the vastness and pace were an adjustment at first, Katie explained that having studied supply chain management in college prepared her for the work.

“My initial thoughts were about the timing of the different shifts. I’m thinking, ‘How do these people go to sleep before it’s dark out, then wake up before it’s light out?’” she laughed. “For the night shift folks and transportation, we had to be there at 4 a.m.”

Katie is currently a project manager for strategic projects at Capital Electric’s headquarters in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. In this role, she oversees various internal as well as external projects for the company, including mergers. One recent merger on which Katie played a key integrating role was merging Vallen (also a Sonepar company) into Capital Electric.

“So ‘project manager,’ ‘problem solver,’ whatever the upper level management has coming down the pipeline, where one person in the company doesn’t have time to dedicate their full role to—that becomes my job,” she explained.

Last year, Katie attended a Sonepar Leadership Meeting in Mexico. In January, she also attended the Sonepar Junior Committee meeting in Bangkok.

“The kick off for the program was fantastic,” Katie said. “We were able to watch the restitutions from the previous year given to Sonepar business executives from all over the world and meet with our international teams about our project for this coming year. The whole experience was unforgettable. I am greatly looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store!”

Among Katie’s spare time pursuits are travelling and music.

“My passions are really traveling and music. I love to go to concerts, any live music,” Katie explained, citing U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as among her favorites.

 

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. Get to know the people you’re working with. We’re a very relationship-focused business. That was advice given to me when I came into the industry.

I always tell younger associates that your experience is going to be what you make it. The position that I hold now didn’t exist when I came into the company. I worked on certain projects, particular projects that gave me the experience to be considered to lead future projects. Our leadership has trusted me with amazing opportunities for someone my age because of the experiences I have picked up along the way. Work on projects that you feel passionate about and don’t worry about whether that is going to be your career path or not. It could lead to something great or teach you something new about the organization that sets you up for a role in the future.

The industry is changing and there is a lot of room for us younger folks to bring a fresh perspective—whether we’re looking at a process where we need to do things differently or maybe there are positions that we need that didn’t exist before. Just because the position doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean that you can’t create it. And just because you are young, doesn’t mean that you can’t make a change happen in the company. I always encourage our young folks to speak up when it comes to their ideas.

Q. How do you see the industry attracting a more diverse workforce?

A. People want to see themselves in an organization that they’re going to work for. So the more diversity we have will breed more diversity in the future. Being a woman in industry, when I see other women in leadership positions, it shows me that it is possible to get there. We just had our first female vice president last year which was really exciting for me, but there’s a lot of room for more diversity within the industry.

I think that comes with really getting our name out there and getting the correct people to recruit. Maybe it’s having younger people at the career fairs. Maybe it’s having more diverse people at those career fairs. That will attract a more diverse group of people, and more importantly, more diverse thinking. If we only have the same type of people that we’ve had in the past within our company, we’re not going to get very far in terms of getting different thoughts and opinions.

Typically, it’s a very male-dominated industry—a white male-dominated industry. There are a whole lot of different views in the world besides those that we are missing out on. If we brought a different group of folks into those rooms and meetings with us, we could be changing and evolving a lot quicker.

 

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Joe Nowlan  is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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