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Jumat, 07 September 2012

Kathryn Ullrich: Getting To The Top - Author interview

Specialist in high-tech and consulting recruiting for the recruitment of senior level executives in enterprise software, high technology, and consulting companies, and President and Executive Recruiter at Kathryn Ullrich Associates, Inc., Kathryn Ullrich, was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about her very hands on and results oriented book Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success.

Kathryn Ullrich describes how to take charge of your own career, creating a career strategy, and shares a pyramid of leadership skills for career success.

Thanks to Kathryn Ullrich for her time, and for her very informative responses to the questions. They are greatly appreciated

What was the background to writing this book Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success?

Kathryn Ullrich: I have been leading Getting to the Top® career development programs at Stanford GSB and UCLA Anderson for five years, interviewing panels of CEOs and VPs on their career paths and the skills needed at the top. The career advice and anecdotes of leadership skills were so incredible that it needed to be captured for others, and thus I wrote Getting to the Top.

You write that a new employee needs to develop a career strategy. What is a career strategy and why is so important?

Kathryn Ullrich: A career strategy is a long term career goal with a plan to achieve the goal. If you don’t know where you are headed, you don’t know what road to take to get there. As an executive recruiter, I ask the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?” to understand a candidate’s direction, motivation, and fit with a company.

Many career experts often say that there are certain career paths to the top, and others will stall or derail a career. You write that there are many effective ways to the top. What do you mean by that?

Kathryn Ullrich: I did groundbreaking research on the career paths to VP levels in sales and marketing functions and CEO. For example, it’s obvious that to reach VP marketing, you can climb up through marketing. However, I found a surprising percentage of executives with backgrounds in career path categories I called domain expert, strategic/analytic, and cross-functional. You can reach the top by developing an industry expertise or specialization and parlaying that to VP.

Similarly, strong analytical individuals from consulting, banking, or finance do well in marketing because the role increasingly requires measuring marketing results. And, the individual who takes cross-functional roles to learn about the business and the customer, or develop broad relationships at the executive levels, can be effective in reaching the top.

Kathryn Ullrich (photo left)

Moving between industries, companies and employment functions is commonplace today. Is it possible to make a transition between corporate functions and even between corporations and still make it to the top?

Kathryn Ullrich: Absolutely. There are four pivot points during career progression: level, function, company, and industry. How will the next move, even if lateral, prepare you for your career goal? Taking a new function may provide additional customer perspective that allows you to be more effective.

Corporations want to hire someone who has “been there, done that” so if you are moving between companies, you may be taking a lateral move. Evaluate how changing to this new company might provide career growth, new challenges, and strong mentors for you to advance.

You include a section on CEOs who have reached the top of their respective industries. What traits and qualities do they share and what are some of the similarities all took in following their career paths?

Kathryn Ullrich: Passion. The CEOs shared their love for what they do and the hard work they put in to reach this role. Beyond this, they share other keys to their success of focusing on a strategic direction, strong communication skills, and hiring a great team. Many of the CEOs also share stories about taking risks which propelled their careers.

Are there some very specific leadership skills that a person must develop that will be essential at the top, but also on the entire career path as well?

Kathryn Ullrich: Getting to the Top, I present a career pyramid of leadership skills needed at the top. The skills include strategic vision, customer perspective, communications, team leadership, and distinguishing skills. These skills apply along the career path. For example, a manager must set a strategic vision for the team, aligned with the company vision, and make sure the team is on board with the direction.

Everyone can look at who the customers of their job are – external and internal – and deliver their function focusing on the customer. The need for communication skills grows exponentially with career advancement; some important communication skills including listening, communicating up/down/across, influence, persuasion, and more.

Team leadership skills start with a first management role and consist of hiring and firing, delegating, motivating, and empowering. Lastly, as a person moves up to leading they need to develop mastery in the distinguishing skills for the function. More details and examples from executives of these leadership skills are shared in Getting to the Top.

When formulating a career action plan, what factors and skills should a person be certain to include?

Kathryn Ullrich: A person needs to first understand the skills and experiences desired. Then, development comes from experience in taking on a project where they can practice the skill, exposure talking with others with that experience, or education by taking a course. Think through steps for achieving the skill, resources needed, overcoming obstacles that may get in the way, and a timeline for achieving the desired outcome.

What is the one piece of advice that every person striving to reach the top should remember?

Kathryn Ullrich: Take responsibility for your own career development to reach your career goals and personal definition of career success.

What is next for Kathryn Ullrich?

Kathryn Ullrich: More speaking and workshops teaching people the principles of Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success – and then more Getting to the Top books for other job functions.

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