Kate Vanek is our Senior Vice President of Finance, U.S. Media, based in New York City. Throughout her career, Kate has made many bold moves that have helped her grow both personally and professionally.
On this International Women's Day, my “Be Bold For Change” message is one of authenticity, curiosity, kindness and being bold, which are what I view as four critical aspects of success. When I look at my career path, there have been many times where I’ve taken a bold next step, which ties to the theme of the day. But attaining success or meaningful change is about more than just being bold. It’s also about being true to yourself, constantly learning and being kind to others.
My first bold change happened in my mid-twenties; I spent a chunk of this time on the Bear Stearns’ fixed income trading floor. My work ethic made me successful, but I knew deep down I would never be the best and that it wasn't my passion. So I applied to get my MBA and worked hard on understanding and evolving my skill set. This took some internal investigative work, a good dose of vulnerability, and discovering my authentic self and my strengths.
Our CEO, Mitch Barns, has spoken before of the grit needed to make such big changes. There's courage behind being bold because not everything is cushy. Sometimes career advancement comes from taking the uncomfortable path. Another example of this from my career was taking a job based two hours away in Hartford, Conn., while all my family and friends lived in and around New York City. It was a life changing experience for me both personally and professionally, even though it meant living out of a suitcase for five years, as well as some tearful, lonely phone calls. But for me, it was worth it because my time there served as a powerful catalyst for my career. It was a meaningful period where I learned the power of being bold and having grit.
The boldest change I’ve made of late was when my boss offered and I accepted a new challenging position while I was seven months pregnant with my second child. Some of my mentors counseled me not to take it and to just wait until the next opportunity; others cautioned me on the risks. But I referred to my internal compass—which for me is where bold meets authenticity—and I took the job. Nielsen helped make this change possible for me, because yes, I still took my maternity leave. This speaks to the culture at the company. It's not often you find a workplace where you can grow both personally and professionally simultaneously. That's my Nielsen—our Nielsen—and I am so proud to be a part of it.
So, how do you find your next step? First, know yourself, what you’re good at, where you want to go, and how you want to get there. Secondly, it’s important to know when to ask for help, and that it’s OK if you don't have all the answers. Focus on building community and shed the sharp elbows, choosing kindness and focused curiosity over competition. There have been points in my career where I thought I was going to lose out to someone else who played the game with a harsher edge. That's something that I’ve found is incredibly unique and valuable about Nielsen; that type of spirit doesn't last long here.
On this International Women's Day, I leave you with the mantra I have my two-year-old daughter repeat each night: “Be curious, kind, interesting and interested.” Ask for help both personally and professionally. Have humility and stay true to your authentic self, and focus on what you want to change. Being bold for change might not feel authentic to you—and that's fine. Maybe change for you comes through being quiet, contemplative, logical and systematic. Whatever it is, grab a hold of it with a smile and run with it.