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From the Q-mmunity

Breaking the Bias – Katie Bell expands her skill set

As a part of our Women’s History Month celebration, we are elevating the voices of women at Qualtrics who have Broken the Bias by seeking nontraditional career paths. We sat down with Katie and other women at Qualtrics to hear their stories and we'll be sharing them throughout the month. You can check out the rest of the series here

My career journey started in 2009 when I graduated college with a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology. In order to pursue Psychology, I knew I would need to go on and get an advanced degree, but I decided to put that goal on hold for a while and instead pursue a career in teaching.

The only problem was that I didn’t have a degree in Education. 2009 was at the height of an economic recession, and it seemed like everyone was trying to pursue teaching certificates at that point in time. Needless to say, I had a difficult time finding work and ended up continuing my employment as a Barista at my local Starbucks while substituting at local school districts to try to make a name for myself for the upcoming school year.

As it turns out, one of my regular customers at Starbucks was the Director of Human Resources at one of the local school districts in my area. I actually ran into him at one of the many job fairs I attended. I remember walking up to him and saying, “I didn’t know you were in education.” He responded with, “I didn’t know you were looking for a job!” That opened up a key conversation that eventually landed me a position as a Teacher Assistant for a Special Education Preschool Classroom in the Fall of 2010. That opportunity opened up doors within the school district, and I ended up being promoted to a classroom teacher in the Fall of 2011. I served as a classroom teacher for two years, and decided, for many reasons, that I didn’t want to be in the education industry for the rest of my career.

As I was looking to change roles, I tried to think through how my skills gained as a teacher would transfer to the private sector. I kept coming back to the idea of training. After all, people are people, right? If I could effectively teach a classroom of students, I should be able to effectively train employees within an organization. Through my search, I found an opening for an implementation specialist for a SaaS organization that provided an HRIS platform for businesses. The organization was starting to experience exponential growth, and I had the opportunity to shape the foundation of the implementation department. When I started, I was one of the first 25 members of the team, and when I left, 4 years later, there were over 200 implementation specialists within the organization. During my time in implementation, I really learned how to effectively communicate with people. I worked across industries, and usually had to train several different roles within my clients’ organizations. This allowed me to gain skills in crafting concise, effective messaging that resonated with the person sitting across the table from me.

After several years at the organization, I was looking to expand my skill set, and I was offered a position in HR leadership with one of my previous clients. I had the unique opportunity to move into a leadership role while utilizing the technology that I had previously helped implement. I served as the HR Director for a medical group in North Texas that was responsible for the entire employee lifecycle. My team managed recruiting, payroll, performance evaluations, exit interviews, and everything in between. This role allowed me the opportunity to grow my leadership skills and understand, from a practical perspective, how organizations utilize technology to help serve their day to day job responsibilities.

While I was serving as an HR Director, one of my former colleagues reached out to me on LinkedIn to ask if I was interested in hearing about Qualtrics. She was an Account Executive and Qualtrics was looking to fill a Solution Engineer position in Dallas. I had always told myself that I could never be in Sales, but this position intrigued me because although Solution Engineers communicate with clients in the presales process, there is a distinct difference between the Solution Engineer and the Account Executive roles. I saw the role at Qualtrics as an opportunity to again expand my skill set by trying something new. I have been in the Solution Engineering Department for almost three years now, and I am so thankful that I took the leap when I did. I truly believe all of the experiences I had before this role has helped me be a more effective and productive Solution Engineer.

How did you decide on your career path?

I always say my career path has been eclectic. If you would have told me in 2009 where I would be today, I wouldn’t have believed you. However, I’m extremely proud of my journey and I’m incredibly thankful I had the courage to take the leap and switch career paths a few times when the opportunity presented itself. The common theme across all my professional roles has been the opportunity to connect with people, and help individuals in some capacity. Whether it be through showing how to utilize Qualtrics to better experiences, or through teaching lessons in a classroom, I have always found that I find fulfillment when I’m able to assist others in reaching their goals. As I look to the future, I hope to be in a position and an organization that allows me to serve others as well as challenge me and gives opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Tell us about the importance of leadership / mentorship in your career journey.

Leadership and mentorship have played a very impactful role in my career. The way I approach and navigate situations is a testament to the leaders I have encountered over the years. I have been fortunate enough to develop trusting relationships with several of my direct managers which allows a safe space for me to be open and honest with what I expect from the current role I am serving within as well as talking through opportunities that exist for me in the future.

What’s the best career advice you have ever received?

1) Allow yourself to accept constructive criticism and be open to feedback. Having opportunities to sharpen your skill set will only serve you in advancing your career.

2) Trust yourself and your performance. I think imposter syndrome has a way of creeping into my inner talk track especially when I’m trying something new. I’ve found that trusting myself and my past performances has helped in quieting doubts that exist within myself.

Katie Bell is an alumna of Hardin-Simmons University and works as a Senior Solution Engineer in Dallas. She is an active member of Women's Leadership Development, a Q Group (employee resource group) with the charter of elevating and supporting all women at Qualtrics so they achieve personal & professional wellness and impact.

Women's Leadership Development

Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) aims to empower ALL Women at Qualtrics globally to thrive by: attracting diverse women’s talent; developing & retaining women to all our teams; building a strong network of allies to create opportunities for action; elevating the voice of all Women to create a culture of belonging; partnering with the community to create a more inclusive environment.

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