This month, we had the pleasure of catching up with WIL Board Member, Katherine Corich, a commercial pilot turned expert in business transformation and Founder & CEO of Sysdoc. We discussed her career shift and what it takes to lead a successful transformation programme in the 21st century, as well as her extraordinary charity work in Brazil as Chairwoman of Happy Child International. Katherine also reiterated the importance of networks such as WIL Europe and shared with us a lesson she recently learned through her millennial employees!
After qualifying as a commercial pilot, you decided to pursue a career in information management and became an expert in business transformation. Why did you make such a career shift and what did you learn from the aviation sector?
Whilst working on an information technology project at the London Stock exchange, I realized that principles completely evident and normal in one industry such as aviation could be used in another such as in global finance. Principles ranging from stimulation training and learning organisations, the understanding of human factors, black box thinking, to the importance of culture and many more.
In particular, within aviation, we are able to learn from our mistakes by analyzing the black boxes fitted in every aircraft which records everything leading up to and during an accident or event. This ‘black box thinking’ enables us to to continually learn and adapt. We send out a notification globally and alter the training and behaviours on this specific area. Not enough organizations adopt this mentality of learning from mistakes and implement the change globally.
Therefore, I introduced some of the principals and insight of aviation in business to help organizations to be more successful, safer and more stream lined.
Founder and CEO of the highly successful London-based business-systems consultancy company Sysdoc, you have led many transformation programmes across various companies. How do you lead transformation in the turbulent 21st century?
Recently, we are seeing a global trend – people have become much more open and honest about the state the world is in. They have become more aware that business ethics make sense and profit at any cost doesn’t. If a profit degrades the environment or a community, removes water or pollutes the region, then it is not acceptable business.
Directors and Senior Leaders within companies need to ask those hard questions, change products, services and revenue streams when they notice a negative impact. There is now enough global financing and funding in the world for a company to transform its offerings into a new area and stream of business that is good for the environment and for humanity.
One of the reasons I teach at Oxford University Said Business School is because it allows us to work with the finest leaders from the corporate world with a different way of thinking and encourage them to think about the wider issues and legacy they wish to leave behind. With this programme, and if they are true leaders, they can provide a much greater impact on humanity; we simply need those who are brave enough to lead the change as at this time, the impact is needed more than ever.
If they are true leaders, they will be able to provide
a much greater impact on humanity, and at this time,
the impact is needed more than ever
Alongside running your business, you have been involved in charities and you are on the board of numerous organizations, including the NGO Happy Child International, founded by WIL Member Sarah de Carvalho. Why did you become such a philanthropist and how do you think you can best help the charity sector?
I became a philanthropist because I believe it is a natural pathway for entrepreneurs. When one has had the privilege of running a strong performing company, then it is natural to give back!
We have always been a generous company and we pride ourselves of being one of the first to have many female senior leaders and practices that attract younger mothers! However, we wanted to improve our generosity from simply donating money to making a real difference by using our skill sets as a team to make the greatest impact.
This is what led me to becoming the Chairwoman of Happy Child International. One of the Charity’s main focus is of rehabilitating and reintegrating young girls and sometimes boys in Brazil, of the ages 11-13, whom have been prostituted on the streets, become pregnant and are now living on the streets. The charity rescues them and begins the often three to four-year process of learning to love themselves and their baby as well as other basic skills necessary for their integration back to their family life.
We also work via our It’s a Penalty campaign with the Brazilian and other governments to focus on why the young girls are prostituted in the first place and who is responsible. Through our research, it is mostly foreign workers and visitors attracted to their cities by big sporting events. We have lobbied governments in the lead up to events, assisted police and social services throughout the event, set up help lines and raised awareness of the problem. Our impact has been enormous as we have been able to reach hundreds of millions of people, with tangible impact such as working with the police to identify and shut down brothels near major sporting venue, received thousands of calls to our help line and changed legislation for the criminalization of abusers abroad.
Using our skills along with our money, we are much more powerful than a few donations could ever be.
When one has had the privilege of running a strong
performing company, then it is natural to give back!
You are also a Board Member of the European Network for Women in Leadership (WIL Europe), which has been acting over the last 10 years as a platform where senior-level women can meet and exchange, network and support each other. Why are such networks important and what changes in attitudes and policies are still needed to facilitate women’s professional advancement?
As a leader you are a trailblazer, you have broken through the mold and found a way to the top of what you are doing. Many refer to it as ‘breaking through the glass ceiling’. In my personal experience, most of the women leaders I have met have stated there might have been glass ceiling, they simply never noticed it.
To be a leader you must be brave and have the capability, courage and talent to just say ‘I can do it’. You build the great relationships and team along the way but arriving at the top can be lonely and this is why leadership networks are so vital. The networks of incredibly talented ladies such as WIL Europe give us the ability to collaborate, share ideas, share best practices, support each other and celebrate each other. It is great to be amongst other leaders who want to change their company, organization or the world in such a positive way.
The networks of incredibly talented ladies such
as WIL Europe give us the ability to collaborate, share ideas,
share best practices, support and celebrate each other.
At WIL, we strongly believe that leaders are constant learners. What is the latest lesson you have learned in your personal and/or professional life?
I completely agree with your statement! I learn something new every single day!
The most recent lesson I have learned would be yesterday evening. I brought together all the millennials from one area of our business together to discuss mental health in the consulting industry, as I believe that as a company and human beings we need to constantly evaluate the environments we work in.
Millennials are trying to find their place in such a connected world through social media, new technologies every day, a world where money is a constant struggle and of course for British millennials, the impact of Brexit.
Therefore, I asked them how we are going to shape our mental health strategy, as we all experience bad physical and mental days at some point. I wanted them to feel in a safe environment, so we would be able to trial the strategy through building a support for each other, to call on one another, call on a colleague or the wider services to solve the problem through the network in place. The team needed to know the distress they feel regarding all the problems are valid and real and we will find a way to address them and through this, the team were willing to work hard to find the greatest strategy!