MWI’s Kate Westerman Emphasizes the Importance of Trust
MWI’s Kate Westerman describes how her mentorship journey opened up new solutions to her career path.
Life provides us lessons; it’s up to us to find the answers. Six years ago, I found myself in an unexpected rebirth as my 20-year aviation career came to a crashing halt. My beloved company declared bankruptcy. That life event accelerated a learning opportunity that taught the value of trust through the mantra of, “be open to solutions without expectations.”
Corporate bankruptcy was certainly unexpected. Landing in animal health was equally unexpected, and today I find myself as an integral member of the MWI Operations Team. You may be familiar with MWI as a leading provider in the veterinary supply chain. MWI’s marketplace success is based on high-performing operational deliverables focused on free, two-day customer delivery. This market leader taught me not just about veterinary supplies but the vast (and mostly unpublicized) warehousing science. These unexpected solutions also introduced me to the WILMAH (Women in Leadership and Management in Animal Health).
Saying “yes” to a new path
WILMAH networking group’s solution without expectation was a circuitous path. I had joined the group in the hopes of finding a mentor for myself. I was looking for someone who could guide me as I was learning the vast science of warehousing. What I did not know, at the time of joining, was that WILMAH is far more closely aligned with veterinary medicine than it is with warehousing. What I also did not know, is that it would be far easier to find a mentee than a mentor.
With WILMAH, I found myself saying “yes” to being a mentor and being open to the solution that I would be leading others instead of being led. I have had five wonderful mentee relationships in just three years and have learned that leading is as much about learning as it is about teaching. And then, most unexpectedly, one of my mentees mentioned how wonderful another mentor was and perhaps she could introduce us? I jumped at this solution and ripe with irony, entered a mentor relationship that came to me through my own mentee!
And oh, the solutions my mentor would provide me! Dr. Wendy Hauser met my enthusiasm and the very realness of who I am with equal vigor. She helped me to put thought and structure around my self-dialogue. She was able to echo back to me what my own self was trying to say, but I was unable to hear. Within a few months, that message became very clear: Trust yourself. Trust your voice. Trust your journey. Trust the solutions being presented.
With a deep breath and her coaching at the forefront, I entered into a series of conversations that would ultimately lead me to an opportunity to speak my truth; to speak for myself in a way I never had before. And it was terrifying! I broke what I thought was a hard and fast rule of the self which was to remain understated and allow others to see my value through my actions. What a shock to find that the solution to my career path would be to break a so-called rule for success. The solution was to state clearly that I believe in the value I bring and that I am ready for the next stage of my career journey and that I wanted to move up in the organization.
Veterinary medicine, warehousing, and the WILMAH group trajectories all merged. The solutions presented seemingly materialized before my very life’s path. And yet those solutions have been ideal in every way. Not to say that these solutions were completely unexpected but that they were a result of the deliberate approach of saying “yes.”
Yes, let’s try veterinary medicine and warehousing.
Yes, let’s try WILMAH.
Yes, let’s see where this new opportunity goes.
Yes, trust your mentor.
And yes, trust yourself.