Dr. Karen Bartuch


CulturallyOurs Dr Karen Bartuch North Central College

Dr. Karen Bartuch

Show Details

In this episode we explore Lifestyle and Entrepreneurship as I chat with Dr. Karen Bartuch, the executive director for the center for innovation and entrepreneurship at North Central College in the Chicagoland area. Dr. Karen has had a very interesting career path starting of as a police office in the Chicago PD and then moving into the private sector before her current role in academia. We talked about how entrepreneurship is a lifestyle for her as she always looks for an opportunity to innovate no matter the role.

This mindset and thought process has led to projects and initiatives that have been widely successful. And now as the director of the entrepreneurial center, she want to help students and business owners in the community learn the benefits of innovation and creativity in entrepreneurship, no matter the industry.

Show Notes

Karthika interviews Dr. Karen Bartuch, the executive director for the center for innovation and entrepreneurship at North Central College in the Chicagoland area. Dr. Karen has prioritized innovation and creativity throughout her career which has taken her down many interesting paths and roles and she truly believes that these two skills are extremely important for any entrepreneur to succeed in today’s global economy.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome, Dr Karen, Thank you so much for joining me on CulturallyOurs. I’m really excited to be chatting with you today and I cannot wait to dig into your entrepreneurial journey.

Dr. Karen: Thank you so much for having me.

Karthika: Absolutely. So before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, just to help set the stage for this conversation?

Dr. Karen: Sure. I am born and raised in Chicago, the northwest side, which is why you’ll hear my Chicago accent when I speak. And I have a little bit of an unconventional career in that I started out as a Chicago police officer and did that for almost 10 years, and then transferred over to the private sector, working at a Fortune 500 company and then a big four consulting firm, then at a startup. And I’ve had my own startups along the way and now I’m in academia, so I’ve done a little bit of everything.

Karthika: Wow. That’s a pretty broad and diverse career growth.

Dr. Karen: Yes, I’ve always wanted to wake up and be passionate about what I’m doing when I go to work every day. And so if that requires change, then I change.

Karthika: That’s a great attitude.

Dr. Karen: Exhausting at times. But you know, it’s hard for me to be inauthentic.

Karthika: Yes, A lot of us as entrepreneurs, I think we are so used to wearing all these different hats and we kind of cherish that. Right? We want that variety. We want to be doing a few different things. And so when you recognize that that’s kind of who you are, it just sort of makes the process a little bit more interesting.

Dr. Karen: Yeah, definitely. I’ve accepted and I think my family has accepted that. I like to have variety as you say. And that might include completely upsetting and doing different careers along the way.

Karthika: So what is the work that you do today? You said you were in academia, so what do you do today?

Dr. Karen: So I lead the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at North Central College. And then I also teach. So I’ll be teaching here at north central next year. And then I have been teaching at Depaul University in the city for the last several years as well. I teach management to undergrad students and then the creativity and innovation for business to graduate students.

Karthika: Wow. You are the expert.

Dr. Karen: I definitely love to learn and love to think about things very deeply, especially something I’m interested in. So creativity is something that you wouldn’t think of from a scientific perspective. I love to examine it and see what works and how people are doing it.

Karthika: Now you are a Dr/PHD. So what was your research all about?

Dr. Karen: My dissertation research cause I just recently got the doctor title was on what motivates employees to innovate. And the reason I wanted to look at that is because I went from a Fortune 500 company Motorola Solutions, which was super innovative, super collaborative ideas. We’re constantly pouring out new ideas there and new projects constantly popping up and then went to a big four consulting firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers where it was the exact opposite. And it was an organization filled with young people and millennials and the ideas were sort of stymied and stifled. And so I wanted to understand why that happens in one place and not the other, especially at a place where you would think there would be tons of ideas. And so I took a look at internal factors, your creative self-efficiancy as it’s called, which is really your creative self confidence internally, how you see yourself as a creative, how that combined with the culture of an organization, how that affects your innovation behavior. And then I looked at it from a generational cohort perspective and then from a gender perspective.

Karthika: So I know this is going off topic, but it’s so interesting. Could you share some of your key findings?

Dr. Karen: Sure. So, number one, everybody always thinks that millennials, and I even feel weird saying it because I feel like I’m putting a bucket around people that millennials are so different and you know, they are different creature from their Gen X colleagues and they’re not, when it came to the things that I looked at. So I thought that the millennials would rate themselves as super high on their creative confidence and super high on their innovation behavior just because they’re young, the technology behind them and things like that. And it was actually the exact opposite. They were more similar to Gen Xer than they were different. So that was one of the big findings. So I spent a year trying to find differences and actually found no differences. So you know, it’s kind of like Wah Wah Wah. But that’s okay. It was for an interesting finding because people think they’re so different, but they actually weren’t that.

Dr. Karen: And then the other thing that I found is just how much your internal creative self competence really affects your innovation behavior. Because if you think about it, if you have a new idea and maybe you’re not so sure about it, but you’re also not so confident about your creative ability, then the minute you’re told no, or there’s some resistance to your idea, you’re probably not going to move forward with it. And therefore that lowers your innovation behavior. So it’s not necessarily like an Aha, but it makes total sense that you have to be really confident in what you’re moving forward with it. Especially if it’s something new and novel and people haven’t seen before

Karthika: Yeah, absolutely. But there is a little bit of fear too, right? I mean, I guess that kind of goes back to what your research was all about it? If you are even little bit on the fence, it’s easy to kind of say, you know what, this is not going to work. You know, one person said no, so it’s a bad idea.

Dr. Karen: And you’re probably told multiple times or you know, people judge the idea in some way that they don’t even have maybe the experience that you have. There was some good news though. The one thing I did find also is that if you do some sort of intervention along the way around creativity, a creativity training for an hour or a half a day, that actually very much increases your creative confidence and then therefore increases your innovation behavior. So it’s good news for companies because they can spend some dollars on investing in their employees and then that could greatly increase their innovation output.

Karthika: Absolutely. And as entrepreneurs, sometimes it’s even just talking to somebody who is in the creative space. Just to kind of get a little bit of the validation because you know, as creatives we do tend to think a little differently.

Dr. Karen: Yeah, absolutely. Market validation is great. And then there are times when I think that you shouldn’t talk to anybody because they may give you bad advice. And I sometimes think that the crazier the idea, the better and the more absurd the better. There’s a quote from Einstein that says if your idea is not absurd at first it’s probably not going to go anywhere. And so if you are going for that moonshot thinking like Google and those companies that are really setting the boundaries. It may not be an idea that everybody understands at first and that’s a good thing. If I have an idea like that where people are kind of looking at me, you know with their head tilted then I feel like I am onto something.

Karthika: That’s a good thing to remember for sure. So from a police officer to now a director of center of innovation and entrepreneurship, how did that happen?

Dr. Karen: It makes no sense. But I’ve just always been involved in innovation and ideas and think tanks my whole career. Even on the police department. I had the opportunity to work for the superintendent, which is the chief executive officer and it was our entire job to look across the department, the city, the community on how we can improve things. And so we were really a little mini think tank and so I got to do innovation work in there. I got to do it at Motorola, I got to do it at PWC and then got to do it from an academic perspective. So coming here to the college actually it was great because it weaves together all of that kind of random work that I had done into a place where it actually ends up making a lot of sense.

Dr. Karen: Sure. Now, as the director for the center, can you share some insights into the entrepreneurial space as you see it from a day to day perspective, either with students or other business owners? Because I know you have workshops and things like that at the center as well.

Dr. Karen: Absolutely. And so I am somewhat new here, so I do feel like we’re building the plane as we’re flying. It’s a little bit again, as an entrepreneur. I feel that the students that leave here without an entrepreneurial mindset are going to be the most risk. So I feel like aside from all the events and trainings and things that we do, what we want to make sure is that all students, regardless of their discipline leave here with an entrepreneurial mindset. If you look to the World Economic Forum, they list creativity as the number three desired skill by 2020 for employees. And so we definitely want to make sure that they leave here with critical problem solving skills, creativity, entrepreneurial skills. It’s a gig economy. Most people don’t want to work a nine to five anymore. And so we can teach those students, those types of skills. Then I’ll feel good about what we’re doing.

Karthika: You’re so right. Many times we feel like maybe we reach a certain point in a career and then we look at creativity. Let’s take kind of a safe path early on. But the fact that creativity is one of the top three skills, like you said, behoves us to have that mindset right from the time we walk out of the door from school. It should be ingrained in us as something we should not fear.

Dr. Karen: Absolutely. And as little kids, it’s all we do is create a work and we’re totally confident about our ideas, even though they might be, you know, terrible or drawings that might be terrible. But we sort of loose it somewhere along the way. And so when you think of artificial intelligence and robotics process automation and the way things are going, the skills that people are going to need are those human touch skills and creativity is one of the top ones.

Karthika: Now, you mentioned early on that between the police force and working for consulting firms, you also dabbled a little bit in entrepreneurship of your own before coming to the college. So can you share a little bit of what that was like?

Dr. Karen: Yeah, Absolutely. I loved it. So I was on the police department and I responded to shooting. And myself and several other officers were shot at for over an hour and I didn’t really like that feeling too much. So after that I started going to training on my own because I felt a little under prepared and was often the only female in the room. And I knew that the Chicago Police Department was at least quarter female and said, hey, why don’t I start doing this specifically for females? Because there’s obviously something going on here. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable with all male instructors. It’s mostly male students. And so I started an organization called the Womens Tactical Association that brought women together for the sake of bettering themselves for law enforcement. So it included fitness, firearms, combat mindset, and all sorts of practical training. And so I held my first meeting. My sergeant laughed at me and said, hey, you’re lucky if you have five people show up. I had 35 women show up on day one. From there I was like, oh my gosh, I might actually be on to something. And I wasn’t even trying for that. I really was just filling a gap in the market and doing something that I felt was passionate. I was passionate about it and I felt was actually, mission critical. It was lifesaving. It was 100% necessary because the police department couldn’t give me the training that I needed. It’s a 10,000 plus person department. These are perishable skills. You need to do them monthly, daily, weekly, if not more, to stay up on them. And so I couldn’t rely on the department to provide them for me. So it was really just out of a need in the market. And so it was great. I learned more about business doing that on my own than I probably ever would in a class room. And I feel weird saying that as a professor, but I mean it’s true and you kind of fumbled through things and figure things out. You know, filling out a 90 page application to get a 501c3 status was not something I ever thought I do, but I ended up doing it and you figure it out. It is painful but then when you get it in the mail you’re like, ‘Huh, that wasn’t so bad.’

Dr. Karen: I like building community. That’s something I feel like I’m pretty good at. And I ended up really liking that part of it and I liked that we were pushing the boundaries for women in law enforcement. You know, not to go off too much on that topic, but it was definitely like 1960 when it came to gender on the police department. And I felt like we were actually really breaking down a lot of barriers with the work we were doing. And then we also went on to develop products for women and do things different there. So it was awesome.

Karthika: You’re so right in that, you know, you saw a need and you acted on it. You took a chance and you took a risk and you acted on it and it turned out to be something that was really required. And like you said earlier to the market speaks, right. That’s the validation once you’re onto something.

Dr. Karen: Yeah, absolutely. And even if five women showed up, I probably would’ve kept going, but the fact that thirty five women showed up, I was like, Whoa, I kind of have to get my stuff together. And you know, this is actually meaningful to other people other than myself.

Karthika: Right. Now I’ll ask you this both in context to the work that you do at the center as well as being an entrepreneur. So a lot of times we don’t celebrate our successes. We are so focused on what’s the next task? When is my next client coming in? What’s the next order that I have to fulfill? So before we go any further, could we take a moment and celebrate sort of the successes that you’ve had? So can you share what have been some of your proudest accomplishments so far?

Dr. Karen: I love that. That’s such a nice question. Makes me reflect on myself. There’s a couple of things that I’m really proud of. One today is definitely the ability to follow my passion. It’s not always easy, it’s often very scary and what more painful to me is to be in a role that I don’t like. And so I’m really proud of that. And then along with that comes authenticity. And you know, there were times in my career I felt I had to dress a certain way to get ahead and talk a certain way. I had to be somebody else and act a certain way and I don’t feel like that today. And it’s a great thing when that comes together and you are your authentic self, the opportunities that come along and the people that come into your life and the opportunities that come your way as a result of that. So I’m really proud of that. It definitely took work. There were times when it was not so fun. And so I’m really proud of that too. And then just from a tactical perspective, certainly I’m proud of starting the women’s Tactical Association and then other subsequent companies that I’ve had since then just because there were haters along the way and people that threw arrows at me. And so the fact that I went through it and still came out okay, is I’m really proud of that. And then one other big thing is I actually used to be deathly afraid of public speaking. And so at one point you realize like if you want to make it in business, you have to have that skill. And I worked at it and worked at it and now I do it almost for a living partially. So I actually really proud of that.

Karthika: I am just going to say that I have met you and you are so eloquent. I would have never thought you did not like public speaking. But I completely understand that feeling of standing in front of a room full of strangers sometimes can be intimidating.

Dr. Karen: Oh, there would be times I would forget my name. I mean it was that bad. So somehow I made it through and can’t believe it and I actually want to help other people with that because you know they have a lot of potential, but that could be called a huge barrier in business if you can’t get over that.

Karthika: Absolutely. Now just like anything in life, we have our ups and we have our downs. So perhaps what are some of the challenges that you face? You’ve touched on a few of those already, but I guess more importantly, how did you overcome these challenges?

Dr. Karen: Yeah, I think it goes back to the creative mindset and looking at different ways to solve a problem. And I think that’s been pretty consistent when I face challenges. And I actually talk about one experience in the Tedx talk that I gave about how I was promoting some of my classes for the women’s tactical association. And they were classes like pistol and long gun and the close quarter battle and hostage rescue. And I had flyers up all over the stations and somebody actually found my flyers and replaced them with things like dishwashing 101. Can you imagine today if that happened with #metoo, with all the things going on. And nobody was going to fess up to doing it and for me to sit and stew about it wasn’t going to do anything. So I had to get really creative on how to attack that problem because clearly somebody was not happy with work that we were doing and so I worked with a creative agency to come up with some other messaging for us to kind of put the gender stereotype. It kind of flipped it on its head and put the conversation in the forefront. So we came back with flyers that said things like when we break a nail, it’s from reloading or our favorite pumps are 12 gauge, or when we wear an apron it’s made of Kevlar and it can stop a hollow point bullet. And that was just a really creative way to tackle a really kind of tough problem that could have gone really bad really quickly. And whether you liked us or hated us, you kind of respected us for coming back with such a creative and kind of in your face, fun kind of kitschy. And we even ended up making teasers in the end that actually did us more favors. And the creativity aspect of it and not being afraid to confront something head on.

Karthika: Thats fantastic. Now as entrepreneurs, sometimes, especially solopreneurs, we are alone at the helm of a ship and we are doing everything alone or without mental or physical support. Have you ever felt that way? And if so, how do you go about finding that support system, that group of people.

Dr. Karen: Yeah, absolutely. I mean this sort of natural and part of the process, but what I found is that you actually have more support and love around you that you might think, and it’s just a matter of asking for help. And so I’ve gotten better about asking for help or letting people know I need help, then I’ve always often had a great support system and people are happy to help. Even people who I wouldn’t think would spend time to help. It is easy to say hey, can we just go grab some coffee and I would love to run some things past you or get some advice on this issue. Most people are willing to help and they’ve gotten help along the way. So it’s just a matter of asking for it. But absolutely there are times where I’m alone and oh my God, I’m doing all the work. But then you kind of have to pull yourself out of it and know that  there actually is help available.

Karthika: Now along those along the lines of help, I know with the college and with the center there are lots of sort of programs and services. Can you maybe shed some light on some of those and other programs that perhaps are available to entrepreneurs in the community?

Dr. Karen: Absolutely. I’m still working on the strategy. I am about 90 days in but we are going to have several pillars where we offer help. One of them is obviously education. We’re part of a college. So there are educational programming that will do obviously networking. We want to bring people together that are like minded or maybe even not like minded and see what kind of magic happens. We are in the process of pulling together a great list of mentors from the area that are willing to donate their time. So to your last question, there are people that you can reach out to for help on almost any topic. And then we also want to build up the sense of community not just within the college but then also within Naperville, at large for all of these entrepreneurs that are doing cool things. And then the other thing is collaborations. As you mentioned there are other programs in the area. We don’t want to duplicate anything. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We really just want to plug in to what’s already going on and just make those resources available. So sometimes I feel like all I’m doing is connecting people and you know, people in other organizations, but I’m okay with that because it’s something they may not have had before. So we’ll have things like a coworking space on campus and there’s other coworking spaces available in the city. And you know, sometimes if people come through our space and if that not what they were looking for, then I refer them out to the spaces within Naperville or the area. We just want to plug in to what people are doing. We’re working on things like a makerspace so that if you want to make a prototype, you’ll be able to go into the lab and have access to 3D printers and you know, maybe some other fabrication tools so that you can build out a prototype as well. Things like that are a little bit farther off but really the big vision is that we want to inspire and encourage students and innovators and entrepreneurs to think big and then give them the resources to do that.

Karthika: Excellent. So this is not just for the school but also for the community at large.

Dr. Karen: Absolutely. Yeah. And we have a great footprint within the community, but that’s obviously something we want to build up as well. And also just combining the students with folks in the community. I think there’s a lot of learnings on both sides when that happens. So I love that cross pollination.

Karthika: Now even though you have only been at the center for a few months, you have a great pulse with the community and the students. You have spoke to many entrepreneurs. Can you share some of the most common issues or themes that seem to arise from these conversations with entrepreneurs? Maybe pain points that you know most entrepreneurs face?

Dr. Karen: Yeah, absolutely. And this is my favorite part of the work is getting to get to know people on a personal level and work with them one on one. And you know, aside from funding being the number one issue, I would say we all have problems with that. But having a clear strategy and understanding who, what market you’re serving and what problem you’re solving is one of the biggest issues. People that I talked to tend to be an expert in one area. Say you’re creating a product or whatever it might be there. They tend to be the expert in just that area and then they maybe don’t have the wider business acumen. And so that’s something that we can help with is help them think about the strategy and put it on paper and what are their short and long term goals. That’s the biggest thing. And then in this digital age, the other thing that always comes up is social media and marketing. It’s the number one thing. So those are, I feel like our quick wins and things that we can help with.

Karthika: Now let’s talk motivation, mindset, growth. Can you give me ideas on how do you keep going when the going gets tough and you know, when you kind of feel like, okay, I’ve hit maybe a potential roadblock or maybe somebody you’re talking to feels like they’ve hit a roadblock. What is your thought process to keep going?

Dr. Karen: I always just think like this too shall pass and everything has ups and downs. And even when I’m feeling sad or in kind of a dark place, I realized like two days from here, I’m probably going to laugh at the way I’m feeling right now and just realize that. And obviously if it lasts longer, there are other problems. And this is why is that there are always people willing to help and there were always creative ways to get around things. It just, that are putting some brainpower around it. But as far as staying motivated from my perspective, I always want to do something I love and I feel like I’m solving important problems and creating jobs for people. So that’s my motivator. And just as an entrepreneur, and you probably understand this too, it’s just an itch that just cannot be scratched. So it is just not going to go away. I’ve been at it a long time. I’ve tried to put businesses to bed and then they always creep back up on me. So that’s my motivation we’re trying to scratch that itch that just doesn’t go away.

Karthika: That’s a great motivator. And you know, for me sometimes it’s like these ideas come in like the weirdest of times and weirdest of places. And I feel like I need to do something about it. Because I’m thinking about this for so long, it’s like you said, it doesn’t go away. You put it down on paper, it still doesn’t go away. Then you realize you have to do it. I have to take that shot.

Dr. Karen: Yes. And that’s why I carry journals upon journals to write all this stuff down. And you know, there was some theory in the science that talks about green housing of ideas where it’s like seeds. It could be a flower or it can be a weed. You just don’t know. And so you kinda gotta put it on a shelf and nurture it a little bit and give it some love and attention or maybe even step away from it and then come back and see what kind of grows.

Karthika: Oh, I love concept. Now how do you balance all these things in your life? You are an entrepreneur, you are the director at the college, you have a family. How do you kind of balance all these different things?

Dr. Karen: I don’t. My family’s very supportive and there are times when I have creative things that I just need to do. For a long time, I’ve been thinking about putting this ebook together of creativity because I teach it and I see the ‘aha’ is that people have, and they’re not like earth shattering tips, but I’ve been thinking about just doing this ebook about them. So over the weekend I was like, I am doing it this weekend. And so for like 48 hours straight, that’s all I did. And I had to get it out and my husband kind of understood like just go do it. So we’ve got a good support system there. But you know, I’d love to go work out more and I love to go do yoga and run more. But there are times when I sacrifice that because I’ve got to spend time with my family. But then I also have to do the things creatively that make me whole. So, you know, I haven’t gotten that part figured out yet, but maybe one day,

Karthika: I know. Actually I’ve asked this question to a few folks and you know, it’s like a lot of them have said work life balance is sometimes a myth, especially as an entrepreneur. And some of us are sort of perfectionist, which is, I dunno, good thing and a bad thing sometimes. And so sometimes as long as you dont go over it and give it your blessing, you’re not sort of satisfied. So that makes it even harder. I wish there was a magic bullet or a magic answer for the perfect.

Dr. Karen: Yeah. And the one thing I learned is that I like working. So I’m probably gonna do that a lot of my hours in the day and maybe on Saturday and Sunday. I like it. Yeah. So the other thing I have worked on is just being present. Like when I’m with my family, my mom and dad and my extended family is to be present and not be on my phone and not thinking about being someplace else, you know,

Karthika: Very true. Let’s talk specifics just because sometimes I feel like, you know, people may be listening to this are in a similar situation or they like details and that might kind of help them. So whatever you’re comfortable sharing. Now you’ve pivoted in your career multiple times from various different things. So can you talk a little bit about kind of the thought process that goes on in your head?

Dr. Karen: Yeah, I’m definitely open to new experiences and don’t have preconceived notions on how things should or could be done. And so  I think always helped along the way. I’m not very rigid. I’m definitely more fluid. I take the Bruce Lee adage of flow like water be like water. Specifically when I left the police department and went to Motorola Solutions, it was really scary because being a police officer was like part of my being. I carried a weapon off duty. I was always looking to help people and like it was just ingrained in my personality and so that was a big huge step. But I also knew that I had to move forward and couldn’t look back because I was able to take a leave of absence. So at some point I could have actually went back to the police department. What I knew, even though I was tempted to that I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to move forward and do different things and have different opportunities and that going back would just be putting me back into where I felt comfortable. And so I’ve always been comfortable with being uncomfortable and also been accepting of like a lateral move and realizing like maybe the pay that I want isn’t going to be the pay that I going to get right away. And so being okay with that sort of thing and then being able to realize that I could work my way up once I got into the organization because it took a chance on me. I had to come from the public sector a totally different role. They really took a chance on me. So that was a good experience there. I learned a lot doing that. And then going from there to Price Waterhouse Coopers was also very scary because it’s just a totally different world, different pace, different types of metrics, pressures on you. And I actually found out probably within like six weeks of being there that I didn’t like it. But you can’t go back and you got to go forward and so figured out how to make it work for as long as I could learn as much as I possibly could and then figure out, I actually spent a lot of time figuring out what it is I wanted to do because I couldn’t make another wrong move at that point because I had bounced around so much, I felt a little bit limited in how many options I had. I think a lot of people worried about like, oh, you can’t have all this jumping on your resume. I hired a career coach and she really helped me. You know, I had this taboo around coaches prior to that because I had never used one. I thought it’d be maybe kind of a negative connotation or you know, somebody who didn’t know configure it out. And so I actually went to a coach and she helped me spend time figure out like what I actually love to do and then I can go full force, hit the gas on what I love to do rather than thinking, oh, this big company a lot of money, that’s where I need to go. You have to be okay that you’re not always going to make the right decision, but you’ve got to kind of take a chance at some point and then in the end, like years later, it all makes sense.

Karthika: Right. Absolutely. I hope I’m saying this right, but I think there’s a saying that says don’t look back. You’re not going that way. So no matter what you decide, look forward and just do the best you can. And if it’s not right fit, that’s all right. Just go onto the next thing. Now, where do you invest a lot of your time, is it in tech, marketing? Is it sales? Is it an ideation or more tactical stuff.

Dr. Karen: Actually on marketing and awareness. Because internally we had some awareness we had to do because there was not a director in place for some time and so that has been a lot of time internally. And then the students also didn’t know that the center existed. So I spent a lot of time on marketing awareness and social media and then strategy. It’s very important to get the strategy right. And so I have spent the last 90 days collecting qualitative data by going and meeting with people one on one to understand what their ideas for the center are and what makes sense for the center here on campus. Certainly I came here with ideas and opinions, but I wanted to talk to as many people as possible from different stakeholder groups to understand what makes sense for here. So definitely marketing and strategy and then we’ll be spending the next probably couple months on execution of the strategy, which will very much be dynamic and iterative, but definitely on execution. And then we’ll start to get into measurement where we’re figuring out what’s working and what’s not working.

Karthika: Now you talked about social media earlier, so maybe I want to go back to that a little bit. In all your experiences, how important do you feel social media is for an entrepreneur? Specially in awareness or marketing or whatever the situation is or is traditional marketing still king? I mean, do ads and what of mouth and self promotion, all of that still matter?

Dr. Karen:  Yeah, I would say it depends on the company. Certainly traditional has not gone away. Social media is really important. What it’s at, what level for what the company is. So I worked with companies on their website, branding and social media on the side. And you know, we have all different types of clients and some social media makes perfect sense for and some it doesn’t. So it really is understanding who the client is, what their products are, and then who their end users are. Traditional marketing is still out there and it really depends on the company and the market space. Here at the center social media is really important because we want to reach students and get people excited about what we’re doing.  So social media is very important,

Karthika: Right. It kind of depends on the audience as well. And maybe it’s a mix of both.

Dr. Karen: Yes. And since we’re in the awareness phase, social media makes perfect sense. If I was in the sales and revenue phase, then you know, it may not make sense because you don’t know how many conversions you’re going to get from social media. So it really just depends on the, what the metrics are.

Karthika: Right. So let’s perhaps start to wrap this up. Just see in the interest of time with a few more questions. What has been the most important part of your journey so far?

Dr. Karen: That’s a really good question. I would say authenticity. That’s really something that took a lot of work and not that I was being inauthentic, but just getting comfortable in my own skin. Like I dress a certain way and I used to feel like I couldn’t dress that way or I talk a certain way or you know, I have sort of a casual tone. And so just getting more comfortable with that and with my own self and ideas and, and that authenticity is really important to me.

Karthika: Now, if you could go back in time to when you first started, maybe when you first joined the police force or along the line there. Would you follow this path all over again? Or Would you change anything, if so what would it be.

Dr. Karen: Yes. I do it all over again. I don’t want to have any regrets and everywhere I’ve gotten, everything I’ve done has gotten me where I’m at today and kind of made it tactical thing that I would do. And I think it might be a good bit of advice for your listeners. When I left Motorola solutions to go to Price Waterhouse Coopers, I had a really good relationship with the CEO of the company, but I didn’t talk to him before I left before I had made the decision to leave. And that is a big regret I have that I didn’t go and say, Hey, this is what I’m thinking about. This is the offer I have on the table. What is Motorola willing to do or is there anything that Motorola is willing to do to try and keep me? Because I think that may have changed the trajectory a little bit of my career because in retrospect they were going to offer me a directors role, but I didn’t know that and if I would’ve came to them that way, then who knows what would have happened. But again, that’s kind of an uncomfortable thing because you’re leveraging one offer for the other company and that might cause bad feelings. So it’s kind of a tricky area. But that is one thing I wish I would’ve done is had a candid conversation and said, hey, this is what I’m thinking. You know, what is here at Motorola for me, just keeping those lines of communication open. I could kick myself if I didn’t have personal relationship with them, but I kind of wish I would have done that because then I went on to PWC, I hated it.

Karthika: Have you had a mentor through your journey and if so, how important do you think mentorship is for entrepreneurs? No matter what stage in the business they are?

Dr. Karen: I do think it’s really important. You know, I’m going to give one a call today because we’re talking about a deal with a startup that I’m working with and it’s an area that’s kind of unchartered for me. It’s an area that he’s really good at it. So definitely having people that you can call when you have questions or concerns is great. And so I’ve built up kind of like a board of directors of those types of people and people call me too. So, you know, I tried to give back as much as I can so that I’m not always taking, but it’s really important. The other thing that was really important for me was a sponsor and a champion. So when I was at Motorola, I had a vice president that I worked for and he took a chance on me and had me go from individual contributor to a manager. And that’s probably one of the hardest leaps to make because every time you apply for a manager’s spot, they’re like, hey, have you lead people? And you typically have to say no because we haven’t. And so he took a really big chance on me to make me a manager and I knew that he was always advocating for me when I wasn’t in the room. And so that was really important to have. So even more so than than the mentor.

Karthika: I agree. What do you do for fun outside of work? I know you said you love to work, but what else do you do.

Dr. Karen: I love being with my family. I have a really close family with my brothers and my parents. They live just five minutes for me and so we always go there every weekend and then my brothers go there with their wives and their kids and so that’s really fun to me. Oh, we all love to run and lift weights and work out. My husband and I, we also like to cook and bake, so we’d like to do a lot of different fun things. We also like to travel a lot, but we like to be together, so we try to involve our daughter and as much, she’s 13 we tried to involve her in as much of the wacky stuff that we do as possible.

Karthika: Yeah, I have a 13 year old too. It can get hard. What lies ahead for you? Are you fully living your dream or what comes next if it’s okay to share?

Dr. Karen: No, I actually love the role I’m in for sure, but I always have the itch that I can’t scratch on other things and there’ll be definitely more to come. So I also research humor in the workplace with some research partners. So we’re working on programming there and then a book on that topic. So that’s in the works. And then there’s also some other things that I’m working around gender in the workplace and then more on the creativity and innovation. So definitely more to come there. I just can’t help it.

Karthika: All of it sounds incredibly fascinating. So I know we’re going to keep track and follow along your journey. Thank you so much, Dr. Karen, this was amazing.  It was so great chatting with you and learning about your story and I really appreciate you taking the time.

Dr. Karen: Thank you. It was an honor.

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