“Women, I hear you. And I revere you.
As a woman, and especially as a female CEO, I cherish the dynamic women whose counsel and support have inspired me to persevere throughout my career. And I cherish our own Amy Yoder, who has partnered with me to tell their stories – stories of how women overcame formidable challenges to rise to the top of their respective fields. For this new Copytalk initiative, Amy will focus her incredible talents on interviewing these woman and writing their stories, which we will publish as an ongoing series. Why are we doing this? Because I’m confident that these amazing stories – extraordinary women all – have something of great value to offer you, as well.”
– Maree Moscati, CEO, Copytalk
Bio:Catherine Allen is an entrepreneur, former corporate executive at Dun and Bradstreet and Citi-corp, corporate and nonprofit board member, former professor of business and advocate for more women in the C suite, on corporate boards and in public policy. She is Chairman and CEO of The Santa Fe Group, a strategic advisory firm, focused on third party risk and cybersecurity. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is the author of 4 books and currently working on a book focused on career advice Boomer women would give to Millennials and GenZs.
Amy: Can you share how your career path positioned you to be where you are today?
Cathy: Sure. So I would say I’ve had three distinct parts of my career, and the first two set me up to be successful with my work now with The Santa Fe Group and the corporate and nonprofit boards I serve on.
I majored in fashion design and retailing so that I could take classes in the business and journal-ism schools. It’s hard to understand now, but at that time, there were no women in the business school. Retailing was a much more receptive industry for women. I worked to bring data proces-sors in for doing inventory, which got me interested in technology and business.
I transitioned into academia, where I developed skills to help other people learn and to motivate them, and that’s so useful when consulting with different executives and on various boards.
Now I’m in the corporate world helping companies manage third-party risk. I’ve worked on e-commerce since before the Internet, and originally, we were working on the positive part of e-commerce. After 9/11, we started to focus much more on cybersecurity, antiterrorism, money laundering, and developing best practices.
Amy: What can you share with women just entering the business world?
Cathy: Be open to opportunities. Don’t feel like you’re wedded to just one path. Today’s people will be working well into their 70s, so you have to think of your career as a journey and know you may have multiple careers. It may be that they need to work for economic reason, but it’ll be more about being engaged, being interested. Your career path, it can take you into anywhere from five to eight different careers, so gathering interstitial skills is crucial, and you have to think of it as a journey rather than an end point.
And on that journey, you have to be continuously learning. I read widely. I read about technolo-gy, business, workforce and human relations, world events, political issues. I have read across the board because of the velocity of change in today’s world.
But no matter what industries you work in, really understand that you’re working with people. Understanding human behavior and where they’re coming from, you’ll better understand how to empower them, how to work with them, how to understand what’s a right fit and what’s not.
Amy: Who is one of your most inﬂuential mentors and why?
Cathy: My father, Bob Allen. I grew up in Perry, Missouri, which is a town of 800 people. My dad was the banker, and he used the bank as a platform to do good for the community. He brought soybeans into Missouri. He brought the first nursing home and Medicaid and Medicare into Missouri. He was on the school board. So I saw him using the bank to help other people in the community and also how important it was to be involved in public policy as well as in business. He was a good role model, and I saw this integration of business and public policy. My whole career, I’ve done that.