|Meet Carolyn Kiel
|Carolyn Kiel, ITT Corporation
|View this issue in PDF and Digital formats.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
My early career aspirations actually had nothing to do with psychology. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be either a rock star or a waitress at Friendly’s when I grew up. Music has been a lifelong hobby for me, so I came close to my rock star ambitions by singing at some cool venues including Giants Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and Carnegie Hall. I changed my mind about my waitressing aspiration, but I still have fond childhood memories of eating waffle fries and ice cream with my friends at our local Friendly’s.
What sort of student were you?
I was a focused and dedicated student; my favorite academic subjects were English, social studies, and Spanish. I was the valedictorian of my high school class.
Why did you first become interested in psychology?
I took Introduction to Psychology during my first semester in college with a great professor who made the subject matter very interesting. Based on my experience in that class, I declared my psychology major toward the end of that year.
Did you have a mentor who helped you find your career path?
I have had a few mentors who helped me succeed at different jobs throughout my career. Many of them were my managers who provided me with opportunities to develop my skills, coached me with honest feedback, and saw my potential before I did. One mentor encouraged me to apply to my grad school program, where I met other mentors who helped me succeed at work and school. My mentoring relationships have changed over time, but they still help me learn new things about myself and develop in my career.
What sort of jobs did you have before you started your current employment?
During the summers between my college semesters, I analyzed data for child psychology research studies and provided inpatient support at a children’s psychiatric hospital. Although I ultimately realized that child psychology was not for me, I became interested in the application of psychology in the business world. After college, I spent most of my career working in the field of change management at a global financial services company. I developed and launched new company-wide change initiatives (focused on new product development, risk management, and data management) and showed employees how these initiatives would help them do their jobs. From there, I shifted my career toward employee training and communications; I managed employee training at a large automotive company, and then joined my current company to write communications and manage culture change.
Can you describe what you do at your job in two or three sentences?
I lead the project management office that drives ITT’s corporate culture transformation. My team’s day-to-day activities include implementing training workshops, leadership programs, and employee communications to create a healthy, high-performing culture among ITT’s employees worldwide.
How do you use your psychology training in that context?
Culture change relies on inspiring employees to think and act differently. My psychology studies have helped me understand what motivates people to act in certain ways and how to encourage people through change. Through my current job and my graduate studies, I have also learned a lot about leadership including what makes an effective leader and how people influence each other in the workplace. Employees look to their leaders as role models for corporate culture, so it’s especially important to have leaders’ commitment to culture change.
What sort of personalities do you think are conducive with your career?
Someone who truly wants to help people, has empathy and good listening skills, who can take thoughtful action in ambiguous situations, and isn’t afraid of conflict and change would do well in this type of career. It’s the type of career where there isn’t a single “right” way to achieve the changes you’re trying to make, so you have to be open to trying new things and making adjustments based on what works and what doesn’t work.
How does your career benefit or improve society?
I get to provide people with tools and inspiration that help them be at their best at work (and even outside of work).
What is your favorite memory of being part of your Psi Chi chapter?
I cofounded Vassar’s Psi Chi Chapter and served as copresident in my senior year. My fondest memory was the first induction ceremony, when our chapter first came to life. It’s exciting to see that the Vassar Chapter is still going strong!
Is there something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were
A few things . . . First, success in school doesn’t automatically translate into success in business. You need hard work and perseverance for both, but the business world tends to reward additional skills like networking, calculated risk taking, and strong communications skills. Second, you don’t have to commit to one career for your entire life. In fact, now it’s normal to change careers a few times. Job security is no longer a guarantee, but people have more options to learn, grow, and create their own career paths.
Favorite psychology-related book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Habit 5 from this book, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” really helped me reflect on and improve my listening habits.
Favorite quote: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” —Henry Ford. Change management gets challenging, and this quote helps keep me inspired!
Favorite band: They Might Be Giants. They have been making creative and fun music for decades. They are also really innovative. For example, in the 1980s they created an early version of on-demand music downloads called “Dial-A-Song,” by recording a new song on their answering machine every few days, then letting their fans call their answering machine to hear the song.
Hobbies: Singing, traveling, walking with friends, watching comedy and late-night TV.
Early bird or night owl: Night owl
Carolyn Kiel helps companies plan, communicate, and execute organizational change and employee training. She has implemented several change management initiatives at global companies including programs to transform corporate culture at ITT Corporation and BMW of North America and an award-winning Enterprise Risk Management program at MasterCard. A skilled trainer and facilitator, Carolyn has also led talent development initiatives in training, women’s leadership, career development and public speaking. Her favorite part of these programs is providing tools that help people do their jobs more successfully. Carolyn has a BA in psychology from Vassar College (NY) and an MA in industrial/organizational psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University (NJ).
Copyright 2015 (Volume 20, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the
International Honor Society in Psychology
Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members
and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs,
awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers,
graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various
fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.
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