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Five Key Takeaways from an evening with Kathi Hyle, ‘80

Earlier this month Sellinger students, alumni, faculty, staff, and other members of our community gathered on Zoom for the second “Graduates Who Mean Business” event. This series features women leaders who graduated from the Sellinger School and have embodied the Sellinger difference throughout their careers. 

Our guest for this installment was Kathleen “Kathi” W. Hyle, ’80, who is the Chair of the Board of Directors of Bunge Limited, a leading global integrated oilseeds processor with over $40Bil in Revenue, that connects farmers to consumers to deliver essential food, feed and fuel to the world. Since 2011, Kathi has also served on the Board of Directors of AmerisourceBergen, a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical distribution company, where she is currently Chair of the Compensation Committee and was previously Chair of the Audit Committee.

Previously, this Baltimore native and Loyola Accounting undergraduate was Senior Vice President of Constellation Energy and Chief Operating Officer of Constellation Energy Resources from 2008 until her retirement in 2012 following the completion of the merger of Constellation Energy with Exelon Corporation.

Throughout the talk Kathi shared her story of finding opportunity in adversity and provided listeners with valuable takeaways that they can apply as they navigate their own career journeys. Here are five key takeaways from the conversation:

There is opportunity in adversity—you just have to find it

Kathi shared that while growing up with her three siblings and single mother in Baltimore, she experienced adversity at a young age. She noted that her mom was “one of the hardest working but perennially upbeat persons that I have ever known.” But even so, her family experienced financial struggles, including being on welfare and food stamps for a short while. Throughout this time, her mother showed her the importance of asking for help when you need it, and working hard to improve your circumstances. 

Kathi explained that the circumstances she grew up in led her—and eventually her mother—to Loyola. “I was adamant that I was going to college—purely mercenary—I wanted to make good money—I didn’t want to rely on anyone for financial security.” 

As she looked back on her career throughout the conversation, Kathi imparted that all the moments she is most proud of were opportunities that were born out of adversity. For instance, she talked about how at her first job at Black and Decker, she spent some weekends using cash books, non-erasable ink fountain pens, and big black ledger books that looked like they were straight out of Dickens period. “I did not want to do that once a month,” she said. So, she asked for the tools she needed to get the job done efficiently, which in this case, was the first personal computer purchased by the company.

Resilience is key for future success

“Resilience is number one!” She said as she encouraged students to acknowledge and build on the resilience they’ve been developing throughout the COVID college experience. She shared that having the ability to be flexible and positive during tumultuous time will be a great asset throughout their careers. In addition to resilience, Kathi stressed the importance of risk assessment skills, sometimes without full information, decision making, the ability to synthesize and communicate clearly, and last (but certainly not least) the ability to be a thorough listener.

For women leaders—be true and kind to yourself

Kathi acknowledged that, while things are better now than when she graduated in 1980, there are still many barriers and hurdles that come with being a woman leader in the workplace. She encourages future women leaders to find their voices and ask for what they want. As demonstrated by her own career, sometimes that’s all it takes. She also encouraged women to be kind to themselves by acknowledging their skills gained outside the workplace and by unapologetically scheduling “me time” as it improves productivity, emotional intelligence, and reasoning skills.

On Landing a job—accept all the help you can get

“Use all the help that Loyola can give you,” she says. Utilize the Career Center and whatever other skill development tools are offered or that you can find online. Participate in online coaching, mentoring, and talk to whoever will talk to you. When you’re just starting out it’s smart to lean on connections from your parents, family, neighbors, etc. She also added that it’s helpful to be likeable and engaging, positive, high energy—with no chips on your shoulder. For first time job-seekers, she also wants them to keep in mind that the first job is not the only or last job you’ll ever have—once you are working it can be easier to find another job.

Loyola gives you a great well rounded, questioning, ethical breadth of education

“Loyola was very instrumental in helping to shape my journey.” Kathi shared that she “was a Baltimore City girl, from a very modest blue-collar family who attended city schools.” She continued by explaining she “opted out of the college prep curriculum in high school so I could learn typing and office machines in order to get a job.” After taking the SAT once, and applying to only one school, Kathi had been accepted to the Accounting program at Loyola University Maryland. “The education experience at Loyola was so rich, it really broadened me, and the reputation of the school from a business community was so strong and even though when I graduated in 1980, interest rates were 18% and the economy was seriously troubled I did get a job—at Black and Decker as a result of an on campus recruiting effort.” 

The Sellinger School is proud to celebrate Kathi Hyle as a true example of the Sellinger Difference. For more insights and anecdotes from Kathi, watch the full recording of the event below!