Meet ERPi's Empowered Women
Meet ERPi's Empowered Women
Each month, ERPi’s Empower Her initiative highlights the success and impact of one of our empowered and enriched women. This month features ERPi Manager Kate Buker.
Kate is one of the many accomplished and educationally diverse women at ERPi. Kate joined ERPi a little over two years ago and immediately jumped right into improving operational efficiency and supporting client relations. As a Manager supporting the Veterans Benefits Administration, she leads a team on the Dependency Claims Processing Support contract. The team strives to reduce the Dependency Claims inventory of nearly 360,000 Veteran benefit claims applications by Veterans and family members.
Kate graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Industrial Engineering. She has extensive experience in the realm of operations, manufacturing strategy, business process re-engineering, operations, strategic planning, and continuous improvement. Kate’s educational background and professional experience provide ERPi with another unique skillset.
ERPi Consultant, Charmaine Dyas, interviewed Kate to understand her passions and interests.
1. How did you become interested in process improvement/lean?
When I first began working at a local restaurant in high school, I would I always question “Why processes were being completed in more steps than was necessary and inconsistently?”. My curiosity led me to take ownership of the inefficiencies I was seeing and re-engineer these processes to improve overall operations. This resulted in reduced time to help serve guests, improved guest experiences, and most importantly boosted morale as the improvement mitigated stress for myself and fellow team members.
2. How has your industrial engineering background contributed to your consulting?
Industrial Engineering as a discipline operates at the nexus of people, process, and technology. The field requires you to build a strong business acumen at the strategic level and the ability to roll up your sleeves to lead projects and initiatives aimed at improving operational efficiency. As an IE professional my primary focus is to constantly find ways to optimize complex processes and systems and how these factors impact the “big picture”.
In addition to my IE background I was also fortunate to be exposed to working on the manufacturing floor. At Eaton, I managed manufacturing teams upwards of 35 team members focused on manufacturing vital high-quality products for the aerospace industry. Our team consisted of people from all walks of life both professionally and personally. This environment enabled me to develop the ability to gain consensus and lead both small- and large-scale change management efforts. This is a critical skill to have in consulting as you are managing multiple stakeholders, influencers, and decision makers to all achieve common objectives. This trait is also extremely valuable as it allows me, at the helm, to establish myself as a trusted advisor for my clients and further build client relationships.
3. Is there someone who has influenced or mentored you? How did their influence affect you?
One of my first bosses in manufacturing challenged me right out of the gate. He challenged me to work through problems that may have made others uncomfortable whether it was the lack of data or changing a process that a group had done a specific way for over 20 years. He always said, “Don’t be afraid to run to the fire.” I find that chaos intriguing.
Some of the key words we mention when discussing Empower Her initiative have been leadership, drive, passion and expertise, these next few questions are focused on these words.
1. What does good leadership look like to you?
Effective leadership entails building trust with your team and empowering them to challenge the status quo to achieve results. A proactive, creative approach can at times lead to mistakes which are essentially “growth opportunities”.
2. What are you most passionate about in your work?
Having the opportunity to affect change to drive efficiencies motivates me on a daily basis. During my tenure at Eaton, I managed a team with several members that had over 20 years tenure who were conditioned to work with antiquated SOPs. It was gratifying witnessing their pride as we implemented efficient and lean processes.
3. What are your passions outside the scope of your work?
I love to travel and learn about all cultures. I began travelling at an early age to witness and immerse myself in diverse cultures. While I also love visiting the popular tourist locations, I find truly immersing yourself in the local cultures helps build an understanding and appreciation that translates and expands your way of thinking. At 19, I seized the opportunity to teach English in a rural village in India for a summer. I have also travelled to the Amazon and Machu Pichu, have visited Asia, Africa, and Europe, and have continued my explorations through the years. My husband and I most recently travelled to India for our second wedding ceremony with detours in Dubai and the Maldives in December.