A Leader’s Lessons on Careers, Balance, and Growth

professionals meeting and collaborating

Katie Scheie, VP of the University Registrar at Ashford University, sat down with the Forward Thinking team to share the “random yet purposeful” journey of her career. (“But isn’t all of life that way?” she mused.) Katie’s story contains more than just advice for professionals; her reflections are filled with wisdom in the form of sage adages inherited from mentors, ideas for work-life balance, and values that transcend career.

Who or what motivates you?

“What motivates me is growing. I don’t like to get too comfortable in my day-to-day so learning and growing in my role is what motivates me. I don’t necessarily mean that via a promotion or job growth, but just where can I lean in? Something I have always done that has served me well is to ask to be brought into something if you really want to do it. Hey, can I have a seat at the table? Can I join that work group? I’ve never been afraid to insert myself in areas where I would like to learn. And doing that has helped, because others have seen that I’m hungry, that I am accountable, that I want to grow. Hopefully those things showed in me, and through that I was able to build relationships. Relationships are everything. That need and that motivation to just grow and learn as much as I can has gotten me to learn more, to meet the people I need to meet, build relationships, and establish my footprint.”

What keeps you motivated at this level of leadership?

“Growing still, learning more. I try to continue developing my leadership style as I work with people. I continue to navigate the waters of working with these people at the table, and figuring out how is this going to work? Working with those around me and learning how to use their voices. Growing and learning how to be that person, but still staying true to who I am is important to me — but realizing my audience and adjusting how I approach them. Continuing to learn from my boss, Sheri Jones. When I started here, I remember thinking, I want to be her one day. And now here I am, the Registrar. It’s so full circle. I have always admired her presence, who she’s become, so continuing to learn from her and to one day fill her shoes. To be an example to my children. They always ask that question — Can you have it all? — and I wouldn’t say that I have it all, but I love my career, love the position I’m in, and I love being that example to both my children. Being a strong mom who works outside the home also motivates me.”

What are your core values?

“Honesty. I think it’s always important to be honest. It’s scary to be honest sometimes, but it’s important to be. Honest with your feelings, honest with your current situation in life, with the ability to execute a certain project. I think honesty is something that everyone appreciates. Respect. I think respecting individuals and what everyone brings to the table is a core value. Hard work. My dad was a super hard worker. I wouldn’t suggest this, but he never called in sick. The only vacation days he used were for family things that were super important and that were ideal. We had to plan around his schedule. I grew up with that work ethic—hard work pays off. So be honest and hardworking, and you’ll go far. I also understand work-life balance, because there’s a balance working and being home with your family. Hard work is at my core, and that’s in every aspect of my life.”

Who has impacted your view of leadership the most?

“My dad. He passed away seven years ago, but I always wish that he could see where I am now. But I know that he would be so proud. It is truly his example and guidance that have gotten me here. I remember getting my first job in high school and coming home to complain about something or someone else’s work, and he’d tell me, it’s your job too, or don’t pass the buck, or only worry about what you can do, or take responsibility. He taught me to be the first to raise my hand and volunteer. He’d say to be there for my people, and they’d be there for me. And to be kind. I remember when he had to do layoffs or make a hard decision, and he used to come home with a heavy heart. He really cared for the people who worked for him and whom he worked for. That was a really good example.”

How do you deal with making important decisions at home?

“Making decisions is not something I get to make on my own. I have my husband, who also works, and we are a team. We’re stronger together than apart, and I ensure that we are in line with what’s going on. If I need to travel or go somewhere, we are in communication about what’s going on because I am only as strong as he is, and vice versa. The decision of having a partner who’s bought in to your journey, whatever that is. Whether that’s being a stay-at-home mom, working outside the home, consulting by yourself, or traveling. Once you are married and have a family, that becomes a united decision. You don’t get to make that decision on your own. It’s our life now. That ability to communicate and be able to take each other’s needs into consideration impacts the decisions I make, and sometimes they’re difficult decisions to make — where I don’t get to go on a business trip, or don’t get to go to a networking event because it’s my turn to pick up the kids. But then the time will come when it’s his turn, right? So it’s the balance. The decision of what that balance will look like for you between your home-life and work-life is really important. The people who are most important to you need to believe in that balance, too. For some folks, it’s 10 or 15-hour days, and they have to figure out their support to have that balance. Maybe it’s coming in really early and leaving at 3:00 to pick up your kids. Planning and having a shared calendar on my phone with my husband is very helpful. The other day, we were just relaxing at home, and it was okay, get out your phone. It’s time to figure out our calendars. I have to travel out to Denver in a few weeks, so first thing I did was call my husband. It’s not a permission; it’s out of respect. We’re still a team, because we’re better together than when we’re apart.”

Katie Scheie shows that hard work, believing in yourself, and partnering with supportive people will help you achieve great things. Once achieved, however, don’t stop there; never stop growing.

 

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Written by Kelsey Bober, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.

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