This is the first in our series of “Always Growing” and what better way to kick it off then a guest post about Lisa’s mom by Kathy Koch Anderson
Karen & Kathy, back in the day
I have had the pleasure of knowing Karen for over 35 years and, although I haven’t seen her in about the last ten or more years, we remain very good friends.
When I first met Karen in the 80s, she immediately stood out. I was a brand new employee at a very well-known and successful company. The first week of my new career meant spending time with a select group of individuals specifically chosen for a presentation training class- a Dale Carnegie type class, if you will. My new boss wanted me to go as well. This was a big deal for me!
Karen instantly recognized that I was the new kid and probably quite nervous. She took me under her wing from the get-go; she made me feel welcome and put my mind at ease about so many things. There was no “awkward” period with Karen. She dove right in, and we were life-long buddies by the end of that week.
After some time in the corporate office, I was offered a position in field sales. I was hesitant to take it, but with Karen as my mentor in the neighboring territory, I knew that I would learn a lot from Karen, but that some major fun was about to begin.
And, Oh my God- did we laugh?? We always managed to find a way to work together and create together. We traveled to seminars and trade shows, staying in the same hotel room together. We were in the same district together, so I was able to turn to Karen for guidance so very often.
Karen was extremely successful at her job. Year after year, Karen met her sales goals. Karen hit all her bonuses and was a top performer in the company. Why? Because she was a natural at sales. She was outgoing, personable, and confident. Accounts loved her because she was genuine. When she met with accounts, she was honest and earnest. She was the quintessential “people person.”
Our company, “Essilor,” was a French-based corporation, It was a worldwide operation, but the USA division was its own entity- like a family. Essilor, by comparison, was pretty good about hiring women. We had many female reps and many women in high positions in the corporate home office. Essilor also was equitable and unbiased with their salaries. Many of our distributors were run by both men and women. Out in the field, it was often a different story. Now and then, we’d run into an occasional dinosaur now as many of our accounts saw female reps as not as knowledgable as their male counterparts. They saw us as messengers. Karen helped change that. She knew how to right their crooked ships without them even realizing it. Defeat wasn’t an option. No one shut a door in her face, and no account ever mistreated her as far as I knew. I recall that one of our field managers was about as chauvinistic as they come, and he needed to be taught a lesson. For us women to have to teach a superior male a lesson- it’s a sticky wicket. Well, Karen and I managed to get him fired. We both knew that he would not have gotten away with some of his shenanigans if we were males.
Karen is strong, and she can be fierce. But, she is also a nurturer. She is, in my opinion, a renaissance woman. She walked on both sides of the street at a time when being a mom and also having a career was challenging. She did it artfully. I’m guessing that many stay-at-home moms judged her. Karen had to choose sometimes between time with her family and time at work. Most men, even today, never have to think about that.
But we smart ones know that being successful at your job often makes you a better mom at home and in other areas in life. If you’re lucky, you not only find the career that’s right for you, but also that you are suitable for that job-it’s where you are meant to be. I think a sales career with Essilor is where Karen was meant to be.
Karen’s children are all successful, intelligent people. I enjoyed watching them grow up, and I know in my heart that they never doubted her love or her commitment to family.
I can honestly say that Karen is one of the most influential people in my life- probably the most influential in my career.
When I think of Karen, which is often, I don’t think right away about a meeting, or a business trip, or a work-related incident; I think of “Karen” the person, I think of her bubbly warm personality, her helpful way, her drive, her killer smarts, and her friendship and love. She is fiercely loyal, which, If you are lucky enough to know her well, you know for a fact that she is, and always will be, a driving force in your life.
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