As Director of Operations for Danella’s emerging engineering division, Kate Howick has a lot on her plate. She kindly carved out a few minutes to sit down and discuss her professional background, her experience as a woman in the male-dominated fiber optics field, and her advice for other females considering careers in the trades.
Kate, you’re a newer addition to the Danella team. What brought you here?
You’re right – I have been with Danella for two months now. I came on board to help re-start the engineering division, which focuses on broadband, and also to manage its day-to-day operations.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As with most Danella divisions, my day begins with safety. We participate in Stretch and Flex, a series of stretches that reduces the risk of injury and tears, and discuss a variety of safety-related topics. Aside from that, each day brings a new set of challenges. I am typically tasked with any number of responsibilities ranging from collecting field notes, identifying software solutions to streamline workflow, developing the business, and managing projects.
Do you have a background in broadband specifically?
My journey is a little unconventional as my professional career has taken a few turns along the way. It began with a tour of service in the Army, followed by work in the construction field with a few highlight projects at the Kennedy Space Center. Those initial roles provided a solid foundation as I made my way through male-dominated professions. I also spent a considerable amount of time as a high school math teacher where I really enjoyed encouraging young women to advance their own studies in math and science. This was a pivotal point in my life where I learned a great deal in terms of leadership and project management skills that could translate to any profession. I have been in the broadband industry for a couple of years now and view my current position as a good marriage of all my previous experiences.
What might people be surprised to learn about your role?
My position requires that I wear quite a few different hats, which always keeps things interesting!
What is the coolest thing you’re working on or involved in right now?
Since we are a young division, we have a lot of flexibility and options for structuring our operations. I have the unique opportunity to create standards and develop solutions by exploring different options and really dive into how they function and how they address the needs of the division – all while maintaining Danella’s core values.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I enjoy attending sporting events, concerts, and theme parks. Of course, not much of that is available right now. On any given weekend, you can find me spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy running and bike riding.
Have you ever had misgivings about working in a male-dominated field? Did you experience any learning curves related to the high ratio of men to women?
I have never really given my career choices a second thought, as each position has proven to challenge me and shape me into the person that I am today. There have been some barriers along the way, of course, but I have found that hard work, dedication, and ambition really do pay off in the long run.
Regardless of gender, age, or experience, don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself and step outside of your comfort zone.
Any other thoughts on being a woman in a male-dominated field?
The more you are willing to listen, ask questions, and learn, the more confidence you will find in your own voice. Females bring a new perspective to the table. I have been fortunate to work with a lot of remarkable women over the years; they’ve each left an indelible impression on me that I can only hope to pay forward.
Any advice for women who might feel that broadband isn’t for them because of their gender?
Regardless of gender, age, or experience, don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. This is a very rewarding field. Yes, at the end of the day we are putting fiber in the ground, but our job is so much more than that. We are connecting communities and families, providing access for students to learn, and helping businesses advance their markets.
Learn more about Danella’s revitalized engineering division here.