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“Leverage Your Strengths, Ask Questions,” BAC Executive Tells Women Students Aspiring to Leadership Roles

Poole College students gain career advice from Bank of America executive Christine Katziff during “Candid Conversations" luncheon.
Poole College students gain career advice from Bank of America executive Christine Katziff during “Candid Conversations" luncheon.

“Don’t apologize for your experience. Don’t let reactions hold you back. Do build what you need to develop and leverage your strengths.”

These are among the key points that NC State Poole College of Management students took way from the “Candid Conversation with a Female Executive” luncheon program, featuring Christine Katziff, corporate general auditor of Bank of America. The event, hosted by the college’s diversity and inclusion team, was held September 22, 2017, in the college’s board room.

Katziff is a strong advocate for developing women leaders in financial services. This is reflected in several of her other roles at Bank of America: executive vice chair of the company’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council and executive sponsor for Bank of America’s Investing in Women Leadership Council. Comprised of executives from across the company, this council’s members serve as advisors and champions of the company’s efforts to support the advancement of women, working with the bank’s lines of business, the diversity and inclusion organization, and employee networks to maximize impact.

Katziff also supports the advancement of women by speaking to groups outside of the company, as she did at Poole College, and participating in Catalyst, Inc.’s “Women On Board” program, which promotes the appointment of women to corporate boards.

“Advocating is extremely important,” she told her audience, primarily women students in Poole College who are exploring career options, including in the financial services field.

“Women will wait until they’re 80-100 percent qualified before they put their name in the hat (for a leadership role). Men will go in at 30 percent,” Katziff said. This is a major issue within the workplace, she added.

Women also “tend to take rejection more personally; get told no and put themselves on (the) sidelines for much longer than men. How you bounce back (from rejection) is important,” she said, noting that she credits her resilience for helping her advance her career.

Bank of America exec Christine Katziff shares career advice with Poole students during “Candid Conversations" luncheon.
Bank of America executive Christine Katziff shares career advice with Poole College students during a “Candid Conversations” luncheon.

Katziff told her audience to “ask questions, and ask for what you want. These are proactive measures that can help lead to success. Don’t worry about the no’s. Everyone (in the course of their career) will get them. What you need to do is ask ‘why didn’t I get this,’ because that’s how you’ll learn.”

Since joining Bank of America in 2004, following the FleetBoston Financial acquisition, Katziff has held leadership positions in corporate audit, supporting nearly all the major business segments within the enterprise. Prior to that, she held a number of management positions in audit and compliance at Fleet and in KPMG’s Management Advisory Services.

Beyond her roles at Bank of America, Katziff serves on the board of directors and the finance committee for the Central Piedmont Community College Foundation. She also is active in the Charlotte community and serves on the UNC Charlotte Belk College of Business Board of Advisors, the Wake Forest University Charlotte Executive Board, the board of directors for TreesCharlotte, and the annual Charlotte St. Jude Evening of Hope Committee.

Kelsy Brown, a junior majoring in accounting with a concentration in financial analysis, said she came to the luncheon for the networking opportunity it provided. She came away with two key takeaways:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for something
  • The key to success is being open-minded.

Jessica Carter, a senior in business administration with a concentration in human resources, said she attended “because I thought ‘being a female executive in a male-dominated industry’ was an interesting topic to discuss and something that every woman going into the corporate world should talk about before starting her career. This event was very empowering for me and I hope to see more events like this in the future.”

Key takeaways for her were:

  • Allow yourself 24 hours to feel bad for yourself after failing but after that, it’s time to pull yourself together and hit the ground running again.
  • Never be scared to point out being the only female in the room to make a statement and bring attention to it.