Recent years have marked a tremendous paradigm shift in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The winds of change seem to have arrived as women are finally making remarkable progress heading companies. Women entrepreneurs are making their mark with their exemplary leadership skills, and CIOLook appreciates such leaders. Amongst those, Natalie Catliota, the Chief Operating Officer of NetCentrics, is one such proficient leader.
Natalie joined NetCentrics in April 2010. At the time, NetCentrics was generating less than $15M/year. She started at the front desk with no real title or responsibilities, but took the opportunity to learn by getting involved in everything she could – marketing, HR, compliance, finance, business development – whatever she could get here hands on, and took a specific interest in business process development and improvement.
Between 2010 and now, Natalie has held almost every position in the company. As she built the Operations and grew into her role as COO, she came to develop her own leadership approach. She learned the valuable lesson that being everyone’s friend is not nearly as valuable as earning their trust. She also learned that what makes a great leader is the ability to share one’s vision with the team and gain their buy in. She believes the key to successful operations is balance: the balance between structure and agility, balance between investing without over-spending; and balance between setting boundaries while still fostering creativity.
Natalie believes every organization must tailor their service offerings to what they are best at, monitor human and market trends, and evolve their services to meet growing demands or changes. As an IT service provider, this means it is critical that we stay on top of trends in technology. She has a fundamental belief that businesses must remain fixated on providing more value to their customers than their competitors, constantly evaluating the services they provide, looking for ways to improve the user experience. Rather than focusing on their competition , NetCentrics prefers to focus on continuously reviewing its business practices looking for ways to improve relationships and seek opportunities to add value in every interaction it has.
To stay updated with technology and business trends, Natalie reads anything and everything that challenges her thought process and loves to ask lots of questions. She has a genuine interest in the industry and the solutions NetCentrics provides and says working with an incredible team who is just as passionate, inspires her to stay involved and updated with industry trends.
According to Natalie, leadership is not the same as management; it is about getting people excited to follow you, and sometimes being the follower yourself. Self- awareness, decisiveness, enthusiasm, and integrity are some of the vital attributes every leader must possess. Business leaders must be able to leverage their strengths and build teams that fill in their weaknesses, striving and build teams that compliment their weaknesses, striving to create a culture that is comfortable collaboratively discussing the good and the bad early and often.
Natalie also believes that an effective leader must be able to synthesize available information to make sound business decisions quickly and confidently. She subscribes strongly to Jeff Bezos’ “Two Way Doors” concept, believing most decisions are “Two-Way Doors” and often times there is no one right decision. She asserts, “As a leader, once you have set the path, unless of course new facts arise that significantly alter the path, stick with it and see where it takes you.”
Talking about enthusiasm, she says, “If you want people to enthusiastically follow you, you have to lead by example. If you are excited about your vision, show it in everything you do. Passion is infectious – this trait, above anything else, is what motivates teams to perform greater than the sum of their parts.”
And about integrity Natalie opines that leading a business is hard work. “Too often we see others cut corners and even earn short term rewards as a result. Integrity is not just about doing the right thing, it is about standing for something bigger and setting the precedent that others must do the same. Peers and employees see how you treat others and respond in kind. It is critically important that you earn their respect through your own actions”.
When asked about the roadblocks faced by women in a corporate business, Natalie says, “First impressions are generally made on physical characteristics. Being young and female, I recognize that I carry certain physical traits that may lead to an initial bias. My advice is to never walk into a situation assuming what the other person thinks of you. Look at every interaction not as a challenge that needs to be overcome, but rather a new opportunity to show what value you can bring. You are in your role for a reason. You have the combination of capabilities, knowledge, and experience needed, so leave history’s baggage at the door.”
In her opinion, women’s empowerment must start with human empowerment. Natalie believes that empowering women and creating an environment that encourages women is not about setting specific programs or policies that separate women, but rather by encouraging all employees to be the best version of themselves. She finds the best way to do this is by focusing on traits that are not gender-specific; work ethic, knowledge, teamwork and accountability.