“If it’s gotta be done, it’s gotta be done.”
These are the words that Katie Montague, B.B.A.’13, uses as inspiration in her work and daily life. They come from her grandmother, a Word War II labor camp survivor and immigrant who often invoked the phrase and lived by it until her death at age 95. “I think it’s a powerful, yet simple quote, and one that keeps me going,” says Montague. “I want to be successful, so I must take the necessary steps to get there. Stagnation is not an option if I want to achieve my goals.”
Beginning her career in public accounting as an auditor, she eventually developed an interest in turnaround and restructuring work, learning about it from her father, a bankruptcy attorney. “The work can be really rewarding,” she says. “Our clients are often large corporations that are household names. It’s fulfilling to be a part of the process that contributes to providing a company a second chance, which often saves the company, along with thousands of jobs.”
That work has been more challenging over the past year and a half as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. Montague started her position as an associate at Alvarez & Marsal on March 23, just a few days after things began shutting down. She found herself on video calls and working across time zones when she normally would have been traveling onsite to clients for direct access to key people and the information necessary to facilitate restructuring.
Despite the challenges that working from home presents, she has had the resources to do so effectively and values the flexibility and family time that remote work has afforded her. “I think the pandemic has shown companies that they can remain productive while offering flexibility to employees. It will be interesting to see the decisions organizations make in the coming months.”
As Montague builds her professional network and earns new opportunities, she is delving into what it means to be a confident woman in the workplace. “I, like many women, tend to sell myself short. I have been working on my confidence as a professional. For example, I was scared to apply to my MBA program because I didn’t think I was smart enough, nor did I think I had enough experience, to be in the program. Yet, I recently won an award for being a top finance graduate student at MSU. There is a fine line between confident and arrogant, but I think many people, myself included, shy away from being confident at the risk of appearing arrogant. Confidence is important in business and something I will continue to work on as a professional.”
That struggle is real and something many women professionals of all ages, and recent graduates in particular, grapple with as they immerse themselves in their industries.
When Montague thinks of her time at WMU, she thinks of how her college career positioned her to be successful and have the personal and professional self-awareness to evaluate where she needs to grow. “WMU provided me the necessary technical skills to be a solid CPA, but, more importantly, the Haworth College of Business helped me develop the emotional intelligence and network I needed. My business courses taught me the importance of developing a personal brand and fundamental communication and presentation skills.”
Montague also recalls her study abroad experience as being particularly impactful. “We spent two weeks on the mainland in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou and an extra week in Hong Kong. It was my first big international trip without family. The trip provided so many learning opportunities. We visited various businesses in China, such as Haworth and Google. I was able to network with other students, including MBA candidates who had real-life work experience. China helped open my eyes to international business and ignited my passion for travel.”
The key lesson that Montague is carrying with her from the pandemic is something many of us can relate to. “You must adapt. As a business consultant, I am accustomed to a rapidly changing environment and the unknown. We advise clients through difficult times and live by the same principles. An important thing to keep in mind, especially during times of disruption, is that you rarely are going to have all of the information. As the pandemic has shown us, we don’t always know what tomorrow will bring.”