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Meet Katie Franzen, supporting diverse voices, shifting gears and shaping the future

Designed headshot of Jess with text that reads: Kin+ Katie Franzen

Our name is intentional. "Kin" refers to family and "Carta" refers to maps. When together, we're Kin + Carta — a group of connected makers, builders and creators, who come together everyday to help our clients build experiences and plot a clear path forward in today's digital world. Carta is what we do, Kin is who we are.

Kin+ is a series that uncovers the experiences, stories and lives of the people who make our collective "Kin" exceptional.

Meet Katie Franzen, a force to be reckoned with in the tech industry. Katie's journey into technology was serendipitous, yet once immersed, she was captivated by its lightning-speed pace and transformative potential.

In her role at Kin + Carta, she not only fosters client relationships but also champions a culture of innovation and adaptability. Committed to lifting up diverse voices, Katie's passion lies in empowering others and driving change. Join us as we dive into her insights, where she shares her wisdom on navigating the fast-changing tech landscape and supporting the next generation of leaders.

Headshot of Katie

I'm a mom first, a professional second and then so many other flavors of things in lots of different orders. There are a couple of formative spots in my life. One was when I became a mom. It completely changed my lens on everything: how I looked at the world, how I made decisions, what I prioritized and how I spent my time.

Then, there was a trigger in the last 10 years of my career, where I went from thinking about being a part of something and wanting to contribute with perspective versus forming my perspective and advocating for that.

I would love to say there was an 'aha' moment when I said, 'Oh, I want to work in tech'. However, I had an opportunity to work for one of the most influential technology companies in the world, serving one of its clients. And that's how I learned about the field, not only from the delivery side but also how software, networking, infrastructure and client interface all work together.

But it was happenstance, and once I got there, I never wanted to leave. It was exciting, and the pace of change was incredible. I couldn't get enough of helping clients see outcomes with technology.

Katie with her team

Here at Kin + Carta, I develop relationships with prospective clients and educate them on our capabilities. We then credential our team so those prospective clients vote with their dollars based on how much they trust we can deliver on their needs.

One thing that is incredibly strong about Kin + Carta is that, despite the perception of being a smaller boutique firm, we're mighty. And we are creative in how we get things done. I do the relationship development and scoping of work with clients, but we also bring in our delivery organization very early. We're strong in that connection-building piece and in how we execute those objectives.

We all know how fast technology is changing. But outside of the actual technology, in the next 10 years, there will be a massive wealth transfer, a different generation of decision-makers controlling budgets and making decisions and a new generation buying.

If you think about Alphas, our youngest generation, the way they bank is 180 degrees different from how my parents bank. They may never walk into a bank or write a check. They'll be banking in a way we haven't even envisioned yet. So that's why banks and insurance providers have to think about the zeitgeist of these younger generations.

My advice to organizations in this field is what many in the vertical are doing: failing fast, so they can choose something, do it small and prove it out or fail quickly. Then, you'll know whether it makes sense for your organization. Testing new technology is important. Many keep it just in their innovation segment, but I love to take it out of innovation and put it into different lines of business.

Brands will need flexible architectures, whether application or infrastructure processes, for how they'll deliver products. If you think about a Broadway show, there's a script repeated over and over again. But suddenly, Broadway productions will need to have an incredible amount of improv. At a moment's notice, something will trigger a change, and they'll have the right framework to make that pivot.

"Brands will need flexible architectures, whether application or infrastructure processes, for how they’ll deliver products"

These frenetic and exciting times require a large dose of innovation, and that's exactly the main focus of our FWD24 event, where I have the honor of being the emcee. This year, we will explore how to combine incredible technology innovation and put it in action faster and at scale with speed.

We're going to be a little gritty about perspectives. We want to hear different opinions, so we'll juxtaposition someone who feels one way about leveraging generative AI and somebody who feels very differently, or how regulation plays versus customer experience, fintech compared to traditional banks and how it all works together.

Katie at Kin + Carta’s Chicago office
Katie at Kin + Carta’s Chicago office

We're going through some interesting times where change and evolution is a constant in every way. When I started in technology, it wasn't surprising that I was the only woman in a huge room of men. It was assumed that I was going to get coffee and order lunch. Quite frankly, I didn't know any better at the time.

Luckily, I had great female role models who showed me that that wasn't okay and that I shouldn't stand for it. That gave me a very different outlook about what I was willing to accept. Now I have very strong opinions about making sure voices are heard. Now it's even broader than that because it's not only women but also any underserved community. I'm always looking at whether somebody in the room needs an opportunity to have a voice.

Many of us who have come up within the industry are now shouting from the mountaintop to create opportunities for other women. We're making sure they have not only a seat at the table but a megaphone for their voices. For me, it is an absolute passion.

This is where I make the biggest difference. I focus on lifting individuals and giving them opportunities. Quite frankly, it's also about recognizing when somebody is struggling and taking action to surround and uplift them.

“I focus on lifting individuals and giving them opportunities.”

Finding a mentor is incredibly important and can make all the difference. People earlier in their career may wonder, 'How can I reach out to that person and ask for help?' It's an honor to be a mentor, give back and help work through specific situations, so my advice is: Don't wait. Ask.

The other behavior I suggest is to get comfortable going to networking events and walking into a room alone. Have a few questions prepared and recognize that you're not the only one walking in the room feeling like, 'Oh, my goodness, I'm walking in alone'

Katie after hosting an I Am Remarkable workshop for Kin + Carta’s International Women’s Month celebrations
Katie after hosting an I Am Remarkable workshop for Kin + Carta’s International Women’s Month celebrations

Another important part of being a woman in this industry is balancing the roles of mother and professional and how they both complement and clash. The clash is that sometimes tough decisions are involved. There are moments when there's a work obligation, and you have to fly on a child's birthday or miss a softball tournament, and those are complicated decisions.

On the compliment side, there's so much to learn about balancing schedules and how kids experience things in different stages. Through my kids' eyes, I saw how the simplest things were extraordinary. And I started to think about that within the construct of new business development, selling technology or building client relationships. How do you find that unique lens they haven't seen yet?

"Through my kids' eyes, I saw how the simplest things were extraordinary. And I started to think about that within the construct of new business development"

In 2019, I made a career transition from an organization I'd been at for 22 years — an organization I never thought I would leave. But the question was: Am I going to stay and work within an incredible organization and retire? Or will I bet on Katie Franzen and move into the next chapters of my career? And I bet on myself.

All day long, I would tell anybody listening that betting on yourself is incredibly empowering. It blends and bleeds through other decisions, like how you interact with clients, friends and family, and even how you feel about yourself. And then, ultimately, the outcomes you deliver.

Eager for more of Katie's industry leadership perspective?

Join us at FWD

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