Meet Sonoma Clean Power's Kate Kelly, a 2019 North Bay Women in Business winner

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North Bay Business Journal asked 2019 Women in Business Awards winner Kate Kelly to fill us in on her background, responsibilities and community involvement, and insights into what makes her a notable professional in the region.

Professional background: Before my five years at Sonoma Clean Power, I spent twenty years at another great local organization, Redwood Credit Union. The majority of my time there was spent as assistant vice president, Public Relations & Marketing.

Education: Bachelor of arts, English literature

Staff: Two direct reports

Tell us about yourself and your company: Sonoma Clean Power is proud to serve the counties of Sonoma and Mendocino, as the self-funded, public electricity provider. Climate change affects everyone, so our programs are designed for everyone. SCP’s services are practical, affordable and inclusive, inviting everyone to be part of the transition toward a clean energy future.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

Last summer, we re-branded, and introduced our new brand, our new website, and rolled out a significant customer program on the same day. Thanks to working with a great team of people and excellent consultants, everything went seamlessly. I am so proud of the brand work we did. Some of the best work I’ve done in my career so far.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

Definitely having my kids. I can only take some of the credit, but they are wonderful human beings – I can’t imagine my life without them.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Sometimes, remembering to breathe and keep the demands of work and family life in balance and keep the important things in perspective.

Words that best describe you: A connector. It’s what I do. I help connect people in business, in the community, in family and personal relationships. I think it’s among the most impactful things I do. It definitely gives me a lot of satisfaction.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

Like most working moms…finding the balance between a successful career, and giving enough to your family and home life (and ensuring there’s enough left over for myself).

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

Things in the world of fighting the climate crisis are changing so rapidly – it’s hard to say. For many professions, including marketing and public relations, it feels like things are just moving faster than ever. Having good strategy and plans, but being flexible and fluid are likely the keys to success.

Who was your most important mentor?

This one is easy. My most important mentor is actually a past recipient of the Women in Business Award, my former boss and longtime mentor, Robin McKenzie. She and I worked closely together at Redwood Credit Union. She’s one of those professionals who really worked hard to make it all work – balancing a demanding career with a busy family and somehow managing to have a personal life too. She was very influential in many aspects of my life. I owe her a lot.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

I would advise women entering my profession (or any other) to get their education, and keep upping their game by being a continual student. Be curious. Read. Seek educational opportunities that keep you up to date on emerging trends. Never let yourself get complacent. Also, hire slow and fire fast. A bad hire can really ruin your work life! Learned that one the hard way.

Typical day at the office: There really is no typical day at the office! My days are a combination of internal and external meetings, managing a small staff and five or six different areas of the agency, attending and participating in various community and business to business events, sitting on a couple of boards. I have the pleasure of a lot of variety in my day to day, and work with a diverse group of committed people whom I learn from every day.

Best place to work outside of your office: Anywhere next to water. If my boyfriend is there, it’s that much better. He keeps me grounded and has the glass half full attitude.

Current reading: I’m on a Malcolm Gladwell kick right now.

Social media you most use: I have to admit, it’s Facebook. I’m their target demographic! My kids continually remind me that “no one uses Facebook.” This is where being a marketer comes in handy. I tell them that 2.38 billion monthly users disagree. There are so many great moments to capture in life too…..for that, I love Instagram.

Stress relievers: Definitely talking to my kids. I always learn something new, or see a new perspective I hadn’t considered before. This generation is so bright, accepting and caring. Listening to their thoughts and ideas definitely gives me hope for the future.

Favorite hobbies: Singing, golfing, SF Giants baseball, hanging out with my family, watching my son play baseball, watching my daughter perform in plays, watching Jeopardy!

What would parents or significant others say if asked to brag about you?

This one was tricky. I asked my parents and sisters to weigh in. Here’s what they said:

“We knew early on we were raising an extrovert. We are not surprised and are proud Kate was selected for the 2019 Women in Business Award.” - Parents, Jim and Carol McConnell

“Kate is & always has been a strong, smart dynamic woman who has a knack for bringing people together and uniting for a cause, a project or a good time.” - Sister, Bonnie Orofino

“Kate has served the Sonoma County’s business and nonprofit community for over 25 years in a myriad of capacities. As her sister and fellow community supporter, I am truly proud and honored to work beside her.” - Sister, Laura Lee McConnell

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