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#17: First Year Safety Pro Syndrome

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January 16, 2019 | 49 minutes 42 seconds

Series host Jill James connects with Katie, a safety specialist in manufacturing from the Milwaukee area. Katie is one of the few who began higher education with a focus on occupational safety, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Masters in health and safety. With 6 years of experience, Katie is a member of the new generation of safety professionals who benefited from increased access to formal education in the field. Podcast fans will learn from Katie’s story about maximizing internship opportunities, where mentorship may be found along your career, and the importance of business-skill fluency in the safety job. Her words of wisdom? Priorities change; values don’t.

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Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the health and safety institute. This is episode number 17. My name is Jill James Vivid's, chief safety officer and today I'm joined by Katie who is a safety specialists from the greater Milwaukee area and works in the manufacturing industry. Katie, welcome to the show.

Katie:

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jill:

Katie. I am so excited to have you on as a guest because you are very new to safety and very new by way of having been doing it for that many years, but also you recently completed your master's degree in safety, so congratulations.

Katie:

Thanks. Thank you. Finally done.

Jill:

So, I mean, when I say recent, I mean like you just like within days, right?

Katie:

Yeah, yeah, like I think the Friday before Christmas I got the email that I had passed and I was finished. So-

Jill:

Congratulations.

Katie:

Thank you.

Jill:

Yeah. That's a big deal.

Katie:

It was, it was great.

Jill:

Yeah. Well Katie, I'm interested to lead with the question that we always ask in the podcast is how did you find yourself interested in safety? And I know I've heard a little tiny bit about your story and I can't wait to hear the rest of it. So share how'd you get into safety?

Katie:

Well like I had told you when we had our first conversation I don't think anybody goes to kindergarten and says this is what I want to be when I grow up. When I went to kindergarten, all the other kids wanted to be a firefighter or a princess or a doctor and I wanted to be a cow cleaner at the Wisconsin state fair. And that didn't really work out for me. I found out that that wasn't really the most desirable career path.

Jill:

Okay Katie, we've just got to just got to clarify, how did you find out about a job maybe as a cow cleaner and what does that mean in your little girl?

Katie:

So when we were growing up we I have one brother and we would go to the state fair with my mom and dad every year. And when you go through like the livestock barns outside of it they have like these people are washing their cows. I guess walking through the livestock barns, I thought that looked like the best job because I would see people bathing their cows before the cow shows. And I guess that was where I got the idea because I hadn't really remembered that I said that until a little later on in my life. And my parents were like, oh yeah, no, that's not what you want it to be you want it to be a cow cleaner. And it was Kinda like, wait, what? So I got over that pretty quickly, thankfully. I think my parents relief. But-

Jill:

Figured you wouldn't necessarily be able to sustain a living and pay the rent.

Katie:

Yeah, I wasn't going to be going to-

Jill:

... simply by washing cows.

Katie:

Yeah. Cow washing does not on its own I'm sure pay the bills and whatnot. But I did work in like a horse Barn for a while, so I did get to try it out. And I did like brushing the horses so it was nice.

Jill:

It's something very therapeutic to working with animals absolutely.

Katie:

It is, it is. But yeah, actually I was thinking a lot about this over the weekend since we talked about how I got into safety and it's kind of always been, I think something that was a very natural progression for me. My earliest safety memory is something that is actually kind of special I think for myself and my brother when I was seven years old, the big blue crane collapse occurred at Miller Park three people were killed in that accident and it was just, it was a huge deal. And the day, I think it was the day afterwards, my mom took my brother and I up to the park nearby and we surveyed the scene and it was just such a profound moment for me and I could not believe that had happened. I was pretty little, but it was just like, wow. It was nuts. And in the summers, my mom would have us keep journals, just so we could remember how to write and whatnot.

And I recently found my journal from that summer and it said a little bit about how sad that was and I just said oh, it was really sad that people died at this accident and I've never really forgotten it. And I think about that quite often. I didn't know what safety as a job was at that time and the older I got, I would just think about that every now and then I will be like, man why did that happen? And how could this have occurred? And these people are still dead. It's horrible. And every time I go to Miller Park, that's what I think of.

Jill:

Yeah because it's hallowed ground there.

Katie:

It definitely is. And yeah, it was really kind of crazy. But when I was like a little older, I remember being on like a carnival ride with one of my friends and I was pointing out how I thought some of the bolts were rusty or how I'm not a big thrill ride person. I'm afraid of pretty much everything. Scary Heights, speed, et cetera.

Jill:

Risk adverse.

Katie:

Risk adverse. I Really liked that term, but I pointed out all these flaws and my friend goes some day you should be like a safety inspector because you could find these things. And I was like, oh yeah. And she goes, and you'd be the most feared safety inspector. And now looking back, like that's not really how it should be. But yeah, and of course, like many people, when I turned 17, 18 years old, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life.

And I thought I wanted to study ecology because I love it. I think it's so interesting and I really love the outdoors wildlife. I really wanted to go to school for that, but I'm very bad at chemistry and other math things that you need to be good at science and someone that I knew that I'd studied ecology said to me it's a great field and if you have passion for it you can be very successful, but I would recommend it as either a minor or something so you can have other options. And I was kinda like, oh, okay, whatever. But my brother actually was a freshman at UW Whitewater for occupational safety and health and yeah.

Jill:

Two safety people in one family.

Katie:

Yeah. Yeah, it's kind of a double whammy. But through that I found out that whitewater offered a new environmental emphasis that would allow me to take the science classes that I really wanted to take, but still be in kind of a more active field where I wouldn't have to be outside year round and Wisconsin and I could still ... I don't want to say have a job at graduation because I don't really know how that works for ecologists, but I wanted something a little more guaranteed. So I entered my freshman year of college as a declared safety major and had a few existential crisis as after that, but I stayed the course and I got my bachelors in safety and health and then a few years later my master's. So that's how I got here.

Jill:

That's a great story. And I'm just thinking about your friend who was kind of calling you out on your expertise and being a predictor of the future.

Katie:

I'm a finder.

Jill:

Really pretty young. Yeah.

Katie:

Yeah. Like I said, I was afraid of everything, so I think it was like the Ferris wheel and I commented on how anything that can be taken apart that quickly is probably not that safe or something and oh I don't want to ride on this, but I did it anyway and I survived. So-

Jill:

I can tell you a little Ferris wheel story. I had a coworker in one job ago who he told I was asking him. He was from South Africa originally and I said, tell me your story, how did you get to the United States? And we were both working in the poultry industry at the time. And I said, how did this path happened for you? And he said, I was a Ferris wheel inspector.

Katie:

Really.

Jill:

Safety Ferris wheel inspector. And he followed this particular Ferris wheel that set up at different state fairs, like you're talking about where you wanted to be the cow cleaner.

Katie:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. And so his job was to travel around and inspect them. And when they would get set up, he'd have to ride the Ferris wheel and do his inspection of course. And so we jumped on it one day and sitting across from him and the Ferris wheel was his future wife.

Katie:

Oh wow. That's so great.

Jill:

Right. And so there was a romantic story align with the Ferris wheel in addition to there really our safety inspectors that go with the traveling Ferris wheels. So you and I can breathe a little bit better about our risk aversion because I share that with you.

Katie:

The Ferris wheel is a scary thing. I mean those seats name rock and it goes up high. So it's a little scary. That's very cool though.

Jill:

Maybe someone listening to this is like a real Ferris wheel inspector and they'll want to be a guest on the podcast. So if anybody here has that expertise, Katie and I want to hear all about it.

Katie:

I absolutely do. I really do.

Jill:

So katie, you finish your bachelor's degree. When you finish that, is that when you kind of dropped into your first job as a safety specialist or an internship or. yeah, what did that look like for people who are maybe just starting out?

Katie:

Yeah. And I can really only speak to my program but that was a really big draw for me was that to complete my program, I had to complete an internship for I think 13 credits and I don't know if that's still the same credit amount, but that's what it was when I was a student and so I had my final semester of school as an intern up in the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin and I loved it. I mean it was just the best time we made a military trucks and so it was just super fun and we got to like drive them sometimes. It was just really cool. And I graduated and got a job offer from this company on the same Friday. I've never been that productive on a Friday since then.

Jill:

That's awesome.

Katie:

But it was a good day.

Jill:

That's awesome. Did your program help you find that internship or did you seek it on your own.

Katie:

Yes. Yeah, it was a result of a guest speaker that came to our students' safety organization and I interviewed with him afterwards so participate in those kinds of things because that's a great way to seek out opportunities and network and even if you don't want the internship, because I mean, my interview with them was supposed to be a practice and they sucked me in I don't even want to say I drank the Koolaid because it was a really wonderful experience. It was fantastic.

Jill:

And so did you accept the job?

Katie:

I did, yeah. I was very, very fortunate in my early career and I don't think I know anybody else that has had this opportunity where I was overseen by a safety professional who had many years of experience and he supervised me he, he was there every day and so was I. So I had a lot of guidance and then I also had multiple other safety professionals that I could spend the day with and learn from. Right in the same town.

Jill:

Company, with the same town.

Katie:

Yeah, with the company, we had a bIg team and it was so was able to learn and I was able to really get wonderful guidance so I would've been kind of silly to not accept the job and it was a great ride. Unfortunately the defense industry does have layoffs and it ... So I was laid off about like a year or so, like a year and a half afterwards, but that's okay. Like I said, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about that time and after that it took me quite a bit to find where I needed to be and where I felt happy in this field and where I felt like was the right place for me. And I really love where I'm at right now and I feel like this is where I'm meant to do my best. So that's great.

Jill:

So did you did you have a couple other stopping points after the defense one to where you are right now or?

Katie:

Yeah, a few. It's funny because I was listening to the most recent episode of this podcast on my way home today and I noticed that the gentleman was saying something about how he was kind of spoiled because he had an opportunity to kind of like start over and work somewhere where it seemed really easy all of a sudden. And I think he was going from like a chemical plant to a hydro plant or something.

Jill:

Right, yeah Harold.

Katie:

Yes, that's his name. Thank you. So I kind of felt like that at first where I got to join a company where I was the only one that did what I did and looking back I'm like, that was really stupid. I was very young and while I have what I call first year safety pro syndrome where I thought I knew everything and I was super smart.

Well, yeah, when you have somebody that you can default and ask questions of everyday, who can tell you when you're doing something wrong? Yeah. Your job is a lot easier than having to make those decisions and tell people-

Jill:

Wonder if its right.

Katie:

Yeah, exactly. So that was really, really difficult and I knew it wasn't for me and then I had another brief stop after that and that really wasn't for me either. But where I'm at now, I feel so much better. I am the only one that does what I do, but I'm okay with that at this point. One of the biggest things that I've learned is that mentors come in all sorts of forms they don't have to be a safety professional to teach you how to be a good employee. So-

Jill:

Tell us more about that. I agree with you 100%, but tell us more about that especially if someone's just getting started and they're looking for those mentors. When you say it's not necessarily somebody in safety, talk about an experience or what you learned.

Katie:

Yeah. I'm a few years ago in the company I worked for I had started out working for one safety manager who is someone I respect very much. He is super funny we get along really well. We still talk every now and then, But he left the company to seek a different opportunity he gave me really wonderful advice. He was kinda like I'm grouchy and I can grumble that all safety is done, but that's why I do it because I want to make sure I do my best so that people don't have to grumble about it and whatnot. And he told me you're too young to have that attitude, make sure you stay positive and whatnot. So I was like, oh yeah, great. And after he left I started working for somebody else and I kind of look to that person to be my mentor and that really didn't mesh.

I felt like we didn't have the same values and we didn't practice the same way and that person didn't really try to get to know me, which was really frustrating. Because I felt like it didn't understand me and I feel like I sound like that every parents 16 year old like, oh, you don't understand me and you don't like the things I liked, but it was difficult because I wanted to be my best for this person and I felt like we weren't really clicking. So I ended up having a mentor in the manufacturing engineering manager at one of my locations and he turned out to be a fantastic mentor for me. He would take me aside after meetings and be like, hey, I know that you're trying to pitch this right now and I wanted to give you some feedback.

I think that this maybe this way of pitching this idea, I don't think that's going to work because of x, y, z. But I really, I think it's a great idea. And I think if we tweak that a little bit, we can really get some success and I'd be like, oh yeah, that's great. So he helped me a lot to get like a really expensive order of security cameras approved and not all kinds of really great things like that. And he's still someone that I look to a lot and on my last day with that org I sat in his office and I was like, oh my exit interviews coming up and I just, I'm really glad that you were here for me and you looked out for me quite a bit.

So, and we're still friends as well I talk with him quite a bit still. But that was really one that stood out to me that I was able to learn something about my career from someone who didn't talk to me about safety. So that was cool.

Jill:

Yeah. And he taught you some business skills.

Katie:

He really did. He did. And one of the things that was really great for Whitewater is they had a program when I was still in school for my bachelor's degree where they set us up with mentors if you were interested. And my mentor was fantastic. We still speak like maybe like once a year, but he would really talk to me about what not to, I guess, let me restart. My mentor that I had through Whitewater would talk to me a lot about how not to lose myself in this field and that was the best advice I could get. So.

Jill:

Yeah, what did I think I know what you mean by that, but tell me what it meant to you when you heard that, how not to lose yourself.

Katie:

Yeah, he told me priorities change, but values don't. And that is the most profound advice I think I've gotten in my entire career and it applies to my life, my work at everything. And he said your values may not change because I remember he asked me something about what do you care about? And I said, oh like my family and my dog or whatever. And he said, you know what, what matters in life to you. And I had listed off a few things and he just said, okay, you need to write those down and you should never accept an opportunity that would challenge those values for example, like if you care a lot about the environment, you should make sure that you don't accept work with a company that does fracking or something or-

Jill:

Something that would be be averse to your beliefs.

Katie:

Correct. Yes. Yeah.

Jill:

That was beautiful advice.

Katie:

Thank you.

Jill:

That was beautiful advice. And I've written in about that in a similar way before. And sometimes I call it the line in the sand and knowing what your line in the sand is and knowing especially when you're trying we don't win everything when it comes to safety as you've probably picked up, even though you've been in it that long. But we don't, right?

Katie:

Not at all.

Jill:

But and so we know that there's business decisions that have to be made. Sometimes they're shades of gray. It's not black and white and easy. But if what your value is, you know what your values are rather, you know that this won't happen on my watch. Here's my line. Then it makes it easier for you to know when you should dig in and when you shouldn't. And Yeah.

Katie:

Yeah, I noticed I recall from your episode of the Accidental Safety professional that you had said that during your time with an organization that you realized that it was time for you to stop collecting a paycheck because your beliefs did not align. And that really resounded with me really strongly because I'm sure so many people have been there. And it's okay to part ways to say, I can't do this anymore and after that don't let it ruin your view of safety. I mean, I've had so many existential crisis within my career where I'm like, oh, I don't want to do this anymore, what am I doing? And is this even going to be worth my time. But never forget why you went into it in the first place and what matters to you.

Jill:

Right and it goes back to those values. I recently did an exercise on determining what your two core values are and you think two, whoa, like, how do you get your values down to two? And it was an exercise I did in a leadership book, I just finished called Dare to Lead and it's by an author that I really admire, social scientists named Bernais Brown. And so I went through this exercise and I had a team go through this exercise with me a couple of weeks ago to where you come up with your two values and my two core values ended up being dignity and perseverance. And I'm like, okay, perseverance, that makes total sense to me. Like I do persevere through things in my life and I could come up with all kinds of personal and professional perseverance stories in my head.

And then dignity. I'm like, yeah, that's why I get kind of riled up at certain things if I feel someone's dignity, whether it's my own family members an employees, people aren't being treated the same or fairly. That kind of gets under my skin. And so since I did that exercise, when I'm really into something, whether I'm thinking this is the best, this is the most fun, I'm so dedicated to this, I want to see it done. Or ooh man, time to dig my heels in line has been crossed. I looked at it and go, which value is this? Oh yeah, that one.

Katie:

I really like that.

Jill:

Yeah. And anyway, so I took a team through it and everybody came up with something different and we shared stories about why did you pick that and what does it mean in your life and how do you live it out in your home life and in your work life. It was fun.

Katie:

I really like that a lot. I'm definitely going to pocket that idea for later. I've got some places that we can certainly use that. That's very cool. Thank you for sharing.

Jill:

Yeah, you're welcome. So I'm interested to hear so you've been a practicing safety professional for how many years now?

Katie:

I am coming up on my sixth year in June, but I still feel like it's only been a year sometime.

Jill:

Yeah, the line is. Hello, my name is Katie. I'm just getting started. Hello, my name is Jay. I mean that's, that's it. That's life. It's always a chapter, chapter next, chapter. Next. So at what point did you decide that you're going to go back to grad school and why did you decide to do that?

Katie:

That's a great question. I decided about three months after I got out of school that I wanted to go back to grad school and I think my big reasoning for it kind of goes back to that saying that you do your undergrad because you have to, but your graduate work is for yourself because you want to. And I think that's really true. I chose to go back to school because one of my long term career goals is hopefully all things go well. I would love to teach someday that's quite a distance someday. And in order to be a credible professor you need to have quite a bit of acronyms after your name, if you will. And that's felt like the most natural choice for me. In addition to I love to learn and I'm sure some of my professors are hearing this and they're probably chuckling because they remember how horrible of a student I was at times.

I'm not a great student. I'm really bad with due dates when it comes to my homework sometimes because I get really caught up in wanting to find this one answer or overloading a certain topic and whatnot. And I would have to back up and that was something that I learned in time, thankfully for grad school but I wanted to learn more and I was looking forward to taking version 2.0 of my classes from the professors that I so admired.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. So you back to grad school ... So you've been successfully doing a job and going to grad school at the same time. For anybody who's maybe thinking about that, how did it go for you and do you have any advice for people who might be in the middle of it or contemplating it?

Katie:

I mean, do it, the only person that can hold you back is yourself. You have to make the time, you really do. And I can't really say it was that difficult for me. I mean it was, I guess, but I don't have children. I'm married but we don't have kids. So I look at some of my classmates who have kids and a job and have so much more on their plate and they made it work very, very well for them. But what I would say is use your calendar, make time for your schoolwork. And of course make sure you apply your work to your schooling and your schooling to your work. But yeah, I mean if you want it, go get it.

Jill:

Wonderful. And so while you were in grad school, were you able to apply what you were just saying, like where you sort of using your current job for a test ground to test out new things that you were learning?

Katie:

Yeah, definitely. I have a couple of examples of how well it went. I guess I'll pick like one, I had learned through my job how to do five why analysis and we were in my system safety class, we were reading, we were having a discussion about how a particular accident could have been prevented and I don't remember the exact boat name, but it was like a boat that sank in England and they had ... They opened these bay doors to vent out some smoke and the boat got swamped and sank. And I remember being able to use that five why tool really was a lot of fun too. And I felt like I was like, yes. And I got to the conclusion that they shouldn't have to open those doors. Like the smoke is the problem.

And my professor was like, there you go, you got it. I was like, yes. So that was a little when it was good. Yeah, I've definitely had a hard time with, like I remember I was very young still. It feels weird to say that sometimes but I was like only like a year or two into my career and I was taking a class on a disaster response and recovery, which was amazing. I loved it and I had to kinda like write a business continuity plan and I didn't do very well because I was like, oh my site doesn't really have an emergency response plan that is like really thorough. It was kinda like, oh, if there's a fire, everybody leave. So that I struggled a lot with. And looking back I would have reached out to some of my resources a lot more and I would have asked for help. But I was young and like I said, I thought I knew everything so I was like, oh, it'll be fine. It'll be fine. It was not fine.

Jill:

And then on the flip did having the experience you did in the career the years of experience you had in that the fact that you were actively working in the practice, do you think that enrich or help your pursuit of your master's degree as well compared to being a in undergrad?

Katie:

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely it did. Because I remember being an undergraduate student in not knowing what the heck we were talking about sometimes because like many fields, I'm sure in safety we don't always understand it on paper, but in practice it's like, oh, that makes sense. So yeah, that was kind of a lot easier the second time around to be able to say, oh here's my example of this or I can apply that particular tool to this. It was a lot easier and more fun.

Jill:

Yeah. So Katie, I'm interested to hear how have you worked on building your street cred as someone new female in our industry young rather and, yeah, what sort of things have you done? can't believe you did or was a great win or something that might plant a seed for someone else.

Katie:

Yeah. It's funny, I was just talking about this with someone today about how being a female in manufacturing can be kind of weird, but I'm okay with it. I mean a lot of my good friends are boys, so I was often one of the only women in my class at school or whatever. So I was kind of just used to it. But for me I think the biggest thing that has really helped me build my credibility to always be myself. I have tried to be other people to make a boss happy or a plant manager happy and It just there's never really a role you can play as well as you can play yourself. So that really helps me. And I've had people say to me, one of my mentors said to me, he was like you're kind of out there, like you can be a little weird sometimes, but it works for you.

And it works for us because you're always yourself and you're a real person. I don't try and act like I know things I don't know. I am the first person to say, hey, really don't know what that what you're talking about. Can we go look, can you talk me through that a little more?

Jill:

Tell me more.

Katie:

That seems to help. Yeah, that seems to help a lot because people see that I do genuinely care and whatnot, but I need them to teach me a little more. And I think that kind of helps because it gives, they see that I don't care what your job title is, I respect you if you are respectful person and I know that every person has a lesson they can teach me and that seems to have helped the most.

Jill:

You're being authentically yourself and that's your value. That's wonderful.

Katie:

yes. Yes.

Jill:

That's great. And so true. Everybody has something to teach us, right? Whether it's the thing that we would never replicate and we go, oh, I would not do that. Or that is a great tip tool learning whatever it is, someone's tribal knowledge that they share with you and kind of file that stuff away.

Katie:

Yeah. I had a gentleman stopped by recently after a training and it was so fantastic that he did this for me. I think he works in like one of our assembly departments. He's a great guy for listening. Thank you. He stopped by and he said I think you're very young but you're very smart. And he said, but I noticed he's like, I think you have a nervous tick where you play with your hair a little bit. And I was like, oh wow, hey, that must be really annoying. And he was like, yeah, a little bit. I was like, thank you so much for telling me that. I actually really appreciate it. And he was like, I can't tell if you're like saying that because you want me to leave or I'm like, no, I really appreciate it. Thank you. I'd be a fool not to listen to you because obviously it was memorable and I don't want you to just remember that. And now and now I'm very mindful of that? I'm really glad that he said that to me, so.

Jill:

That's awesome. I personally try to remember that about my Midwest accent, but it just doesn't work when I'm working on trying not to accentuate my o's. But-

Katie:

Oh, me too. It happens all the time.

Jill:

Both of us [inaudible] from the Midwest. yeah.

Katie:

Yeah, I didn't think that was a thing until I listened to a training I recorded and it was like, oh god, that was painful. So Wisconsin.

Jill:

That's awesome. So Katie with regard to like business acumen because you started telling us, you're telling a story earlier about the mentor who pulled you aside when you were trying to do an ask for something that you needed to acquire some funds for and get approval for. What are some best practices or things that you've learned or that you'd like to share? Things that are outside of safety but impact our practice so much?

Katie:

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I've learned when it comes to being good at sales, especially when it comes to safety because there's not always a really obvious return on investment for that. Pick battles that are small enough to win but big enough to matter.

Jill:

Beautiful.

Katie:

And that I think is. Thank you. I wish I came up with that. I don't know who did, but it is so helpful to me. There are battles that are really important to fight and sometimes you have to win something else first. I know recently we had wanted to purchase some fall protection and someone was really frustrated like, oh, I've tried to do this like three years ago. And they said no. And it was like, well so and so is has just gotten the purchase approved.

Like we should have asked her forever ago because she was able to get that done and it's okay if you need someone else to fight the battle for you I accept all the help I'm offering. So that helps a lot. But then also I think it's okay if you have to change your mind and say later on actually I want this or actually this could work instead. I'm going through some of that right now with a learning management system where it isn't necessarily going perhaps as we'd like it to, but my view on it is changing hey, it would be really cool if we, instead of buying all these courses if we made them ourselves because we can brand them and we can have various employees from around the company participate. And it's fun when you hear your friend in your training, it's like, oh yeah, that's awesome. So that was really specific sorry.

Jill:

It's really good. So essentially, you're talking about triaging like you said, you're trying to figure out what is big enough to matter, but at the same time you're going to find those. You might change your mind on the process because you're learning more as you're moving through it.

Katie:

Yeah. You gather new information and you change how you process it or what you do after you've processed it. So yeah, I think, yeah, I mean I remember in the beginning I used to want to do everything my way instead of prescribing to wherever I was at that time. And sometimes it's really nice to not be such a control freak and to sit back and say, oh, what you have is fine. If it meets the requirements. That's fine. I'm not going to force you to change if it's not broken. So that helps a lot for me.

Jill:

Pick something somewhere else where you can have a what did you say is small enough to win big enough to matter where you can have a big matter.

Katie:

Yes, small enough to win, big enough to matter definitely.

Jill:

That's great. That's great. So I'm curious to know since this crane collapse and Miller Park was so impactful to you when you were little. Have you had any opportunities to work with or around cranes in your six years yet?

Katie:

Not with those cranes. My brother did for a while. He was in construction safety for quite a few years. But he decided it really wasn't for him anymore. But yeah, he actually got to work with a gentleman that was I'm not sure how familiar you are with that whole story, but Osha was on site the day that happened and took the video of it falling and my brother has worked a lot with that gentleman. He's so wonderfully smart. But that definitely kind of made me afraid of big, big cranes. But we talk about it every now and then in our crane training courses that hey if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. So I kinda refer back to that scenario sometimes even if I don't mention it, it's definitely on my mind that that's what I'm remembering.

Jill:

Oh, interesting. And stayed that close to your family?

Katie:

Oh yeah, definitely very. I mean we're all Milwaukeeans and so that was kind of always there. And I remember as well, I'm kind of even crazier a company nearby to that accident, had a serious explosion when I was in high school and I ended up actually working for that company later and I was able to kind of learn how that affected them and that was really, really interesting to see the impact that it had even 10, 15 years later on these people and really how they did safety as well. It was just, it was crazy. So big safety memories for me.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. And really how it impacted individual human beings. And it seems like that's a part of what drives you.

Katie:

Absolutely. It does. It does. I mean, I think we all sometimes it gets tiring to say to yourself or to others I want you to go home the same way you came in. Like I don't want to say that anymore sometimes. And I'm like, do you like having fingers because I do. Or what do you care most about in your life? Is it your kids or your grandkids, like do it for them or whatever. But I tell people When we talk about really a serious accidents, I'm like if they got up that morning just like you and I did today, and they may have hit snooze on the alarm just like we did, they packed their lunch just like we did and they did all these things. They are real people and that just, that is something that never is lost on me is that these are people with real lives and everybody is a people with a real life. So yeah, that's definitely a driving force.

Jill:

It is, it is for me as well. So Katie, I'm interested to know what is your favorite piece of safety or what is your favorite task like what do you really love doing since, I mean, maybe hard to narrow down because of the scope of our responsibility is quite great. But what's your favorite thing right now?

Katie:

I can say my least favorite thing I would say is economics. I'm really bad at it. I'm good at the problems. I'm just bad at the solutions. So I like to contract that out. But I think my favorite thing about safety isn't any one individual thing. It's that I get to be every single thing I ever wanted to be except for the cow cleaner every day. I get to be a little bit of a lawyer or a nurse or a teacher or [crosstalk] drew. Yes. Yeah, It's funny, I don't like doing environmental. I'm really bad at it. I really wish that I loved it. But it's so hard for me, so I'm happy to pass that off to someone else, but yeah, I get to-

Jill:

Those lawsa are hard.

Katie:

There are so confusing. It's tough. But yeah, I get to do everything I ever wanted to do. I get to be an investigator and play Nancy drew and do all those fun things and I really love that I can ... I'm one of those people that like I get lost when I'm really learning about something. I want to learn everything I can possibly know about it.

Jill:

The whole plate of knowledge.

Katie:

Yeah. I click on the references on Wikipedia all the time. I love them. So I really love that aspect of safety, that becoming that subject matter expert or even just diving into a problem and realizing, oh, I have to learn about this before I can fix it. I really love that part of my job.

Jill:

Yeah. Lifelong learner. It's what's setting you up, Katie, probably to be that-

Katie:

Hope so.

Jill:

... The professor that in your long-term goal, your long term goal being a professor.

Katie:

Hope so some day, right.

Jill:

I think I'd like to mention here as well you and I are talking about your education and safety and how you've gone about it and what the path has been for you. And you've mentioned your Alma Mater, the university of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, and in episode seven, for anyone who's been following the podcast or is just starting I have a conversation with one of Katie's professors, Dr. Todd Lewis sheen and in that episode Todd really takes a deep dive into how do you educate yourself and safety, whether it's a formal education like Katie's talking about right now or whether it's how do you self-educate or maybe it's doing some of the things that you're talking about, Katie and it's reading and reading and reading and teaching yourself and becoming an expert in a particular area. But episode seven really kind of takes a deep dive on different ways that you can educate yourself in safety, whether it's with a formal education or outside of that.

Katie:

Oh, definitely. And Dr. Lewis Shane he's kinda like my .... When I have a really bad day. I'm so excited now that I have this podcast so that I can listen to because he is such a motivator for me. I mean, on unlike my worst days. I remember the time that he told me. He was like, yeah, there were times I thought you were going to fail out, but you did it. And I'm like, yeah, I did. So like I said, it was not the greatest student when I was younger, but yeah he is such a great resource. I mean, I know he said you can reach out to him, but he's so passionate about education and so helpful in answering those questions. It's great to have.

Jill:

It's great to have a collection of mentors.

Katie:

Oh, absolutely.

Jill:

And people you can reach out for different pieces of advice in different chapters of your life.

Katie:

Oh, absolutely. I feel very spoiled as well to have kind of grown up in this profession at this time because I feel part of ... My friend Jason and I he went to whitewater with me. He and I like to say we're like the new school of safety where we are fortunate enough that we are really never alone. We have each other and I have other friends that are in safety and it's a very small group because I you've got to be careful what you say to people. You don't want to divulge too much to the wrong person or what have you, but those friends that I have in safety are so fantastic for me because when you want to talk about it like my poor husband, I'll come home and be like, and this guy was hand polishing on a lathe.

Can you believe it? And he's like, that's bad, right? I'm like, yeah, that's bad. But I can text that to my friend Alicia, who works across the country. And she'll are you kidding me and what did you do? And I'll be like, oh, do you have ideas about this or whatever, and it's so nice, but we're in that time where we have classmates or coworkers that did this with us and we get to grow up in this field together and I feel like that's rare, but it's really starting to become more common. and I'm so grateful for that.

Jill:

Well, you're right, our practice is small. We're small cohort compared to other professions like accountants or something.

Katie:

Oh yeah.

Jill:

And it's true, many of us do know one another and Katie I think you're right. Ours is one of those jobs that's a little bit tricky to bring home because people don't understand it I do the same thing with my family. I'm like, how was your day? Well if I really went into this you might fall asleep. So, but I can call one of my friends and safety though we may not work together and we can talk about It like you said and we can problem solve and same thing happens with me, safety professionals from around the country will say I'm kind of stumped on this one, or I just need somebody to run this by. This is what I'm thinking about doing. Can we talk about it? And I think it's really important for our profession that we keep those professional friendships alive because we're there to help one another in the end because our work isn't proprietary.

Katie:

Oh yeah. And I can't tell you how fantastic it is. In this part of Wisconsin especially, I'm not sure how true this is like nationwide. But it's a growing field for sure. But in Wisconsin, it's kinda like if you didn't go to Whitewater for safety, like nobody knows who you are, but like I didn't really realize how everybody went there. And so it's kinda like you really can't burn your bridges and you've got to be careful what you say. But also usually it seems like if people are still in this field that went to whitewater it's because they love it. And they're good at what they do in there. They're good people. You gotta keep those communication lines open.

And I mean if someone's already done the work ask them for help. Like today I asked my friend for a hey, could you send me this PowerPoint that you have or oh, do you have any. I like a lot of I like to try to be funny a lot so I'll if I make something safety funny, I'll send it to one of my safety friends in it can be really nice because they're like the only ones that get the safety joke.

It's so nice. I can't tell you how nice it is to have that network and still to have this podcast as well, to be able to hear from these seasoned professionals that I can learn something from every single one of them is just fantastic time to be in this field especially as a newbie.

Jill:

Yeah. So as we're rounding out our time together today, Katie, is there advice that you have for someone who's maybe just getting going or someone who's sort of at their same career places that that you'd like to impact?

Katie:

That's a big question. I think the biggest piece of advice that I would give myself, especially that's kind of what I look at it as a don't give up If this is what you want to do it, it is not always easy. Sometimes you need to like go to your car and cry or say bad words or something because it can be really hard, but don't let a bad incident or a bad workplace culture really ruin the field for you because you went into this for a reason because you care because nobody goes into this because they want the money or because they want like the street cred, if you will. Everybody groans when they see us coming. Nobody wants to it's not like a field where it's a thankless field. Let me say that it's a thankless field and you can't let that wear you down. If you love this field, you'll make it work. But don't be afraid to search for those places that make you feel at home and make you feel like, yes, I can do this. And I do feel like I'm making a difference because you might not be in that place and that's okay. It's okay to walk away.

Jill:

Great advice, Katie. Great advice.

Katie:

Hope it made sense.

Jill:

It did made sense and I think that's a great place. That's a great place to leave it as well as the quotable quote that you said that you can't take credit for, fight for things that are small enough to win, but big enough to matter and-

Katie:

Yes, pick your battles.

Jill:

Yeah, and to remember to a mine out those mentors, wherever they are, whether they're within your own workplace or within your own discipline. Mentors certainly matter. Well, thank you so much for being a guest today, Katie. Really appreciate it.

Katie:

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Jill:

Welcome and thank you all so much for joining in today and listening and thank you for the work that you do in safety to make sure that people are going home with all of their fingers, as Katie alluded to earlier, and you can listen to all of our episodes at vividlearningsystems.com or subscribe on the podcast player of your choosing. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's yourself, please contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Until next time, thanks for listening.