Katherine Pond is the Vice President of platform content and partnerships at VIZIO and has been working in this field for well over 15 years now. She absolutely loves her career and relishes the opportunity to share some insights that she was lucky enough to pick up along the way thanks to mentors, friends, and colleagues in the industry.
How did you get started in STEM?
I was fortunate to start my career in STEM in computer memory sales. I was working as a
program manager and as an asset manager in the industry and I was fortunate to really be able to learn and understand a lot about supply chain and that's continued to serve me well now in my job at VIZIO. And it's really not something that I originally anticipated being my career and so while I think many people certainly have started their careers in STEM with the idea that that's where they're going to land and that's what they want to do, my story's a little bit different. It's a story where I was fortunate to find a job that I loved and have continued to build on that by trying new things, saying yes to new opportunities and really have continued to develop a career and a life that I love in this industry.
What passion still drives you?
The thing that continues to keep me passionate about my career in STEM is the fact that this
industry is constantly changing. Every morning there's a new challenge, every day there's something new to learn. The industry is constantly changing and evolving and growing. It means that I never know all of the answers every single day. Every day there's an opportunity for me to learn something new, to read a new article, to learn about a new technology. It really keeps me alert, it keeps me focused, and it also gives me an incredible opportunity to extend chances to my team to learn new things as well, which is a huge part of why I'm passionate about this industry as well. The ability to really grow and lead teams and give people the opportunities to learn and grow in the same way that I have is something that really keeps me moving every single day.
What is your number one tip for someone who wants a career in STEM?
I love getting to share what my number one tip for STEM is because I've been asked this question before and the answer is always the same and I think it always will be, which is to “say Yes.” Oftentimes, I think we can be held back by feeling like we don't know the answers, by feeling like I've never done this before, I've never achieved this before, I've never accomplished this before, I've never been exposed to this before, but if you say yes to every new opportunity, if you say, "I want to try that, I want to learn that, I want to dive in and do something new," you are going to open doors that you never could have imagined. You are going to get exposure, you are going to get opportunities and you are going to grow, both in your career and in your resume, but also just as a human, as a person. That willingness to try something new, to try something hard, to do something that's never been done before, when maybe you don't have that experience, say yes, that's my number one tip.
What was your educational path to your STEM career?
When I look at my path to land here where I am and the education that led me to this point, my
story is unique. I did not apply to hundreds of different colleges. I didn't even apply to 10 different universities, I actually applied to one. I had a very specific idea, I wanted to be in Southern California. Here's where I would say your path does not have to be traditional to land in a place where you can achieve success. I've been very fortunate and very, very blessed by that. I went to a little known liberal studies university here in Southern California, Concordia
University Irvine and I'm incredibly proud of that, but it was actually that liberal studies background that brought me to where I am. It was this well-rounded education that gave me the opportunity to dive in and try different things and to have this understanding of marketing and science and business and economics.
I think there are going to be people out there that are looking at this and maybe they're already
far enough into their university career that they're going, "Is it too late? Is it too late for me to get that career that I'm thinking of or I'm dreaming about?" It's not, it's really, really not. They ask you when you're 18 years old or 20 years old, what do you want to do with your life or what do you want to do with your career, and I definitely, when I was 18 or 20, would not have said that I envisioned myself working in a position where I got to negotiate amazing contracts with technology and entertainment companies and lead technology initiatives at a corporation like Vizio, but the beauty of it is, again, because I've said yes time and time again in my career, that education was really the foundation that served for me to be able to land where I am today. That, and a number of great mentors and colleagues and friends who have really supported me throughout my career.
Things to look for in prospective employers
I think there's probably one more thing that I would share with particularly women who are looking at this career and this opportunity. I think that oftentimes, as women, we're a little nervous to confess that we don't know the answer to something. We feel like we have to know the answer. One of the other pieces of advice that I would give is find trusted colleagues, find trusted peers. We know that not in every situation is it okay to say, "I don't know the answer to this," but find that safe space where it is okay to say, "I don't know the answer. I need a little bit of help. Show me how you do this. Show me what's working for you."
I've been very, very fortunate in my career. There are a couple of guys on our engineering team
who lead our engineering team, who are very, very close friends and colleagues, who give me great advice and great mentors of mine as well. I go to them with questions, and likewise on our ad sales team and our operations team today, people that I call when I need management advice or want to bounce ideas off of people.
Find those people, find that crew, find that tribe that you can ask those questions of where you
feel like you can say, "I don't know," or, "I need advice," because if you always pretend to know the answer to everything, you're going to be a lot more limited in what you can achieve.