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“When I came to LBS, I found my tribe”
Tribalism is arguably one of the world’s most powerful forces. It’s at the heart of relationships, families, brands and entire communities. Some say that if you want to understand a person’s values and what makes them tick, you must first understand their tribe.
“When I came to LBS, I found my tribe. The School continues to be the place that I feel most at home and inspired,” says Katherine Armstrong MBA1994. “That’s the selfish part of why I volunteer. The altruistic part is that I want the School to thrive, not only for the community, but for the world.
“This might sound idealistic, but if a capitalist system is the cornerstone of a healthy economy, LBS has an important role to play in society. It’s therefore really important to invest my time and philanthropic money in helping the School to achieve its mission.”
Katherine’s path to volunteering has been consistent. After studying for her MBA, she became an LBS recruitment volunteer, an admissions interviewer and helped form a New England Club based in Boston. She led the Connecticut Club, served on the leadership team of the New York Club, and is today mentoring a MiM graduate to run the Charlotte Club in North Carolina, where she lives.
Katherine recently moved to the area after closing down her business, which provided change management, corporate, strategic and leadership development, and communications consultancy to Fortune 100 companies and small and medium-sized enterprises. She started the business in 1998, four years after completing her MBA.
“I had no intentions of going into a large corporation after LBS. But I was recruited by Johnson & Johnson after a strategy class project,” she says. “The School lit a spark in me. It gave me the curiosity and confidence to approach the vice president of public affairs at Johnson & Johnson directly for the project: it turned into a consulting assignment, a full-time job and an exciting career.
“My entire career post-MBA wouldn’t have happened without LBS. It not only got me into Johnson & Johnson, it also gave me the courage to walk away from a high-powered corporate career and start my own business.”
She wrapped up that business by joining a client company, Volac International, as its director of business transformation, working for and alongside MBA1994 classmates James Neville and Neville Chapman respectively. Today, Katherine is a change management and engagement leader at Sealed Air Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that’s moving its headquarters to Charlotte, her “new professional home”.
Despite her demanding career, Katherine offers the School unwavering support. On Wednesday 8 June 2016, she and fellow LBS alumni sipped wine at her house to inspire commitment during the School’s first 36-hour online fundraising challenge, LBS Global Give. The initiative aimed to drive participation and raised £117,078 from 340 donors in more than 32 countries.
“When I think about what motivates many LBS alumni, it’s the getting together, it’s that tribal feeling. So I sent out emails that said, ‘Let me buy you a drink during Global Give.’”
The day before inviting alumni into her home, Katherine hosted a ‘Happy Hour’ in Washington DC to kick-start the fundraising – she even enlisted the help of her daughter who studies there. The city was the scene for a great personal moment. An alumnus asked her why she gave her time and money to the School, as he saw LBS as a high-performing institution rather than a ‘traditional charity’. In reply, Katherine talked about the School’s ability to improve local and world economies with the application of research, and how fundraising helps to maintain its top-tier position. “Within two hours, someone who was curious, yet sceptical, had made a gift,” she smiles. “It was fulfilling to see that turnaround.”
As a member of the International Alumni Council (IAC) and its Governance and Nominations Committee, Katherine is personally invested in the School’s future. “It’s an honour for me because I’m able to serve at a global and influential level,” she says.
One of Katherine’s goals is to create a pipeline of IAC members to contribute to the School’s mission. However, she says, there is no one perfect pathway. The IAC, which seeks to develop, enhance and support a network of mutually beneficial and enduring relationships, needs diverse, dedicated alumni. “It’s more about promoting the IAC as an aspirational volunteer opportunity,” she explains.
Her advice to would-be members? “You need great energy and a proven track record of supporting the School in achieving its strategy in a way that lines up with your strengths. Joining the council is a great position, not an imposition.”
Katherine describes her life today as “personally and professionally fulfilling”. For that, she credits the School’s network, which has helped her secure new clients, form enduring friendships and build valuable career connections. When it comes to her recent job search in a brand new city, she says, “The career coach provided by LBS and the School’s name were the real clinchers.”
Find out more about volunteering at LBS.