Kara Demmien is an Associate Project Manager in our Retail Design division, a role in which she regularly demonstrates her commitment to help retail design clients achieve financial objectives through her knowledge of their brand, business, processes and culture. Her clients include retail and restaurant brands nationwide. Kara has been named to design:retail magazine’s 40 Under 40 and also serves as an office leader in our Williamsport location.
As part of our Celebrating LDG Women in Leadership series, we’ll learn more about Kara, from her path to leadership to the advice she has for future leaders.
Did you always see yourself in a leadership role? If not, when did you realize you might find yourself in that position and what effect did it have on you?
Looking back, I didn’t see myself as a leader until I was a young adult, but I definitely displayed characteristics as early as elementary school. I always knew I wanted to do great things and be part of something bigger. Once I was in an organization that taught and valued leadership, I realized what skills I did have and recognized the areas that I wanted to grow in. And once I started my leadership journey, I was all in – I wouldn’t want to be on any other path.
What inspires you as a leader?
Growth – as an individual, as a leader, as a parent and as a wife. I wear many hats that all drive me to want to continuously do better. I never want to let myself, my team or my family down and strive to always live out my purpose based on integrity and self-worth.
Do you have a favorite inspiration or mentor?
My parents top the list because they showed me what hard work and values were. My mother was a teacher and my father owned his own business — both worked full time jobs, raising my brother and I, and made sure we sat together as a family at the dinner table every single night. As a mother myself now, I don’t know how my mom did half of the things she did, like having an afternoon snack ready when we got off the bus, chauffeuring us to countless practices and games, navigating us through difficult situations, all while also fighting a debilitating chronic illness. They both were always my biggest supporters and I can’t thank them enough.
How does your team contribute to your success?
To quote John C. Maxwell, “If you think you’re leading but no one is following, then you’re only taking a walk.” I wouldn’t be on the path I am without my team. I’m a people person and very much enjoy working with my team and interacting with them. Seeing my team continuously strive to grow themselves gives me the inspiration to continue being a better leader.
What are some of the most significant obstacles you’ve overcome in your career and how did you get past them?
At one point, I found myself without a mentor, and I believed that was detrimental to my growth. I felt not only unsupported, but I undervalued myself as a leader who just couldn’t get out of a growth rut. Finding a new mentor who was truly interested in my career development reminded me of my purpose and how much I love what I do. And if we’re being honest, it’s hard being a working mom. There are days I feel like I’m not giving them enough, and it’s certainly a balance that I wouldn’t be able to do without my village – my husband and my parents. Coincidentally my kids are also my motivation to continue pushing myself and setting a good example for them, as my own mom did for me.
What values, techniques or support systems have you used to achieve a work-life balance?
Sometimes I relate work-life balance to balancing my role as a leader and my role as a mom, but it’s important to acknowledge and address my own identity and needs as a person. Letting go of the guilt that if I do something for myself, then I’m not doing something for my kids or career, has been life-changing. I had to reassure myself that it’s ok to look forward to the kids bedtime so I could have some me time, or that my husband was fully capable of taking care of the kids so I could have a much needed night out catching up with friends – he does a fantastic job when I have to travel a night away for work, so why should this be any different?
What other advice do you have for future leaders?
You’re never alone – always ask for help when you need it. No one can truly do it all, and it’s important to communicate when you need something. Don’t be afraid of failure, because it’s always an opportunity to learn and get better. And lastly, flexibility is fundamental to success both in the workplace and at home.