Alumni Spotlight: Kate Watts ’08

Meet Kate Watts, Executive Director of Advancing Women in Tech! Kate graduated from Denison in 2008 with a BA in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies. During her time at Denison, she was involved with the Student Activities Council, Greek Life, and the Alumni & Family Engagement Office. Kate’s engagement in all these organizations helped her to gain many meaningful connections across campus. Three years after completing undergrad, Kate went to Vanderbilt and got her Master of Education in Higher Education Administration. During her M Ed. program, Kate was especially interested in the issues of education policy and access to education.

In the time between Denison and Vanderbilt, Kate worked a variety of jobs. She did retail work as well as serving as the Political Director for The ONE Campaign in Columbus. These couple years of jumping around jobs Kate found to be helpful for her career development and pre-graduate school experience. She graduated in 2008, a tough year for recent college grads to find employment. In discussing grad school, Kate says, “Go in with intention.” She views the couple of years she took off from school to be crucial in determining what she wanted to actually study in grad school. While her time in class at Vanderbilt was informative, she found her out-of-classroom experiences in grad school to be particularly valuable, such as internships and fellowships.

As the Executive Director of Advancing Women in Tech, Kate has many responsibilities she undertakes in order to keep her nonprofit organization running. She is in charge of managing partnerships, expanding resources for the organization, building the team, and working towards meeting the mission of Advancing Women in Tech, which is: empower[ing] women and members of other underrepresented groups to the highest levels of tech leadership. Advancing Women in Tech is a relatively new nonprofit that was founded in 2017 by Nancy Wang as a volunteer-based organization. Kate was actually the first employee hired; she joined the team as the Director of Operations and took on the title Executive Director last year. Advancing Women in Tech provides courses and mentorship for adult learners, especially those underrepresented in the tech industry. Working at AWIT has allowed Kate to combine her interest in education with her passion for nonprofit work.

Kate’s career path is unique in that her educational and professional experiences intersect with the nonprofit, government, and education sectors. She says, “Anything that’s for the public good, there [will be] intersections” across industries. These cause-driven careers allow employees to not only pursue a mission, but also dabble in different lines of work. Due to the fact that nonprofit work is such a diverse field, Kate was able to combine her interest in education/politics to work at different organizations that address these kinds of issues. In discussing nonprofit work in general, Kate says, “Focus on the mission and impact is critical.” Because there are so many nonprofits that exist on a local and national level, it is important to narrow down your interests within this sector.

In her own words, Kate describes the need for those interested in nonprofit work to be “generalist,” or have the capacity to be flexible with skills. Many nonprofits have small staffs that require employees to be able to fill different roles and work across departments, so adaptability is something Kate stresses people should practice. In this tight knit teams, Kate appreciates having the ability to “have voice and influence” in the organization she works for and collaborate with team members.

When asked about the advice she would give to Denison students interested in nonprofit work, Kate had many great insights. “Be willing to jump, explore, grow” she first emphasized. She also suggested trying out different projects to see what is engaging to you; “go down rabbit holes that feel intriguing.” Kate has had many valuable experiences across different industries, and she continues to grow in her professional identity. As she continues with her career, she continues to check in with herself and ask questions such as “Am I being challenged in a way that feels manageable?” and“Am I doing work that is engaging?”

Connect with Kate on LinkedIn!

By Fiona Schultz
Fiona Schultz Peer Career Coach and Peer Fellow: Nonprofit, Education and Government Career Community