An interview with new AWESOME Leader, Christine Koch… 

March 28, 20245 minute read

We’re excited to introduce Christine Koch, Vice President of Operations and Purchasing at Caplugs, who has recently joined the AWESOME network. In a recent interview, Christine shared her impressive career journey, offering thoughtful insights and lessons learned. Her dedication to operational excellence and collaboration has left a lasting impact on those around her. We’re grateful for the opportunity to learn from her expertise and welcome her as an invaluable member of our network.

AWESOME

We’re so happy to welcome you to the AWESOME community of women leaders, what about this network makes you the most excited?

Christine Koch

Being able to share ideas across such a large network with other female leaders and to gain insight into their experiences, challenges, and best practices. It’s always nice to expand my network. Sometimes, we get caught up in the day-to-day and forget that there are a lot of women out there working on similar challenges or issues. The ability to connect globally with other people across this amazing community.

AWESOME

Can you share a significant achievement or challenge you’ve encountered in your career journey? How did you overcome it, and what did you learn from the experience?

Koch

Before entering the workforce, attending college and earning my degree in chemical engineering was one of my biggest challenges. It was a very challenging course of study with a huge workload, but at the same time, it was very rewarding. When I was done, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, especially in a field that tended to be dominated by males. I was one of a few females in the curriculum, and it felt good to walk away with a STEM degree. It was not easy, and it taught me that things aren’t perfect, but you can do anything with hard work and determination. I think we tend to learn more when things may not be perfect, which was one of the big lessons I learned while going through my degree program.

After college, I worked for an automotive company, which was also a heavily male dominated field. However, I was fortunate enough to have good mentors along the way, women and men, who helped me through that journey and provided guidance. I was encouraged to go back and earn my MBA, which was another huge accomplishment for me. I worked in the automotive industry for about six years and received my master’s during that time. From there, I went on to Caplugs, where I am today. And it will be 19 years in August.

It was nice coming out of a very large automotive industry and moving into something a little bit smaller. At Caplugs, I felt empowered and could make decisions quicker compared to being in a large organization that tends to have some bureaucracy and red tape. I felt like I could roll up my sleeves and start to prove myself. Over the last 19 years with Caplugs, it has been tremendous, with so many growth opportunities. I was promoted along the way from Manager to Director and now Vice President. I’ve proven myself, I have a seat at the table, I have a voice, and I feel well-respected by my peers and colleagues.

AWESOME

Your career journey sounds so incredible and inspiring. I really liked what you said about how determination and hard work can take you anywhere.

Koch

Of course. There are always trials and tribulations along the way, but you can pick yourself up and surround yourself with good people. I was fortunate to have some good mentors along the way and people I could lean on.

AWESOME

Do you do mentoring yourself?

Koch

I do and have done so throughout my time at Caplugs. Before coming to Caplugs, I was the one being mentored, and then when I joined Caplugs, I was able to start mentoring folks who were working up through the ranks. I gave them career and educational guidance, and personal development advice. I find mentoring very rewarding for both myself and the mentee. I think it provides an opportunity to connect and expand your network. That person becomes a part of your network. They can lean on me, and I can lean on them. Caplugs is part of a bigger private equity, Berwind, and they also provide mentoring opportunities across different operating companies within the private equity family.

AWESOME

You mentioned that you’ve been in this industry for over 20 years. Along your journey, have you seen an increase in the number of women leaders?

Koch

Yes, absolutely. Over the years, we’ve brought in more females into our purchasing supply chain. My purchasing team today is all females with unique and diverse backgrounds. I have a team of three people on the West Coast, and then I have two individuals here on the East Coast with different backgrounds and levels of experience. It’s nice to have folks who can count on each other and learn from each other. It’s been very exciting to see that growth over the years.

AWESOME

How do you balance the demands of leadership with personal and professional growth, and what strategies have you found effective in managing work-life balance?

Koch

Balancing can be tricky. There’s this 24/7 mentality of constantly checking emails and staying in touch with others. And even when I’m away from the office, there are times when I must do that, but I do try to separate work and personal time. I use my vacation, and I try to be with my daughters and husband when I’m on vacation. I surround myself with good people at work, and I have great people on my team, so when I’m not at the office, I’m confident that they can handle it and feel empowered to make decisions when I’m away.

AWESOME

What advice would you offer to other women aspiring to leadership roles within the supply chain industry?

Koch

We know that supply chain can be very male dominated, but I think women are definitely making strides and creating an impact. Females bring a very diverse approach to the way we lead with empathy, collaboration, and cooperation. If I were to give any advice to women, it would be: know your value and be confident in it, and do not be afraid to share your ideas. Speak up in meetings, engage with your peers and even with folks at an executive level.

As women, we tend to be critical of ourselves. We have inner critics and sometimes we hold ourselves back. I want to encourage women to be confident in their abilities and what they can bring. I read a book by Jennifer McCollum called In Her Own Voice that does an excellent job talking about the hurdles women have to overcome—and one thing she mentioned is that men are very good at jumping into positions and applying for them even if they may only have 5 of the 10 criteria. In contrast, women make sure that all 10 boxes are checked. I think women can learn something from our male counterparts, that you don’t necessarily need all 10 boxes checked. If you have 7 or 8, you should take that chance and believe in yourself.