The Fold Woman: Katelyn Donnelly

The Fold Woman: Katelyn Donnelly
December 10, 2014 The Fold

Tell us a little bit about your career background and how you got to your present role:

I originally thought I wanted to be a trader on a Wall Street and pursued several roles in finance and investing.  After a brief stint at Morgan Stanley, I decided I wanted broader exposure and something more problem solving based so I transitioned to consulting.  I spent several years with McKinsey in San Francisco and then New York doing strategy and turn around work for large technology companies and financial institutions. 

I knew I didn’t want to be in consulting forever and always had an interest in working internationally. I saw an interesting project on the pipeline, working with the government of Pakistan to reform it’s education system. That was different and challenging from what I had done before.

Half way through that project the lead partner I was working for left McKinsey to join Pearson –traditionally a large publishing company and owner of the financial times and penguin books that was transforming to be an integrated learning company.  He joined Pearson as it’s Chief Education Adviser and asked me to join him to set up his office. 

I initially designed Pearson’s efficacy framework –the way that Pearson systematically measures learning outcomes among it’s portfolio of product and services that has now become the core transformation strategy of the company and developed Pearson’s approach to serve the aspiring middle class in the developing world.  Through this initial strategy work, I co-founded and now lead the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund –a venture fund that invests in for profit education companies in the developing world.  We currently have a $30M portfolio of 8 investments in Africa and Asia and have secured a larger mutli-year commitment to expand our investments and will announce this early next year.

katelyn donnelly

Katelyn wears the Warwick coat and the Harley dress in cobalt blue

What advice would you give to your younger-self when you were starting your career that you wish you had known?

I would tell myself to be more confident and proactive when seeking new opportunities.  Early in your career it’s easy to feel intimidated by people who are senior and you can feel like everyone else has it “figured out”.  As I’ve progressed I’ve learned that nobody has their entire career planned out and success is often momentary so there is no need to be shy. Be confident about what you want to achieve in the long run and seek the advice and guidance you need to get there.

How important do you think it is to build your network in order to progress in your career?

When it comes to networking, it’s important to build authentic, long-term relationships.  Networking is important but ultimately the strength of your network relies on your ability to add value and engage people productively.  Opportunities come through working with people and building organizations of people and your network is critical to accessing those opportunities.  

Katelyn Donnelly

Katelyn wears the Warwick coat and the Harley dress in cobalt blue

As a woman in business, how important is it to dress well for work?

Dressing well is vital, for both genders. However, for women there are many more options and less of a standard uniform so it’s more complicated.  People make snap judgments based on how you present yourself so it’s necessary to dress to reflect the power and confidence you want to project.  Dressing well for your field is important to establish your credibility and influence how you perceived.  

What are your ultimate workwear wardrobe staples?

My staples include a black blazer with strong clean lines, a range of well-tailored dresses, and simple silver jewelry.  It’s worth investing in well-made classics that are cut from high quality material – these details are subtly visible. 

Katelyn Donnelly

Katelyn wears the Russell dress in burgundy

You have a very busy schedule. How do you maintain a good work-life balance? 

I don’t think believe in a work-life balance – I try for work-life integration.  To spend as much time working as I do, you have to really love what you are doing, enjoy working with the people you spend time with and be passionate about the business you are building. I cover emerging markets so I travel a lot and have to modify my schedule to account for different timezones and hard deadlines.  This means the concept of office and consistent work hours is highly variable and I love that.

What do you like to do to unwind after a long day of work?

After a long day I unwind by playing strategy games and listening to music, nerdy but true. It’s nice to be intellectually engaged in something other than the real world.  

Katelyn Donnelly

Katelyn wears the Russell dress in burgundy

And finally, what is your favourite item from The Fold AW14 collection?

The Russell dress in burgundy, definitely! 

Photos from Amelia Allen Photography

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