RECAP — TechBrew:AM w/ Kathy Kay

We were honored to close out TechBrew:AM in 2023 with Kathy Kay on December 14, 2023. Kathy shared stories of her humble beginnings, how she navigated her incredible career, and her accessible leadership approach.

A Detroit native, Kathy Kay began her career working for a staple of the “Motor City”: General Motors. After working for many industry-leading organizations, she joined Principal Financial Group and relocated to Des Moines in 2020.

As Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Principal Financial Group, Kay oversees global technology, digital strategies and future innovation. She provided a glimpse of the road ahead for Principal, focusing on a forward-thinking growth trajectory that serves customers holistically and provides a cleaner, more frictionless experience.


1.  Focus on People

Kathy shared Principal’s strong focus on recruiting top talent, emphasizing the importance of ensuring these individuals are genuinely excited about joining the organization. She highlighted the profound impact each person can have at Principal, stressing the value of making a real and personal difference. Additionally, Kathy pointed out Principal’s adeptness in effectively communicating its evolving narrative, inviting others to become integral parts of this dynamic story. From a technology perspective, she underscored the commitment to empowering employees through the strategic use of technology, providing them with the tools needed to thrive in their roles.

2.  Purposeful Access to Leaders

Since joining Principal during a global pandemic, Kathy has made deliberate efforts to establish a welcoming environment – both virtual and in-person – with her team. She launched “Coffee with Kathy,” a space for anyone on her team to engage in open dialogue with her about anything. She encouraged discussion of a myriad of topics extending beyond just work. Kathy shared insights into her leadership approach, highlighting how these actions help foster genuine connections and ensure purposeful access to leadership for her team.

3. Understand the Problem Before the Solution

Kathy shared her strategic approach to technology investments, prioritizing identifying the core problem before investing in a technological remedy. This strategy ensures a thoughtful and efficient allocation of resources, steering away from the common pitfall of prematurely investing in technology without understanding the underlying problems to be solved. Additionally, Kathy highlighted the significance of ongoing evaluation and agility in the rapidly evolving tech landscape to align technological investments with the organization’s needs.

4. Bloom Where You Are Planted

Kay shared a valuable perspective on personal and professional growth, championing the principle of ‘Bloom where you are planted.’ Kathy encourages others to concentrate on the present, excelling in their current position and nurturing personal development to pave the way for future success. She emphasized the significance of having a clear vision for one’s professional journey and transparently communicating interests and passions to leaders. This proactive approach enhances alignment between individual aspirations and organizational goals. In addition, Kathy encouraged others to use their voice, even when surrounded by individuals who don’t look or sound like you.

Join us at the next TechBrew:AM!

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