Education: BS in education, West Virginia Wesleyan College, MS in community health education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

First Job: Lifeguard, Cherry Valley Swim Club

What I'm Reading: "Hard Choices" by Hillary Rodham Clinton


Kathy Higgins 

Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina; President, BCBSNC Foundation

award winner

During a practice session before the 1980 Winter Olympics, Herb Brooks—US men’s hockey team coach—told his players that they probably weren’t going to be the Games’ most talented squad—they weren’t going to out-muscle the Soviets or out-finesse the Swedes. But Coach Brooks promised his players they would be the best conditioned team. His strategy was confirmed with a gold medal.

In our careers, we will work with many people who have a greater depth of knowledge or are more practiced in certain skills. But there are other ways to make sure our work is noticed by our superiors. While it’s not emotionally healthy to view the workplace as a daily productivity contest, it is important that our work is recognized. Two areas where I have always tried to excel are in the commitment to the mission and in delivering value to the business. Fortunately, our level of commitment is within our control. Conscientiousness, or the lack of it, is recognized.

I advise women to embrace a dedication to quality work and demonstrate a personal connection to the goals of the team. Think of anyone you know who has ever been promoted. Are they bare-minimum types who are counting down the minutes until five o’clock? Probably not. Did they graduate at the top of their class? Maybe. But most likely, they are fully engaged in their work and the goals of the team.

If you want a job that simply pays the bills, just show up at the office and “meet expectations” every day. You’ll never have to worry about taking on greater responsibilities. But if you want a career that gives you a sense of fulfillment and helps you reach your personal potential in life, be the most committed member of the team.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
In health care, and in philanthropy, success is impossible without a personal connection to the mission. You simply won’t succeed if you don’t care for the people you serve. But if you do care, there is vast potential for making a positive impact on the world around you.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
One of my athletic coaches in high school, Tim Sadar, used to quote Vince Lombardi before each game. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like, “Victory does not always go to the stronger or faster person, but sooner or later the one who wins is the one who thinks he/she can.” Coach Sadar instilled in me a belief in myself and an appreciation of the unique talents each of us brings to any endeavor. He taught me that confidence can outrun strength.

On Facing Challenges
One of my toughest challenges was communicating organizational changes that resulted in job loss. The most important thing to me was rising above the gut-wrenching nervousness and approaching the difficult task with care, empathy, clarity, and respect for those impacted.

Kathy’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
A lot of job interviews include a question about where you want to be in five years; don’t worry if you don’t have a detailed answer. But even if you don’t know your destination, you should have a good idea of how you want to get there. As career opportunities arise, ask yourself if they are going to move you closer to fulfilling your life goals—not just your professional ones. Genuinely consider whether you are committed to delivering value and making a difference in the business. If so, reflect that commitment in your answer.