Profile of a Leader: Kristen Duda, Intelex Technologies

Profile of a Leader: Kristen Duda, Intelex Technologies

How investing in relationships helps build a rewarding career
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Prioritizing relationship building & personal connections in the age of virtual biz: @Intelex @thegreentie #leaders

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Kristen Duda, Vice President of Strategic Alliances; Intelex

Monday, June 12, 2017 - 11:10am

As the Vice President of Strategic Alliances for Intelex, Kristen Duda knows the importance of building relationships. Through mentoring, networking and building alliances, she has built a rewarding career working as both an environmental engineer for multinational corporations and as a resource for global firms seeking breakthroughs via technology solutions. Events such as NAEM 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference are therefore critical for Kristen, not only for professional networking, but for personal growth opportunities and learning. As she prepares to join her NAEM peers in Portland later this month, she took time to share her perspective on why building and maintaining personal relationships are so important to her.  

NAEM: In your position at Intelex, your role is to acquire, develop and manage relationships with strategic partners. How have your own experiences with networking and mentorship helped to strengthen your professional skills in this role?

Kristen: I attended a women’s conference last fall and it was life changing for me. It was the first time I had been to a leadership event outside my industry and it really opened my eyes to the importance of networking and really stepping outside of my comfort zone. It is no small coincidence that soon after I began my new position at Intelex and am now tasked with leading the company’s next phase of innovation through our strategic partner program.

NAEM: Can you share a few personal experiences of how mentoring has helped shape your career?

Kristen: As a junior engineer early in my career, I formed close relationships with my peers. These colleagues became my lifeline for work crises, my sounding board for different work and personal situations, and most importantly, my friends. We have since scattered to different companies and cities, but we still have an active text thread, where we continue to exchange ideas daily. We also see each other in person at least once a year.

Another example is a friend I met years ago, when she was an administrative assistant at a partner’s firm. I would see her from time to time when we had meetings and gradually our friendship grew. When she decided to make a major career change, she called me to say I was part of her inspiration for doing so. My first reaction was a “Who, me?” kind of moment. That helped me realize what a positive impact I could make on the people I was meeting, and I knew that this was something I wanted to keep doing. We have since kept in touch and now provide reciprocal support to each other through career changes, relationships and maintaining our sanity with pursuit of work/ life balance.

NAEM: You’ve said that conferences, such as NAEM's, are a place for seeking out new connections and reinforcing existing relationships. In the digital age, why is this kind of face to face networking still so crucial?

Kristen: I think it is so easy to push mentoring, conferences and personal growth to the bottom of the list after daily work and life priorities, but I have learned over time that it ultimately makes me a better leader, mom, and is more restorative and beneficial than anything. I can’t recall saying “I wish I hadn’t taken that break to talk to [fill in the blank] today”.

That's why I make a concerted effort actively “date” my mentors and mentees by taking time during the week to connect with them via coffee, dinner, or a phone call. I actually schedule it on my calendar to ensure it happens and it’s always rewarding when it does.

I am a remote worker, so I try to maximize my networking as much as I can virtually, but there is only so much you can do via email or text. I love to see someone, watching their face, seeing their reactions as they share their stories with you, those are the things that are going to enable the types of meaningful connections that lead to greater impact. When I worked in downtown Chicago, I had regular cupcake breaks with friends who also worked in 'The Loop'. Who doesn’t want to catch up and eat a cupcake? When I travel to the Intelex office in Toronto or Denver, I fill up my schedule with catch-up time with colleagues and mentors/mentees. It makes for some exhausting days, but is always worthwhile.

NAEM: How does your current role fit into your broader career vision? 

Kristen: One of the main reasons I wanted to join Intelex was because of its steadfast commitment to diversity in EHSQ. There’s also a strong focus on growing talent within and mentoring. It really is a good career move when you can align your personal values to those of the company you are working for. I’m proud to be representing Intelex at the NAEM Women’s Leadership Conference because it means I am not only there as an individual supporter of the advancement of women in my industry, but I know I have the support of my entire team behind me.

NAEM: What are the best pieces of advice you can give to those who are looking to grow their careers through networking and mentorship?

Kristen: If I had to break it down, I'd say I have five key pieces of advice:

  • #1: Communicate: Every relationship is a collaborative one that requires effort and immense trust from both sides. You can really boil it all down to effective communication. I continue to work on, and improve my communication skills daily because I know how important it is. I am an engineer to the core and to consciously keep myself from overanalyzing. Difficult conversations scare me, but they are critical to forming strong and impactful alliances.
  • #2: Start local with your alliances: When I joined Intelex, individuals throughout the organization and externally were reaching out to learn more about where we are going with our strategic alliances. While my schedule was packed with onboarding training and meetings, I made a point to follow through with them because they have helped me build relationships with my colleagues, learn more about the organization and form friendships. I will be that much better at my job because I have a trusted team around me supporting my role, and who know in turn that I support them.
  • #3: Say yes: I try to never say no to an initial meeting or conversation. It’s always tricky to realize potential can come from anywhere, that every relationship can be beneficial in some way and that relationship-building is a priority. Maintaining an open mind, and a couple of open spots on your calendar for new opportunities, can lead to some amazing alliances and friendships.
  • #4: Expand your scope: When I joined Intelex, a sales representative from one of our SaaS software providers reached out to me and offered to connect me with his colleague that leads partnerships for their organizations. I took him up on it and now have an amazing mentor who has been in the software partnerships world for decades. Having an external advisor, who knows software alliances, but is removed from the EHSQ space has been invaluable to me as I have ramped up at Intelex. We have had power-hour working sessions where I whiteboard for him, show him what I’m working on, and bounce ideas off him and he gives me homework for our next meeting. It has been invaluable to form this new relationship and learn more about traditional SaaS channel partnerships outside the EHSQ space.
  • #5: Keep the alliance alive: I recently talked to my first supervisor, after not having connected in almost a decade. There was an immediate comfort level between us that I thought might have vanished with time. But strong relationships will stand the test of time. I hope to make a similar, long-lasting impact, on each of the mentees that I engage with as well.

To find out more about Kristen’s role at Intelex, the possibilities available to you and your company, or simply say hello, join NAEM at the 2017 Women's Leadership Conference on June 20-22 in Portland.

About Intelex Technologies:

With more than 1,000 clients and 1 million users, Intelex Technologies Inc. is the world leader in Environmental, Health, Safety and Quality (EHSQ) management software. Since 1992 its scalable, cloud-based platform and applications have helped clients across all industries improve business performance, mitigate organization-wide risk, and ensure sustained compliance with internationally accepted standards (e.g., ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001) and regulatory requirements. Intelex is one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies and has been named one of the country’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures and Best Managed Companies, as well as a top employer by Aon Hewitt and Canada’s Top 100. For more information, visit