You Can Have It All… But Not At The Same Time

In honor of International Women’s Day, Katie Kramer, president & CEO of the Boettcher Foundation reflects on navigating her career and the mentors she has had along the way.

I was 22, fresh out of college and sitting in a conference room for a job interview – a one-year fellowship position at the Boettcher Foundation. The year was 1997.

The question is one I will never forget: why do I want the job? My response was threefold:

  1. I sought a workplace that fostered continuous learning.
  2. I aimed to use my talents and skills to serve Colorado.
  3. I wanted to work for an organization that prioritizes education and leadership because they both have outsized impact in communities.

More than 26 years later, and after serving multiple roles at Boettcher, I can say these reasons continue to fuel my passion and represent why I still love coming to work every day.

Katie received the Denver Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award in 2014.

My growth as a professional, leader, and individual has been profoundly shaped by numerous female leaders who continue to inspire and influence me. In celebration of International Women’s Day, I wish to share two pieces of advice from my mentors in hopes they will resonate with you on your leadership path.

During my first pregnancy, I discussed my postpartum career plans with another foundation CEO. I expressed concerns about balancing work and family life. She advised, “Kate, you can have it all… just not all at the same time. Initially, this frustrated me; it seemed to imply that being a career-loving mother, achieving success, and living a balanced family life were mutually exclusive.

However, as time passed, I came to understand that her words emphasized being present in the moment – not being able to “have it all” simultaneously. These words have served as a guiding light. With my oldest son now 17, I have emphasized my presence when I’m home with my family during the evening. As a result, work emails remain unchecked as I am a mother-first always. During work hours, the Boettcher staff and community deserves my energy and focus. That said, I never miss attending field day, and I make sure to be present for important school events and programs.

The second piece of advice came at a time when both my children were in elementary school, my husband traveled weekly for work, I was pursuing my MBA, and my professional responsibilities were ever expanding. This time another mentor advised, “You first!”

This notion stopped me in my tracks initially. “How?!?” I wondered. I had created a life with zero time for me. Self-care wasn’t something that felt possible. Over time, I realized this advice wasn’t merely about balance; it was about the essential act of prioritizing oneself. The stark truth is that if I’m not well – emotionally, mentally, or physically – everything around me suffers. The whole family system falls apart. It was a cold, hard realization.

The Kramer family in front of the Denver City and County Building during the holidays.

Admittedly, I’m still mastering this practice. I still struggle to prioritize me. For years, my personal leadership journey has been focused on making sure I have time for daily movement, mindfulness, and “me” time; not to mention a bit of down time and sleep. I am a work in progress.

On this International Women’s Day, I honor the servant leaders in my family who have shaped my life — my mother, sister, aunts, and grandmothers. I extend my deepest gratitude to all the women who have paved the way in the workplace. We stand on your shoulders. I also want to thank my extraordinary female colleagues at Boettcher who dedicate themselves tirelessly every day, and my personal and professional girlfriends who share this journey. We continue to support each other, laugh and cry together as we embrace the complex experience of being women leaders.

The journey never stops – and today, I am grateful for all of the career-loving mothers who are making a difference in their families, communities, and organizations.

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