Karen Ostrov, Konect Consulting
IB's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Karen Ostrov, president and founder of Konect Consulting.
Spouse: Michael Ostrov, M.D.
Hobbies: Dancing, hiking, travel
Boards: Leap, Madison Environmental Group
Organizations: MABC, TEMPO, International Professionals
Education: Marquette University (Ph.D.); Washington University in St. Louis (M.A.); University of Michigan (B.A.)
Karen, how long have you had your company and what’s your day-to-day role?
I founded the company 18 years ago. As the sole proprietor, I wear all the hats except for subcontracting billing and social media/marketing services.
What is Konect Consulting?
It is a leadership development firm that meets the Madison business community’s need for practical executive coaching services grounded in knowledge of the behavioral sciences. The focus is to help managers and leaders realize their strategic goals through a better understanding of themselves and others.
We’re on the topic, then, of influencing people to be their best. Who were your influencers?
My mentors are two prominent consulting psychologists who work in global leadership consulting firms. They help me develop my ability to work with clients in complex organizations by believing in my talent and giving me candid feedback. My husband, Dr. Michael Ostrov, medical director at GHC, who has been my closest friend since college, inspires me each day to use my talents to help others. [And] my parents have been very influential. My mother, a Ph.D. psychologist, was the director of psychological services for a school district outside of Chicago, and my father, a Ph.D. chemist, is an internationally renowned material scientist who recently retired from a 65-year career at a national laboratory. Both have helped me gain deep insight into the responsibilities and challenges leaders face.
What was a career high point?
A career high point was coaching the managing partner of a top five company in the insurance/securities industry at its San Francisco network office. The MP’s region was ranked in the bottom quartile when we started the coaching engagement. My client was a “roll up your sleeves” kind of technical guy. I helped him learn how get out of all the details, create and lead his strategic vision, and leverage his team. The region moved into the top 5%. My client gave a keynote describing his success at the national conference of MPs. It was a fabulous ride to the top built on the practical application of behavioral principles to growing a leader.
You’ve been at this awhile, and grown your expertise. What is a long-range goal now?
I want to apply my expertise in the behavioral sciences to developing leaders in multinational firms. I have dual citizenship (USA and Germany), which gives me work mobility. I want to help global leaders become more effective communicating with people across time zones and cultures, so to achieve better results. I also want to provide more help to people needing personal career development/transition services. I love helping people figure out where they fit best and how to build a career lattice for themselves.
Obviously, then, you are well traveled. What has been a favorite destination, outside the U.S.?
I liked the Dalmatian Islands. The climate in the fall, dramatic scenery in the harbor villages and mountains, the crystal clear waters, delicious food, reasonable rates, friendly people, ancient history, art. There are free evening concerts in the ruined Cloisters where you listen while the moon rises. My husband and I like to travel to explore other cultures. Places we’ve enjoyed are Argentina, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Croatia, China, and the EU.
Have you always wanted to do this sort of work?
I wanted to be a psychologist since I was 8 years old. My mother was a Ph.D. school psychologist. I admired her professionalism. I liked the things she said about her work. To me, it seemed quite wonderful that she had attained the education to enable her to help other people understand their emotional life and learn to use their abilities. I am proud of how she would stand up for kids with developmental disabilities. My maternal grandmother was never taught to read or write, yet was a savvy businesswoman. Both sides of my family were immigrants. All my grandparents were grateful for the opportunities they had in America and dreamed of a better life for their progeny.
What was your first job, your first paycheck?
When I was 16, I worked as a cashier at the local third-generation family-owned hardware store. I was paid $1.10 per hour.
What brought you to this area?
My husband and I chose to come to Madison so he could join GHC as a staff family physician. We both loved the GHC cooperative business model and Madison fit the bill for raising our family. We were right on all these decisions.
Your work is helping others achieve success and balance; what pleasures do you have outside of the workplace – beyond travel, which we’ve already touched upon?
Oh, there are many things. Being a part of the lives of our two grown children with their significant others makes me happy. We enjoy the social dance community in Madison and take our dance shoes when we travel. It’s a good way to connect people when you don’t share language and culture. I am a docent at the Chazen Museum of Art and spend time learning about the visual arts and giving tours. I enjoy outdoor active sports in all four seasons.
Care to tell us anything more about your family?
My family … I am lucky to have both of my parents living near Chicago and my mother-in-law in Detroit. My son, Daniel Ostrov, M.F.A. is a sculptor in Philadelphia. He is represented on www.artcommission.com, Toni Sikes’ new business venture. My daughter, Miriam Ostrov, J.D. is an associate attorney at the Bartelt Law firm in Middleton. My sister, Erica Gruen, received the UWEBC’s 2012 Distinguished Fellow Award in October. She is a media consultant. My brother, Jeff Gruen, M.D., is a partner, health care practice at PriceWaterhouseCooper.
Do you have a favorite book, or a favorite character that shows us another side of Karen Ostrov?
ThePoisonwood Bible, The Tiger’s Wife, Cutting for Stone, and The Death of Vishnu readily come to mind. David Sedaris, Garrison Keillor, and Calvin Trillin make me laugh out loud. For an avocation, I conduct psychological studies of art and artists. I am drawn to the life story and work of Camille Claudel. Her talent, creativity, determination, and originality were enormous and she struggled mightily against the odds.
You gave us great descriptors for Claudel – what three words would you select to best describe yourself? That’s always our last question and one of our favorites!
Three words best describe me: Imaginative, inspired, and optimistic.
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