Women Making an Impact: A COO’s Journey to Leadership

Johanna Brooks, KCare’s Chief Operating Officer, has a lot of experience in child and family welfare, and she has made quite an impact at KCare since she joined about eight years ago.

First, can you tell us a little more about yourself and your journey to KCare?

I joined the KCare family of products in 2015. Before KCare, I spent my early career developing programs for adults with developmental disabilities to help them achieve independence. A few years into my career, I joined a Memphis-based organization focused on foster care, adoption services, and the residential needs of children in the region. This experience increased my dedication to supporting vulnerable populations, especially within the child welfare system. I was also introduced to KCare as my organization’s System Administrator for 7 years.

As COO of KCare, I focus my time on strategic growth, product improvement, and building teams and teammates to best support our amazing customer base.

What excites or motivates you to start your workday?

KCare Social Service and Behavioral Health Software COO Johanna BrooksI love that my role brings variance in my day-to-day. No two days are even remotely the same! I wake up every day interested in where the day will lead, what barriers I will get to be involved in solving, and all the new on-the-job learning I will get to be part of. I am very motivated by positive change and continuous improvement, so my role allows me to make a difference daily. Seeing one of our staff members or teams accomplish something new that they are excited and proud of is the most fulfilling part of my job. I try and celebrate all the wins to help me stay grounded and not overwhelmed in my role.


Can you tell us about a female leader that inspires you?

I’ve been fortunate to work with female leaders across many roles with traits I’ve tried to mirror in my own leadership journey. I had one that could command the room like no other, but she intimidated people, so other voices were quieted. Another exhibited a level of care and empathy for her staff that made her team extremely loyal, but not very productive. I had a supervisor that made things fun and light enough to feel manageable, but it was hard for her to ever deliver hard news or make changes because she didn’t want to zap the fun. I’ve tried to very intentionally take the best parts of these women to craft the type of leader I want to be.

In my role, I prioritize inspiring others in the same way, especially young career-minded females. I desire to lead with the care the team deserves while making confident decisions without being caught up in being the loudest or most “important” person in the room. I try to create an environment for staff that leads to creativity, shared ideas, problem-solving, and everyone having a place and feeling valued. This helps us succeed in our goals as everyone is supported in their wins and coached on things to help them improve. I am very grateful for the women that have directly inspired me to be the best version of myself in the workplace and lead in a way that others take good parts from and use in their own leadership successes.

What is one life lesson you wish you knew earlier?

Be confident in yourself. You are being asked to the table for a reason!

It’s okay not to be the best educated or most experienced in the room! I’ve been in so many intimidating positions where I was the youngest, the only female, or the least formally educated and it held me back from sharing my ideas or solutions because I didn’t feel confident enough. As I’ve gained more experience, I’ve realized my creative approach and ability to hear others to leverage an even better idea makes my voice valuable, even if I am not the “expert” in the room.

What advice would you give to women that are early in their careers?

Being a woman in leadership isn’t a super easy path. Finding the balance between assertiveness without being disliked can be a blurry line. There are still some antiquated schools of thought that can easily get in your head and work against you. My advice is to find female leaders that you appreciate for whatever reason and open yourself up for mentoring and coaching to learn as much as you can from them. Rely on the things you are naturally good at, and work on things you aren’t. When you let the little doubts creep in and worry you that you might not be good enough, find a way to cope with it and keep stepping forward. I believe in you!

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