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ML Achiever: Stephanie Kargel, Director of Employee Success

Flexibility. That is one of our corporate advantages and something that our latest ML Achiever, Stephanie Kargel, says attracted her to ML and attributes to her long tenure (19 years and counting!) Stephanie incorporates flexibility into her role as Director of Employee Success and credits it is the reason she can balance an incredibly busy personal and business life. 

Congratulations on a very successful year at ML! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you! My husband and I have three daughters … 2 in college and one in high school… as well as a dog, Graham. I enjoy reading, and I’m pretty diverse in my choices. Favorite books include “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen and “The World According to Garp” by John Updike.  I also recently read “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley, which achieved one of my book club's highest scores. So if you like mysteries and are looking for a good read, check this one out. 

I’m also very involved with the Aultman Hospital Women’s Board, community organizations like Bear Hugs and Conquest, and the Junior League. They are great organizations that allow me to make a difference in the community. The Junior League, in particular, has provided me with many opportunities to get involved, both when we lived in Dallas, but also now in Canton, Ohio. Each Chapter has a key focus area. In Dallas, it was primarily women and children. In Canton, a big focus is on food scarcity. The League works with shelters, food banks, and other organizations to help families in communities with limited access and choices. I’m a HUGE proponent of the Junior League.  

The Association of Junior Leagues International began in 1901 and has evolved into one of the oldest, largest, and most effective women’s volunteer organizations in the world, encompassing more than 125,000 women in over 295 Leagues in four countries.

Let’s talk about your 19 years at ML, how you got here, why you stayed and the various roles you have played.

Back in 2003, I received a call from Lara Triozzi (ML’s CEO). She had recently started ML and needed some help. She painted a picture I couldn’t resist. The company was growing and doing some really appealing work for an interesting group of clients. What mostly grabbed my attention was the flexibility of the role. I could set my hours, take time off as needed, and work from anywhere. Did I mention I was 8 months pregnant and had a 2-year-old? Despite having a busy home life, I jumped at the chance to apply my years of experience and stay current with the changing work world. The flexibility she offered would allow me to do this job while putting my family’s needs first. So, I decided to give it a try. 

Speaking of the changing work world, what technology changes have you seen at ML since you started?

In the beginning, Lara would send me a list of company names and contacts in an Excel spreadsheet. I’d engage with the people on the list, add my notes and email it back. It worked, but it wasn’t exactly optimal. Then, we invested in our first database (Act) and it was a hallelujah moment! The visibility and collaboration were just incredible. ML has since moved to HubSpot, which has taken us to an even higher level of collaboration. CRMs, HubSpot in particular, are great tools for that and provide full visibility and reporting capabilities. HubSpot gives us a complete history and 360-degree view of all touchpoints made with an individual by everyone across ML. I’d say it is a huge reason we can provide such great service to our clients. 

The move from audio conference calls to video was initially a bit intimidating, but I quickly realized the value of actually seeing my team members and clients. Conference call meetings worked well, but now we can see faces, body language, and expressions. It’s like all of a sudden you know everybody just a little bit better and can build relationships in just the tiniest amount of time! 


Stephanie Kargel's Career Path

Sales Development Specialist > Hiring Manager > Employee Success Manager > Director of Employee Success
You started as a Sales Development Specialist but have also been very involved with recruiting and employee success.

Yes. I worked as an SDS supporting many different clients. In fact, our diverse client base is a key reason why I enjoy my job so much and have stayed so long. Learning about new clients, their offerings, and the industries they support fascinates me. I have learned about services and products I didn’t even know existed! It keeps me fresh and stimulated.  

But I have to say that I have loved working on the ML New Business team even more. This has been my favorite sales role. I really believe in the work we do and have seen the great success we have created for our clients. It’s easy to call into executives and talk passionately about ML. It’s just natural after being here for so long. I have had amazing conversations with businesspeople and have maintained relationships with many using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool for staying connected. 

The other factor that has kept me around so long is our culture of flexibility. I get to work part-time, set my own schedule, use my experience and brain, talk to interesting people, and learn about new companies and products. What could be better than that? Also, I love working with people like Lara and Dyan Klein (in the early days and so many more since!) Everyone is so sharp and fun! 

I get to work part-time, set my own schedule, use my experience and brain, talk to interesting people, and learn about new companies and products. What could be better than that?

And now you have evolved into Director of Employee Success. How did that change transpire?

About two and a half years ago, I started helping with staffing, mostly doing interviews and maturing our hiring processes. This was a role I managed prior to ML and really enjoy. I was excited when ML’s growth created a need for someone to take this on.  

Share with me one or two of your most favorite memories.

Oh, there are lots! One favorite is just the fact that we have helped so many clients evolve their sales and marketing programs and grow revenue through the market perception and other insights and analyses we have uncovered for them.

From an ML perspective, many people here have touched my life in great ways. Our differentiator in the market is our people. Everyone is smart, experienced, impressive, and FUN! 

As ML’s, Director of Employee Success, can you offer advice on what you feel is most important to create that success? 

Three things … Listen, Be Curious, and Build Trust. 

If you listen, you will pick up on cues. Then, turn those cues into additional questions to create a more meaningful, deeper conversation. By actively listening and being curious, you will just naturally start forming a bond. Then, by listening and acting on the responses you get, you can build trust and have a more open discussion. This is entirely different from job performance conversations. Those are necessary of course but we also have regular check-ins with team members where we purposefully do NOT talk about work. It’s about getting to know them and having an open dialogue focused on building trust.  

Recruiting and employee experience roles are similar to sales in that way. Recruiting is about selling ML to new candidates. And listening allows us to be flexible with our processes. What I mean is that, while we have a recruiting process that we follow, we also know how to pivot and change the process when warranted. I’d say that I know very quickly when we find a person who is just the right fit for our team. In the interests of making sure somebody else doesn’t get them first, but also in the spirit of being smart with our limited time, we might speed up the hiring process and remove some of the steps in our traditional hiring program.  

Thanks for your time, Stephanie. Anything more you want to add? 

You know, in reading back through this piece, I like how we focused on flexibility. I think in order to be successful we have to have structure and processes, but we also have to know when to step outside the box and do things a little differently. To bend the rules for the greater good so to speak. ML calls it a “pivot” when we change direction based on what our data tells us. Lucy Foley who wrote “The Guest List” has a great quote that kind of sums it up nicely:  

“In my experience, those who have the greatest respect for the rules also take the most enjoyment in breaking them.” Lucy Foley,  The Guest List
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