Digging in and moving forward despite obstacles has defined Katrina Langford’s career, earning her a position as board member of On The Grid Financial, where she tackles challenges with unwavering optimism.
You know what they say: The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest. Sometimes it goes to the person who hangs in the longest—making perseverance, rather than speed, what it takes to cross the finish line.
Katrina Langford, CPP, knows the value of taking the long view. Employed by the Southern Company, an Atlanta-based owner of utilities throughout the country, Langford serves as accounting team leader/payroll, managing centralized payroll functions enterprise-wide. In this role, she consults with managers, supervisors, timekeepers and employees, ensuring that fair and equitable pay practices are followed. She also is chair for the Southern Company Accounting Finance & Treasury Safety committee, coordinating and facilitating organization-level safety meetings.
At the same time, she is a director for $45 million On The Grid Financial, having been elected to that position in 2018 after joining the board as supervisory committee chair in 2015, where she served until 2017.
On The Grid Financial was established in 1935 and is headquartered in Atlanta. The credit union’s membership is comprised of 4,758 utility industry employees, retirees and their families in living in the 11 states the organization serves.
“In [my role], I work diligently to ensure OTGF management financial reporting objectives are met and that business practices safeguard members’ assets,” she explains. “I work alongside other board members to understand and remain informed about the nature and level of risk of loans, revolving credit and so on, including the potential impact on the credit union’s earnings and net worth. We review/approve the annual budget, review/approve policies and procedures and provide governance and leadership to the credit union.”
Langford graduated summa cum laude from Walden University in Minneapolis and holds a BA in business communication as well as two associate degrees, one in HR management and another in management and supervisory development. She earned her Certified Payroll Professional certification in 2010.
When Advancing Women asked Langford to select a topic of importance to her and to other women in the industry, she chose that of perseverance. Below, she shares her insights on why developing a stick-with-it attitude can benefit a career.
Why do you think perseverance can be such a game-changer?
In observing the world around me and speaking with many people, I realized that some people have become accustomed to what seems like a microwave-type culture, one where we can have it our way and there’s no real waiting period for what we want.
But, when we look at the world through a lens of instant fulfillment, what happens is that when things get tough and don’t come as soon as we want, waiting becomes a daunting task. Then it’s a snowball effect; we set a timetable for everything—when to start a family, how fast we’re going to grow in our careers, how soon we can get a bigger house, and so on.
And setting such timetables, which we’re often told to do, isn’t realistic in your mind?
Perhaps it is, but perhaps not. However, when we persevere and have an absolute resolve to do something despite the obstacles or the challenges we face, no matter the waiting period, it gives us a very different appreciation for our lives and accomplishments.
When we have to push through, we have to encourage ourselves and tell ourselves, yes, there may be a delay, but it’s not denial. I can still accomplish what I want, but things will manifest in a more practical timeframe. Things may not go as planned and by my set timeline, but I still push forward toward the mark.
What have been some of the biggest personal challenges you’ve had to push through?
One of my most significant leadership challenges—and I’m sure many can identify with this—is self. There are external leadership challenges, but too often, we are the obstacle. We get in our own way by overthinking things. We don’t trust ourselves to get over the humps and bumps.
For example, a few years ago, my group was experiencing a huge system issue—something we had never encountered before. If the problem wasn’t resolved, it could have impacted several thousand employees. I called a group huddle and we went over what we knew, which was limited. My inner spirit said to me, “Have you considered looking at this particular code table?” I second-guessed myself, because I’m not a computer programmer, but I didn’t discount the thought. I spoke up, and we did some digging. It took a couple of days of long hours, but I encouraged the team to keep pushing. We did, and it paid off. We faced a tough challenge. However, we stayed in the moment, and what I tried to talk myself out of ended up being exactly what we needed to resolve the issue.
I decided to let go of fear and lead with self-confidence. I endure and keep trying, always doing my best, knowing I will accomplish the task at hand. News and recent studies show that women, more specifically women of color, are an underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline and we face many challenges. But I don’t let studies or news define me.
What challenges have you faced as a board member?
One of the biggest thus far is the pandemic. Loan volume and fee-based services are down. However, we came out of our last strategic planning session optimistic. Fortunately, we’ve had some small wins. Operating expenses are down, we were able to negotiate with a couple of vendors, and we’re keeping a close watch on budget dollars, saving where it makes sense. We’re not sure what the future holds, but our commitment to success is what keeps us driving the train forward.
How do you find opportunities in the midst of challenges and adversity?
It’s important to me that I lead with humility and a sense of vulnerability. I’ve found doing so helps, because people respond in a more positive way and are more apt to help out. Moreover, I let people know when I don’t have an answer for something but that I’ll commit to finding out and then follow up with them.
What advice do you have for new female leaders about persevering through adversity?
I encourage others to always be themselves. No one can be a better you than you, and you can’t be a better someone else. Challenges will arise; they’re a part of life. But we don’t have to let them overtake us. Take a moment and breathe. Keep hope in your heart. Keep a positive outlook and trust in your abilities. And remember, there are more people who are willing to help than not. It goes back to being vulnerable and humble. Besides, we are stronger together.
And for me, I keep God first because I know him to be faithful and to always see me through whatever adversity I face. cues icon
Pamela Mills-Senn is a writer based in Long Beach, California.