At AEO, we value, support and empower our associates. This March, as we honor Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the amazing contributions of some of our female leaders. Whether they work in our stores, distribution centers, or corporate offices, the women at AEO play an integral role in the company’s success. We’re excited to share a profile of Kate, Senior Vice President – Inventory Planning and Operations Support.
Kate has been a valuable member of our AEO community for more than 20 years! Following her graduation from Bucknell University, Kate worked as a buyer for eight years before joining the AEO.
You have been with AEO for a large part of your career. Tell us about your career path, what you do in your current role and how you’ve grown with AEO.
I joined AEO in 2002 as the Women’s Merch Planner for AE Direct and was part of a small team tasked with building the ae.com business. After 13 years in Merchandise Planning, I was presented with the opportunity to lead the Inventory Planning, MOS and Central Pricing teams. The opportunity was both exciting and a bit scary – I was out of my comfort zone. But taking on a new role challenged me to put myself in a position where I had to lean on my team to educate me so I could gain additional experience.
In 2019, my team moved under AEO’s Supply Chain organization, and in 2021 I added the Vendor Operations teams to my organization. The addition of these teams has continued challenging me as a leader to grow my knowledge and scope. This is what I love about working for AEO – even after 20 years I am continuously learning and being challenged to find ways to impact the business!
What is it like working in the supply chain field, especially now?
Historically, supply chain tends to be a very male-dominated field, and I think to a large extent that remains true today. As leaders in the AEO Supply Chain group, I think everyone has an opportunity and obligation to drive towards more diversity, including attracting more female talent. Creating a diverse organization is not just the role of leaders, though – women should be curious about what opportunities exist and be willing to take a chance on a new role. It’s an exciting challenge and a great opportunity to be seen as a company that truly supports and values gender diversity, especially within our supply chain.
Who is a woman that has most impacted your life – either personally or professionally?
There are many people in my life who have inspired me! Most importantly, my mom taught me to have a voice – have an opinion and express it; look for the good in people and in situations; be loyal and love fiercely.
How do you see yourself inspiring the future generation of women leaders in the world?
I am always extremely flattered – and in all honesty a little surprised – when someone tells me that I have inspired them. I recognize that as a woman leader that my actions, my words and how I approach situations matters. I try to always be genuine in my actions, to treat people the way I want to be treated, to take risks and to not be afraid to admit when I have made a mistake. We learn by watching others, and we learn by making mistakes, but we grow when we can turn those observations and learnings into actions.
What is your proudest accomplishment at AEO?
In the last 20 years, I have been fortunate to have played a role on many teams – from building the ae.com business, to helping chart the course to an Omni Inventory approach and evolving inventory planning tools and systems. I am proud of all of these accomplishments and many more. But honestly, what I am most proud of is how my teams responded to the disruption of the last two years. Their focus, diligence, hard work and loyalty enabled us to keep the business thriving, keep our associates safe and deliver amazing results. This isn’t so much my accomplishment as it is our accomplishment, and we should all be proud!