We continue celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting women in the A/E/C industry who shine brightly on our profession.
A constant challenge for many of us throughout our careers is work/life balance. Our good friend and colleague Katherine Bajor, Talentstar Principal, knows a lot about balancing. She is an expert juggler of priorities and deadlines as well as cooking sumptuous meals for her family (or scheduling a ski trip to Colorado). Whether mother, wife, or the consummate professional, she believes you too, can have it all.
Many of us did not have a direct or straight-forward path to our careers, and Katherine is no exception. Her journey into architecture started at a Chicago advertising agency in the late 70s. This experience led to owning a professional photographic lab, then managing a computer imaging firm which then led to a new role as operations manager for an architecture firm. Three years ago, she joined Talentstar to co-lead our recruiting efforts.
Katherine draws on all of these unique work experiences and a well-rounded life to find the strongest candidates for our clients, and to help those individuals secure the best work opportunities, culture and lifestyle for the next stage of their career.
“I’ve always rolled-up my sleeves and worn a lot of hats,” says Katherine when asked to describe what she does. “You could say that I am a generalist when it comes to work. When I am at my busiest, I can be very productive. I am able to adapt to different experiences, blend them together, and manage all the moving parts. It’s very similar to being a wife and the mother of three children—there’s always something going on or to be done.”
For many of us these types of professional and personal skills are developed over time, but in Katherine’s case, it’s always been innate. It never crossed her mind that having a career, getting married, and raising children she’d have to sacrifice one over the other. In fact, having a fulfilling home life made her better at her job.
In 2018, Former First Lady Michelle Obama published her memoir Becoming, which became an instant global sensation. During her promotional book tour, she spoke about achieving success without sacrificing too much. She said “I tell women, that whole ‘you can have it all’ — nope, not at the same time; that’s a lie. It’s not always enough to lean in because that s— doesn’t work.”
Katherine sees it a little differently than Mrs. Obama. Sure, some things are sacrificed, or more like “out-of-balance,” but so much is also gained. She believes ‘having it all’ is unique to each individual, and should be based on your own life and happiness, and not how others might measure it. Having it all to Katherine meant being present to raise her three children, spending time with her husband, and managing work projects and expectations. Not that Katherine didn’t feel overwhelmed or pulled in a dozen directions, but she had support and encouragement from her husband, as well as childcare; all of which allowed her to have a more fluid schedule as a full-time working mom.
“Looking back, I realize I have been very fortunate throughout my years of working,” Katherine says. As a business owner or working in smaller firms, each has allowed me to have a more positive work/life balance.” That’s not to say Katherine didn’t pull all-nighters as needed, or work longer hours at times, but she had more flexibility, where other wives and mothers in a more traditional, structured office environment might not have that opportunity. “I’ve never hesitated in my career choices, and have always put my own fulfillment of being a professional, mother and wife at the forefront.”
So, what professional advice or life-long guidance does Katherine share about having it all? She says, “We mustn’t be afraid that our lives are ‘out of balance.’ It’s certainly not easy—it never will be—but don’t measure yourself by others and definitely not by what society ‘says’ is right. Find a supportive work environment and be sure to plan some self-care whenever you can. You will be your best in everything if you love what you do, and that includes being a mom and/or a wife, and having a career. Let your happiness and fulfillment reflect you, not what society ‘thinks’.”