Financial Resources Group Investment Services supports women in leadership who have gone above and beyond to achieve for the benefit of our firm as well as the financial services industry. Over the coming months, we will be featuring a series of articles spotlighting women leaders at our firm and beyond.
Katie Mills, SHRM-SCP, shares with us her journey towards becoming Financial Resources Group’s Human Resources Manager. From her early roots in Georgia to recognizing her passion for helping others, Katie explains her cross-country travels that led her to where she is today.
Growing Up in the Peach State
Born and raised in Augusta, GA, Katie lived with her mother, stepfather and brother where golf became a tradition for the family.
“We were fortunate to attend the Masters every year growing up, we went every Wednesday and Saturday,” said Katie. “TV doesn’t do it a bit of justice – golf fan or not, I think the Augusta National is something everyone should see in their lifetime.”
Katie attended a private Christian school from Pre-K to high school and then switched gears for college, attending a school with a very different environment from what she was used to. Well known for their social life, Katie began her undergraduate degree at Georgia Southern University. “It was an adjustment to say the least!” said Katie.
While at college, Katie got a very unexpected job opportunity that she will never forget. “One of my best friends needed a waitressing job, so I tagged along while she went for her interview for moral support at a local sports bar, said Katie. “She was told she didn’t get the job. The owner, Stephanie, came out and saw me and said, ‘Well, why don’t you come back here?’ I had no experience whatsoever, but the owner liked me and offered me the position and I accepted. So that was an awkward ride home! I bartended 4.5 of my five years there and have enough stories to last three lifetimes.”
From Criminal Justice to Human Resources
Katie graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice and landed two part-time jobs fresh out of school. “I was a legal advocate for a battered women’s shelter in Athens, GA and then I also worked for the assistant DA of Athens. After that, I did some paralegal work for different firms,” said Katie.
It wasn’t long into this career path that Katie realized it wasn’t for her. “I found out that in paralegal work, you do all of the work and the attorney gets all the credit. I knew I wanted to help others, but I wanted to support people in a different way,” said Katie.
After transitioning to an executive admin for a logistics company in Athens, Katie received a very exciting opportunity in the Human Resources field. “I worked very closely with the HR director there and when she left, I asked the president to give me a shot at the position and he did! One of our operations guys had been in HR for several years and took me under his wing.”
Serving as Director of Human Resources for a firm with over 500 employees, Katie recognized her true passion for helping others.
“Many of the employees were blue collar workers who were having multiple jobs just to make ends meet,” said Katie. “Those are the people I really have a soft spot for – hard working people. I was talking to these people every day and found myself getting really attached. This solidified my desire to help others in a business setting.”
Katie continues, “Human Resources is about bringing the human aspect into the workplace and being a voice for the employee, but also having the company’s best interest in mind at all times. It’s a fine line that I will always be improving upon. People just want to feel heard and appreciated. We all want to be a part of something and feel that we have added value in some way. I think that’s true for any profession and any industry.” living in Athens, Katie met one her now closest friends and followed her when she moved to Charlotte, but didn’t stay in the Queen City long thanks to another great friend!
A Journey Out West
While living in Athens, Katie met one her now closest friends and followed her when she moved to Charlotte, but didn’t stay in the Queen City long thanks to another great friend!
“After a few years of living in Charlotte, I had the opportunity to move to Phoenix, AZ and jumped at the chance with my neighbor (now also a very close friend). We packed up the stuff we couldn’t sell and drove cross country with several stops along the way. I had a blast there and got to see places I probably would have never seen had I not lived there.”
A Shoulder to Lean On
As Katie began working for a new company in Phoenix serving as Human Resources Manager, she was faced with an unimaginable situation that still remains with her today.
“I had one of my agents go missing. She was a young girl that had just moved from California a few months prior, and the story made national news. Despite our company assisting heavily in the search with interviews, fundraisers, vigils and billboards, her body was found 30 days from when she went missing. It wrecked her team, and rocked our company as a whole,” said Katie.
Katie continues, “We brought in counsellors for our employees, created various work schedules, and formed support groups for each of our departments for employees to meet and lean on one another. It was emotionally strenuous. I knew this girl and met with her several times about various issues. I missed her every day and wanted to cry in my office some days, but learned that people were looking to me to set the tone and I will never forget that realization. Human Resources is looked to for a lot of things, and one of those is the emotional temperature of the company. That was branded on me during that time and I try to remind myself of it every day since.”
Enter Financial Resources Group
After about a year and a half of working in Phoenix, Katie’s plans had suddenly changed. “I was laid off from my job and took that as a sign to move back south,” said Katie.
As Katie was on the search for a new job, a recruiter came across her resume on LinkedIn at the end of 2019 and found her to be a great fit for Financial Resources Group, having 15 years of HR experience under her belt.
“A recruiter from Robert Half contacted me about this position, and I knew right when I met with Christa Franse that I wanted to be a part of the company. I came in for a second interview and met with the rest of the team along with Bruce, who was president at the time and he couldn’t have been nicer. I have never been so sure about a position. It just felt very familiar to me and actually like family!”
From Loving Dogs…to the Great Outdoors
Katie and her family are die-hard Georgia Bulldog fans. “We are a family of Bulldogs and were thrilled to see them win the National Championship this year. It was a huge victory and my older brother made a bet with me that he would get a tattoo on his upper shoulder if they ever won the National Championship,” said Katie. “So, I’m waiting on him to go get that tattoo and I’m never going to let him live that down.”
In addition to being a Bulldog lover, Katie has two very special pups of her own. “My dogs Pickles and Mooch go pretty much everywhere with me,” said Katie.
In her spare time, she also enjoys volunteering at various animal shelters when not traveling to see friends and family. Additionally, she loves spending time outdoors. “I love doing anything outside. I enjoy camping, running, hiking, etc. I like to run 5Ks on the weekends no matter the cause,” said Katie.
An Inspirational Woman
Reflecting on inspirations that led Katie to where she is today, one particular woman comes to Katie’s mind.
“I love the story of Erin Brockovich. She was a single mother with 3 kids, broke, uneducated, and without any kind of support. She didn’t wallow though, she took it upon herself to do the right thing for someone she felt had been treated unjustly, and ended up affecting hundreds of people’s lives for the better. She is now revered as a very powerful consumer advocate and environmental activist. I am inspired by her determination to get the right thing done, which only occurred because of her compassion for others,” said Katie.
Words of Wisdom
For women considering a career in the human resources industry, Katie has this to say, “You are going to face a lot of tough situations, and will often be in the minority, but stay strong. Get certified, stay up on current events and workplace issues because you never know when you will be in the position to make a real change for your organization.”