Karie Keown, director of Rentokil North America Pest Control, beat off stiff competition to capture the prestigious National Pest Management Association (NPMA) Women of Excellence award.
Karie has worked in the pest control industry since 2003 when she went to work for her father, starting as a sales and service representative for Presto-X in the Chicago area. After climbing the corporate ladder and learning all manner of useful pest control tips along the way, Karie is currently in charge of sales and training for Rentokil’s 2000 strong North American force. Karie emparts her deep industry knowledge to the National Pest Management Association and serves on the board of directors. We caught up with her fresh off the plane from Hawaii.
Hey Karie, how was Hawaii and PestWorld 2010? Did you pick up any tips and advice you could share with us? Can you give us a heads up on the biggest pest control issue the world is currently facing?
PestWorld was awesome! I am always amazed at the willingness everyone has to share best practices with each other. The mentoring and relationships amongst the NPMA members is remarkable.
Dewitt Jones, a photographer for National Geographic and motivational speaker, was particularly inspirational.
I cannot speak for the rest of the world but here in North America, bed bugs are the biggest pest control issue. They are everywhere! The breakout sessions on bed bugs were standing room only. Everyone is looking for an answer to this epidemic.
You also picked up the National Pest Management Association’s Woman of Excellence Award. Which tips would you pass to other women in the industry so they can shine too?
I am not sure of the pest management organizations outside of the U.S. In the U.S. we have the National Pest Management Association, as well as state associations. I would encourage involvement in these professional organizations. One observation from attending the annual Rentokil Pest Meeting, no matter where in the world you are living, we are all confronted with some of the same concerns: colleague retention; colleague recruiting; benefits; compensation; the rapid pace of changing technology; training of future leaders; etc. By getting involved with other pest management professionals you will learn what others are doing to address these and other issues. By sharing with each other we raise the standard for our entire industry.
How are women represented in the industry? Have you encountered any difficulties?
Women are represented at all levels and in all areas in pest management. From research to IT to HR to CEO women are playing significant and important roles. This is an industry full of opportunity for anyone willing to apply themselves and work hard.
In eight years of working in pest control what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
In all honesty my biggest challenge has been transitioning from a family owned business to an international corporation. Even though I spent 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry with major corporations the transition back to the corporate environment has been difficult for me.
What’s next on your agenda?
To continue to grow, develop and contribute as a leader and a human being.
What’s your least favourite pest and why?
I am not a fan of spiders…they just “creep me out.”
What are your interests away from the office?
Away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family, entertaining family and friends in my home, philanthropic activities, politics and exercising.
Do you take your job home with you? Are you always searching for bugs and rodents?
I definitely take my job to hotel rooms with me…always checking for bed bugs before I move into a room. Other than that, I think in this industry we are all more aware of our surroundings when dining out, walking down a street, etc… And, like anyone else in management, we are always trying to think of ways to more successfully achieve results and positively influence those we work with; very often these ideas come to me when I am away from the office. I think the mind has a way of working on projects and issues subconsciously and when it has a solution, it can come to you anywhere.