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Deborah A Ratterman-Warnecke, Director, Law Operations, Sears Holding Corporation



Q: What did you want to do when you were 10 years old?


A: Be a veterinarian.








Q: What was your first paid job?  


A: Cleaning motel rooms.


Q: What was your first big career break and how did it change your career path?


A: I was hired to work for a senior partner during an internship at a law firm in Utah. He was a great mentor and, because he had been practicing law for 30+ years, had no ego. He allowed me, his paralegal, to practice law under him.   


Q: How did you get your current position (internal promotion, company change, other)?  


A: The General Counsel at Sears Holding appointed me directly.


Q: What do you like most about your current role?  


A: The ability to bring about positive change within the department.


Q: Who was your most important mentor, coach, advocate or role model and how did (s)he help you?  


A: Lynne Yowell, Secretary and Associate General Counsel State Farm. Lynne hired me for a position open at State Farm in 1998 and moved me from Utah to Illinois. The move was both geographical and professional, as I left the law firm for a corporate role.


Q: What is currently your biggest career challenge?


A: Grappling with the law department budget.




Q: What’s your 5-year career plan, i.e. where would you like to be in 2020?  


A: I really love my job, my team and my company.  I hope I am fortunate enough to continue in this role, at this company, and reporting to my current GC.


Q: Do you currently have a “board of advisors” to help make career choices?


A: I don’t have what you would call a formal board of advisors. Instead I have a group of men and women professionals that I vet career issues with. This group includes attorneys, Insurance and HR Executives all employed at different companies than my own.


Q: What do you see as the biggest roadblock to your career advancement?  


A: I don’t feel like I have a roadblock. If there is one, it’s me.





Q: What is the best career advice you’ve received?  


A: Not to get in my own way.


Q: What career advice would you give to women beginning their careers?


A: Listen to your sixth sense or gut instincts and follow them. When you hit override on an issue or problem, it’s usually a mistake.    


Q: What mistakes do you see women making in their careers?  


A: Fear of failure. Fear of making mistakes.


Q: What do you wish someone had told you about your career?  


A: Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t settle just because it’s easy.


Q: What book changed your career or life?


A: I don’t believe books change lives or careers, people do.


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