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.