“Regardless of your educational background, if you show you want to grow, have initiative and the drive to strive for and deliver on growth opportunities, you can achieve anything,” said Catherine James, GB ’02. 

As vice president of strategy and projects for life and annuities at Genworth Financial, Inc., a Fortune 500 global insurance company headquartered in Richmond, Va., James draws on her roots in chemical engineering and manufacturing to devise robust, creative solutions built upon solid foundations.

“I began my career as a production engineer for GE Plastics and then moved to Honeywell. After receiving my Six Sigma Black Belt,” an advanced certification in the renowned process improvement methodology, “I became interested in moving from manufacturing to the financial services industry, so I decided to apply for The Richmond MBA due to its highly reputable status. Because of my engineering background I had to establish my credibility in business concepts in order to move into the financial services world.”

In September 2000, while at The Richmond MBA, James made her move to GE Financial Assurance, which later became Genworth Financial. “The Richmond MBA helped me achieve what I wanted for my career. It’s opened so many doors that I wouldn’t have been able to walk through otherwise. I would not have been able to apply to the jobs I’ve gotten, and thus, I would not be where I am today.”

At Genworth James has been able to grow closer to the community it serves. “I moved into this role so as to have a greater impact and closer proximity to the community. We do our best to help families achieve financial security and prepare for the future.”

She described her colleagues at Genworth as “passionate and intelligent. After 14 years they are what’s keeping me here.”

Recently James moved into her current strategic role and decided to refresh her strategy knowledge through Executive Education’s Creating and Managing Innovation course with Professor Roger Schnorbus. “I needed to get back into the strategic mindset for my new role. Having taken Professor Schnorbus’ Strategic Management course when I was an MBA student I knew this two-day course would be very worthwhile and applicable to my work.”

James described, “He not only presented a variety of case studies that demonstrated numerous strategy elements, but he also introduced an innovation process that I had never seen before. As part of my role we introduce new products, so the innovation process is something I will certainly use going forward. The course has proven even more valuable than I initially thought.”

Looking back on her time at The Richmond MBA, James reflected, “I really appreciated the practicality of the curriculum in addition to the theory. I admired the practical knowledge and experiences of the professors. Dean Richard Coughlan shared his real world experiences as he taught us business ethics. Professor Schnorbus used his work experiences to teach us a unit in crisis management. Their stories engrained the business concepts into my brain. Because the theory was taught through the lens of real world experiences, the principles really stuck.”

As she considers the future of her life and career, James hopes to make a lasting impact at the office as well as in others’ development. “I hope to continue to broaden my experiences so that I can challenge myself to work on higher impact business problems and drive key initiatives. Over the years some of my proudest moments have been seeing those I’ve developed and their successes, whether at work, when I’m coaching my kids’ soccer teams or when I’m leading a hand bell choir, I get to watch people grow. At the end of the day if we’re having fun growing together and if we’ve become better people in the process, we’re doing something right.”

Photo: Catherine James and her family