We sat down with Sandra (Sandy) Kirkby Baker, the office lead of our Chicago office, to learn more about her and her plans for Chicago. Sandy shares about her journey toward becoming the Credera Chicago lead, opens up about her leadership style and hopes for growing the office, and even shares a little bit about her good friend Regina George (her rescue Shih Tzu).
Q&A With Sandra Kirkby Baker
Tell us about your journey to becoming the Chicago office lead for Credera.
I was the sixth member of the Chicago Credera team when I joined in early 2020. At the time it was especially important for all members of the team to be scrappy and get deeply involved in internal Credera operations and community-building, given our small team. I had the opportunity to get very involved in both Chicago activities as well as representing Chicago within Credera. Since then, we’ve gone from easily fitting on one Teams screen together to nearly 30 employees at the end of 2020, and now over 90 in 2022. It’s been exciting to be part of such dramatic growth; I’m very humbled to have been asked to help lead our evolution and support our amazing team.
What excites you most about the future of the Chicago office?
The ability to shape our own future. We have a remarkably smart, passionate, kind, and funny team. I’m excited to see how we can use that spirit to establish our office culture and make our mark within both Credera and the Chicago market.
What has it been like for you to achieve this leadership role as a woman? Have you faced any specific challenges?
This isn’t limited to women, but it’s a common challenge for us: using your voice to share your unique perspective. It can be intimidating or even prohibitive to speak up for what you believe in, and even more so when you’re the only member of an under-represented group. It has taken me years to build the confidence to assert myself and sometimes raise the contrary opinion and understand this challenge. It’s critical as leaders we provide opportunities to those outside the majority group to have their voices heard and actively seek out their contributions.
What are your passions outside of work?
I love to read historical biographies, cook and bake, build my mixology skills, and travel (when possible).
I am also the proud dog-parent of a five-year-old rescue Shih Tzu mix, Regina George. After working with various organizations, I’m actively investigating deeper ways to engage with animal rescue nonprofits.
What is a personal goal you’re currently working toward?
My goal is to put in at least 10,000 minutes of Peloton programming in 2022. I’ve historically not been the biggest fan of working out, and other than weekly Pilates lessons have had trouble consistently exercising. I was a late Peloton adopter and have really enjoyed the convenience (and safety!) of working out at home and the ability to piece together short sessions into a larger workout. Between cycling, mediation, strength, and yoga, I’ve seen an improvement in my sleep, endurance (I can finally run up the steps to the El without getting winded!), and overall well-being.
You have a totally free weekend. How are you spending your time?
Sleeping in, some quality Peloton time, watching new movies or our favorite shows, and mixing up some craft cocktails. I love to cook brunch and like to find opportunities to have guests over for a leisurely afternoon meal.
How would you describe your approach to leadership?
I believe it’s crucial to have open, two-way communication. It’s the responsibility of the leader to understand their team members’ motivations, give them the benefit of the doubt when approaching challenging situations, and ensure you are not blindsiding them with feedback late in the game. Everyone should have the opportunity to receive regular feedback and the chance to adjust before the stakes get too high.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
Advocate for yourself and take advantage of opportunities when you see them. I’m fortunate to work for a company that not only accepts self-care and self-advocacy, but actively encourages it.
What advice would you give to early career consultants who aspire to have a career like yours?
Be willing to try new things. Career growth and satisfaction don’t always look like a ladder, but sometimes like a jungle gym. I’ve definitely not had a straightforward path in my career but have learned so much along the way, which has brought a different perspective and some incredible experiences.
Can you tell us more about how you plan to lead and grow this team?
Two thoughts keep coming to mind: all leaders lead and no surprises. I am fortunate to work with a group of incredibly strong leaders in a people-first culture and they will be crucial to help mature and expand our Chicago footprint; I will be looking to them to lead from all angles. It’s also critical to me that we have open and respectful communication. No team member should be blindsided with a poor review or pent-up negative feedback, nor do I want to be caught off guard by a team member dissatisfied with their experience.
What are your top recommendations of things to do in Chicago?
I try to go on one of the Chicago Architectural Center’s river cruises every year—even without out-of-town guests. The docents are incredibly knowledgeable of both the city’s history and architecture, and the skyline constantly evolves, so you always learn something new.
Chicago also has a world-class food scene, especially when you get out into the neighborhoods. Some restaurants I recommend most frequently:
Andersonville: Defloured (bakery – 100% gluten free!), Ora (sushi), Calo (Italian)
Bucktown & Logan Square: Antico (Italian), Lula Café (New American)
Lincoln Square & Ravenswood: Xochimilco (Mexican), Siam Country (Thai), L&M Parkside (amazing drinks!), Goosefoot (fine dining), Indian Clay Pot (Indian), Spacca Napoli (pizza)
What’s your biggest hope for the Chicago office?
I want every Credera team member in Chicago to feel known, valued, and fulfilled, even as we grow. Everyone brings unique skills and perspectives, and we not only respect that, we welcome it.
Interested in Learning More About Our Chicago Office?
Are you seeking a career at a great workplace? Consider taking the next step on your professional journey with Credera. Check out our open opportunities, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or check out our Chicago page to learn more about our Chicago office.
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