From front-line caseworker to senior vice president
This interview kicks off Making an Impact, a yearlong series of profiles and articles to introduce some of our best and brightest leaders — individuals who are making tremendous impacts in the government sectors we serve.
Kelly Blaschke Treharne, Senior Vice President, Workforce Services
Kelly oversees a diverse portfolio that delivers workforce and tax credit and employer services to clients across the United States. (Check out her professional bio here.)
We sat down with her to learn more about her approaches to leadership, helping government programs get better results, and building strong teams that deliver outstanding outcomes.
How did you get started in your career?
My first career choice was anthropology and architecture — but I was informed rather abruptly that those kinds of jobs weren't suited for women. I grew up in an environment that didn't value higher education for women, and I had to fight to go to college. It wasn't easy, but I was the first woman in my family to get a college degree. That experience has profoundly influenced me, and throughout my career, I have been committed to finding ways to empower people. I am big on helping people to face and tackle whatever is holding them back.
Your first job was a caseworker role?
Yes. The big lesson there was the realization that I had skill and passion for helping people to identify and solve problems. As a community advocate, I had the opportunity to work with some of the city's most vulnerable populations. My teammates and I helped many people facing significant challenges, and in time I grew into a position where I could guide programs and develop systems and better methods for solving those challenges.
In time, I found that insights as a caseworker translated directly into my ability to help design and deploy new and more effective programming, and to teach those approaches and methods to build capacity in others. That put me on the path to my career at Maximus, where I have found a great team and a culture that strongly values the ability to think laterally, find new ways of addressing stubborn problems, and develop programs that deliver real-world results.
Serving as a leader at MAXIMUS has given me a place to find my passion for helping people and empowered my teams and me to tackle challenges that make real differences in people's lives.
What is the best part about working at Maximus?
I always get to work with the best people. In my client-facing role, it's tremendously gratifying to help customers improve their circumstances and grow into their best version of themselves. Helping people get results and grow into financial and social independence is incredibly rewarding. In my role as a leader of teams delivering social services, I have an abiding passion for developing talent and mentoring new leaders. A big part of what I do as a manager is to encourage people to take on those imposing next steps – and prepare them for greater responsibility and the challenges of leadership.
What professional advice might you offer to women just getting started in their careers?
Look – I would start with finding what you're good at and where you excel. Know yourself. Then, set out looking for a place and a role where those skills are valued. Surround yourself with people who understand and appreciate your skills and talents – ideally leaders who are keen to mentor you and an organization that can help you develop your skills into strengths.
Identify the skills you already have – even if they aren't fully developed. Look for career choices, opportunities, and good people who are keen to help you develop those skills.
At the same time – take risks. I've not gotten anywhere worth going without taking on some risk. And be brave enough to occasionally risk being unpopular. Sometimes leadership will call on you to rock the boat a bit to give voice to the unpopular but necessary viewpoint. But never be too afraid to take risks.