Katie Praske Brandt: Smith Alumna Builds Relationships from Sea to Sea

Katie Praske BrandtKatie Praske Brandt ’01, now works as a senior advisor at ARG. The Virginia-based IT consulting and brokerage firm helps over 3,000 companies and non-profits make the best technology decisions for their business. The company was founded in 1991 by her father Gregory Praske ’77, who is also a Smith graduate. Prior to joining her father’s company, Katie spent nearly 15 years at Maersk leading a variety of corporate projects and customer supply chains. Every transaction is international when you work at Maersk, the world’s largest container ship operator. “Supply chain management gives you a really literal illustration of global business. Each shipment touches at least two countries. You can’t do anything in isolation.”

Her education at Smith allowed her to work on projects with students from diverse backgrounds and cultures, which prepared her for Maersk, a truly international organization where most people work in their second language. The job required Katie to function as a type of translator. She took corporate directives from Maersk HQ in Copenhagen and explained them to front-line workers at ports around the world. She also carried information back the other direction. “I spoke fewer languages than most people at Maersk, but I did the most translating,” says Katie. “I helped people in different departments and at different levels understand each other.”

Cultural and language barriers added complexity. But Katie built relationships of trust by focusing on communication, empathy and mutual respect. She says that’s what it means to have a global mindset. “People all have the same basic needs, but they’re under different pressures and have access to different types of information. You have to pause and see impacts from different perspectives.” In that way Katie still functions as a translator, bringing people together and building understanding. Relationship building gives Katie confidence to talk to people from any background or industry. Many people want what’s comfortable, but Katie says her global mindset pushes her to new frontiers. “You can’t be in a position that’s truly international and has global impact if you’re not willing to work outside your familiar surroundings.”

Having held multiple positions at Maersk across five different locations for a span of 15 years, Katie became versed in a wide range of job functions and expanded the breadth and depth of her talents among several departments. She gained invaluable skills that equipped her with the experience which now helps her in the role of a strategic growth advisor at ARG.

Katie was part of the QUEST program while she was at Smith, where she consulted for government entities and companies, which gave her practical business, project management, and teamwork experience. With the benefit of perspective, that exposure propelled her to reach for the variety of opportunities that were available to her, and not limit herself. This summer, Katie will return to Smith to teach a supply chain management course for the online MBA program.