Lead(H)er profile - Katie Mallett, Head of Finance and Strategy at Panorama Education
Katie Mallett has spent the entirety of her career at two companies: athenahealth, where she began as one of the company’s first interns and worked her way up to the role of Executive Director of Finance, and Panorama Education, where she holds the title of Head ofFinance and Strategy and is a key member of the Executive Team. Mallett leads the finance & strategy and operations functions there and has also served as the acting Vice President of People over the past several months.
“I really fell in love with the startup environment,” Mallett said. “I especially love the hypergrowth atmosphere.”
Mallett joined athena when the company was still relatively new and helped out on the learning and development team by creating databases that tracked the results of job trainings and certifications that were taking place. When a friend working on the finance team found an opening for her there, Mallett interviewed for the position and started in finance when the company was at about $50 million in revenue. By the time she left 10 years later, after taking on various accounting and finance and leadership roles, athenahealth had over $1 billion in revenue and over 5,000 employees.
“The company had exponential growth over that time period,” Mallett said. “We went public, introduced new products, opened up multiple offices, and acquired a couple of companies, and it was fun being part of all that.”
When Mallett met Panorama CEO Aaron Feuer, what she learned about the company reminded her so much of those early days at athenahealth. Panorama was growing quickly, with a big vision about what it would take to change education. It also offered Mallett the opportunity to build a team from the ground up again.
The move was a natural one. Mallett was the first in-house finance hire, replacing outside consultants that had supported Panorama until it was ready to make finance a permanent department. Mallett and the team she created have rolled out company-wide strategic planning processes, implemented scalable systems, introduced scorecards that show how the company is doing in relation to its goals, found a new office space, and helped raise $45 million in funding.
“It’s been fun to have my hands in different aspects in the business,” Mallett said. “It’s certainly one of the best things and one of the most challenging aspects about the job at the same time.”
Mallett is constantly thinking about how to continue fueling growth in accordance with Panorama’s long-term strategic vision. To do that, she looks for opportunities to work cross-functionally with other teams and stay a step ahead of the next stage of development.
“Working at a startup, it’s important to be really agile,” Mallett said. “We’re constantly evolving our strategy and figuring out, given where we are today, which levers we need to pull in order to reach our goals.”
For some, the constant change and redirection can get dizzying. For Mallett, hypergrowth speed is the one in which she’s most comfortable.
“Those are the things that energize me and that I get a lot of joy and passion from,” she said.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I spent a semester living in Australia and a winter session in Chile, and I think both those experiences evoked a lot of personal growth and inspired me to travel whenever possible. I love exploring new places, talking with locals, and really embracing different ways of life.
What are your strategies for managing stress?
I talk about it. I work with a team of people who I not only respect professionally, but who I also genuinely enjoy as humans. In our regular one on ones and team meetings, we make space to talk about stress and provide each other with unconditional support. It’s probably one of my favorite parts of working at Panorama and with the team I have.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
Up until recently, I was not an avid coffee drinker. In August I gave birth to a baby girl and a cup of coffee (or two) has now become part of the routine. Being a mom has brought so much joy and I want to be awake and present for every possible moment.
What’s one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
I love going to the North End. Italy is one of my favorite places in the world, and I think going to the North End evokes a sense of nostalgia from past trips. The community vibe, the food, the people -- it creates a cozy atmosphere that I really appreciate.
What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
Working at high growth companies means experiencing really high highs and really challenging lows. Some of my proudest moments were at those low points. When things don’t go as planned, it forces the team to come together in meaningful ways. When I first started at Panorama, there was a time when we weren’t on track to hit our revenue goals, and we needed to figure out our sales strategy and ways to accelerate growth to get back on track. So the co-founders and I met up one weekend in the office to brainstorm, and I’ll never forget that weekend. It was freezing in the office, and I remember being in the conference room wrapped up in coats. But we had a really productive session. We did a lot of white boarding and a lot of sticky notes, and we just left completely aligned and energized. Shortly after that we quickly got back on track, and I think looking back from where we are now, this is one of our best spent weekends. It was right when I started at Panorama and I was still getting to know folks, and it was just such a meaningful experience for the three of us together.
How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
Almost exactly 10 years ago I had transitioned at athena from working in accounting to working in financial planning and analysis, and in that role I was able to work with and learn from some really inspiring leaders like Ed Park. Ed taught me to use numbers and data to craft a story and build a long-term, strategic vision. I knew at that point that I wanted my future to be at a high-growth company with kind, passionate, and wildly intelligent people, and I knew that I wanted to continue to build teams and mentor others. I think I’ve been lucky enough to find exactly that at Panorama.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
Athena’s first CFO, Carl Byers, gave me the advice to do something every quarter that is resume-worthy. He really encouraged me to self-reflect each quarter about what I had accomplished and whether it was worthy of a bullet on a resume, and I found that advice to be really compelling. It forced me to be thoughtful about taking on new challenges. I think that at times, people can get held back by self-doubt or fear of going outside their comfort zone, especially for women and others in underrepresented groups. The advice that Carl gave me helps hold me accountable for my own professional development, and I think I’d really encourage recent graduates to do the same.