Former Protiviti MD Katherine Holloway Shares Her Unexpected Career Journey to Nonprofit Director

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Katherine Holloway began her career as a programmer in the software industry. After leading software teams at several technology companies, she joined the advanced technology team at Arthur Andersen, eventually making Partner in 2000. In 2002, Katherine joined Protiviti Dallas as a founding Managing Director specializing in IT Consulting. In 2006, Katherine left Protiviti to devote herself to helping African women get a hand-up in life with the African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries where she now serves as the U.S. Director of Operations. Connect with Katherine on LinkedIn.

Katherine Holloway 01Katherine describes Protiviti’s beginnings as similar to some of the start-ups she had experienced during her tenure in the software industry.

“Protiviti was a start-up, absolutely. At Arthur Andersen, the phone rang and everyone knew who you were and you were invited to the table. At that time, we were ‘New Co.’ – we didn’t even have a name – and we had no business, no customers. But we had the same high quality people we had at Andersen, so from that perspective, it was great. By the time I left, we had established a name and brand in the market. We were hiring like crazy and we were thriving and global again. It was a great ride.”

While still an MD at Protiviti Dallas, Katherine volunteered on her first trip with the African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM).

“I went on a trip in June of 2005 to South Sudan to do some training with micro-business women. Fifty years of war had just ended that January with a peace treaty. It was a ceasefire, so people were rebuilding.

I was stunned by the poverty and the need for women to have opportunity. I thought about myself as a single mom and except for the fact that I was born in America and had a great education, I was no different from them.

These women had risen from the ashes and built businesses from nothing. They were earning money to feed and clothe themselves and their kids. There weren’t many men around as most of them had been killed in the war. I was so amazed by what I saw. How resourceful and smart they were. I would hire some of these women if they were in America – I would want to work with them.”

A year later, Katherine retired from Protiviti Dallas to devote more time to volunteering with the organization.

Katherine Holloway 02

This is one of my favorite photos. I was visiting Masai women who were in our literacy program. It was thrilling to meet them!

“I wanted to focus on giving back and doing something to help these women. So I went to work as a volunteer for ALARM and helped them establish the Women’s Economic Microfinance program in eight countries. I helped find funding, wrote curriculum and traveled to many of the countries to meet with local staff and train women’s groups. Eventually, I became paid part-time staff and now I lead US operations.”

In her new role, Katherine wears many hats. Her responsibilities range from managing finances and donations to launching a new website and providing IT support. She also writes and leads training programs based on needs determined by the organization’s locally-based staff.

“All of our staff in our eight countries are locals. They know the language, the culture and the needs where they serve. The US offices are here to support them, to tell their stories and raise funds for the projects they need done.

That’s one of the things I really love about this organization. We provide support, but the local staff are the people who say, this is what we need. There is no way I could tell them what they need. They define what they need to be successful and tell us the issues they are facing in their communities.”

When creating training curriculum, Katherine takes the “train the trainer” approach so that attendees will take what they’ve learned and pass it along.

Katherine Holloway 03

A microfinance group in Eastern Congo that sells dried fish.

“We have trained church leaders, civil authorities like soldiers, chaplains and more. The President of Burundi’s wife had been in one of our trainings – no one in the class had realized who she was – and she thought the material was so good that it would be helpful for members of the Burundi government. She took home extra training materials, talked to her husband and he invited our organization to train military and government leaders in leadership, peacebuilding and conflict resolution.”

Though fundraising is a challenge shared by most nonprofits, it’s especially difficult for training programs. According to Katherine, the key is storytelling.

“Our leadership training doesn’t fall into the category of something tangible that people are willing to give money to – training people in conflict resolution is a harder sell. It’s more impactful for the global community, but it’s a harder sell. How do you tell those stories? We are constantly trying to figure that out.

Katherine Holloway 04

A microfinance group in Rwanda that creates woven baskets.

For example, there is a schoolteacher in Uganda named Juliet whose mother was killed by someone from a neighboring tribe. The tribes had had a long history of conflict. Juliet went to our training for conflict resolution and realized she needed to forgive the people who killed her mom. So when decided to start her own school, she went into that neighboring village – even though it was dangerous for her to do so – to invite the children to attend her school. They didn’t really trust her initially, but now children from the two villages attend school together. Juliet was able to break that cycle of revenge for herself and impact her community and the neighboring community.”

Watch Juliet’s story on YouTube.

Katherine attributes much of her success to her background at Protiviti.

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This is a group of women I trained in starting microfinance businesses.

“My background at Protiviti has been so helpful. We have an orphan program in Northern Uganda and a large donor sponsors all six hundred children. The donor wanted to know that all the kids they had sponsored are real kids and that the money they donate is being spent the way they want. So I thought, this is an internal audit program! I put together an audit plan and we went together to execute it.

I am really grateful to continue to use the skills I developed at Andersen and Protiviti to serve people like orphans and women who just need a hand up in life. It is fulfilling and life-changing and I’m having a great time. I love that I have friends all over the world now.”


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