An inspiring leader, student of sustainability, and motorcycle enthusiast, Holly Baumgart strives to be constantly learning as she blazes a path for herself. She currently works as the VP of IT at Sargento Foods, using her over 20 years of experience in IT to lead her team through the ever-changing landscape of manufacturing technology and sustainability.
Holly didn't always envision a future in STEM for herself. Even now, her favorite part about working in IT is actually getting to work with people and the diverse personalities and mindsets they offer. But as a business major in college Holly became drawn to the changing world of technology and the new opportunities it offered. She started taking management information systems classes and looking back over her years in the technology field, it is obvious this is where she was meant to be.
"I’ve actually always hated math... it never really felt comfortable. Therefore I never classified myself as a STEM person. Guess looking at where I am today and my track record, it was always there."
Upon graduating with her degree in business, Holly took a job in IT consulting at Ernst & Young. Consulting brought Holly a lot of opportunities to travel the world and meet new people, a passion that’s grown throughout her entire life.
Then after nine years with the company, Holly decided she needed to broaden her skill set, and left to pursue her MBA at Northwestern. Harley Davidson was recruiting there at the time and Holly jumped at the chance to start working with them in International Business, a job that afforded her even more opportunities to travel and learn in a new environment.
A self-professing lover of eclectic food, wine, and culture, Holly is thrilled whenever she gets a chance to travel to a new country.
"My favorite was South Africa. I went there for a vacation and ended up absolutely falling in love with its nature and culture."
Creating a Sustainable Future
Holly’s passions know no end, as she is actively involved in sustainability work and several non-profit organizations. She is on the board of directors at Feeding Mouths, Filling Minds, a group that works to create sustainable food and water sources. Committed wholly to their work in Africa, Holly has gone there seven times to bring technological advancements and investment opportunities to places that need it most. She is also working closely with them to instill her passion for learning in the Koinadugu District of Sierra Leone, where FMFM is currently building a higher education institute.
Her non-profit work with FMFM encouraged Holly to pursue her third master's, this time in sustainability. Taking classes one at a time, she expects to complete her Harvard program in about a year and a half. She’s taking all her classes online, and Harvard reaches out to their online students and offers them opportunities to participate in on-campus activities and study abroad projects, something that Holly loves taking advantage of. Though Holly doesn't intend to change her career path upon completing the program, it has given her insight into aspects of her job she didn't expect.
Learning Doesn't Have a Finish Line
With her three master's degrees, her years of experience, and the passion she exudes about every project she takes on, Holly is the embodiment of what it means to follow the path your interests lead you to. She does not believe that education should be linear, an antiquated concept that says once you finish your degree, you get a job and then you stop learning.
"I'm just always curious about learning. It used to be you went to college and then settled into a career. But that's changing. People are getting their master's degrees in their 70s, and that’s okay. You should be doing something educational every decade."
Holly looks at the world around her and is excited by the opportunities she sees to learn. She pursues her goals tirelessly, knowing that she has the tools and knowledge she needs to overcome anything life throws at her. This fearless attitude towards life inspires those around Holly to follow their passions with the same fervor.
"If you are interested and intrigued and curious, new things are going to come into your world. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be good at everything in STEM. If it's something you're interested in, you'll find the way."
It’s Not Just About the Shoes
As someone who is constantly going from a classroom to the shop floor to an executive meeting, Holly experienced the need that Xena fills for professional, fashionable safety workwear for women. She described the defeat she felt having to shop for steel-toe boots that were designed for men and is thrilled that Xena is filling this void in the market space.
Her favorite thing about Xena Workwear, however, is not just the professional looking shoes. Holly loves that Xena showcases the strong women working in plants, factories, and on shop floors who rarely get the recognition they deserve.
"Xenas are so cute and cool that it could just be about the shoes, but it's not. They care about the women who wear them and their stories."
Photography by Jason Hillman