We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Catalano and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Anna, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I’m the daughter of immigrants who came to this country as students from China. They came just as the communists were taking over, but had every hope of returning back at some point, but never could. I grew up in Kansas City — with no extended family, but our parents had a network of friends and our home was always filled for holidays and special occasions. As immigrants, my parents raised us on some basic principles: (1) The importance of education and effort. They came with very little but were highly educated and worked very hard. As a result, I always felt as though anything was achievable through hard work, effort, and sacrifice. College was not an option, and I find myself even today, as a lifelong learner — never losing the spark of curiosity and inquisition. (2) The value of family. Because we had no extended family, our parents and me and my three sisters are very close-knit and have instilled that sense of family in our now extended families of our own. As an executive and now as a board director, I spend a great deal of time with those in the private sector discussing the importance of self-improvement, innovation, and learning, and how to create benefit from those qualities for a wider community. I also spend a great deal of time on the topic of creating an environment for more diversity and inclusion in the business world, recognizing the value of different perspectives in decision making and community impact.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started my career at Amoco Corporation in the retail sales group, calling on gas station dealers in the midwest. As a woman in that part of a very male-dominated industry, I ran into my share of challenges. Believing in yourself, having a strong support network (at work and home), and pushing myself to excel was key to moving up the corporate ladder. I spent many years working through various sales and marketing roles across the country as well as in the company headquarters in Chicago. My career trajectory changed when I agreed to an overseas assignment in 1995 to open up Amoco’s refining/marketing business in China. Having grown up in a Chinese-speaking environment, it was wonderful to be able to use my first language in a business setting, and actually get to know the country of my family’s origin. Upon returning two years later, opportunities in the company opened up for more senior roles. Following the BP and Amoco merger in 1999 I moved to the UK and became Group Vice President of Marketing for BP, and had the opportunity to help rebrand the company as a primary voice behind the “Beyond Petroleum” campaign. In 2003 due to a number of personal and professional reasons, I resigned from the company at age 43. That’s when I transitioned into a career chapter of board directorship, and have been doing that for the past 17 years. I’m a real believer in multiple chapters in a person’s professional career, and truly encourage people to pursue interests they have and opportunities when they arise. The gift of experience can be leveraged across many different industries and segments, and the opportunity for personal growth in finding those new ventures is tremendousy valuable.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We live in Fulshear, so I would certainly start by giving them a taste of a semi-rural community in the Houston area. Other things we’d do…go to some of our favorite restaurants (steaks, BBQ, Tex-Mex), take them on a drive around the area to experience the different “feels” of Houston from the city to the parks to Galveston, and perhaps consider some culture (I’m on the HGO board)! I always suggest people visit during the Houston Livestock and Rodeo, too…nothing like that to get a real feel for Texas!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d dedicate my shoutout to my husband, who has been a partner for over 37 years. As someone who gave up his career as a structural engineer to dedicate to our family (as a stay-at-home dad), he is someone who has been instrumental in helping me and our family become our personal best.

Website: www.shades-of-leadership.com
Instagram: accatalano
Linkedin: Anna (Cheng) Catalano
Twitter: accatalano
Facebook: Anna Cheng Catalano

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