King County is a public sector leader in using technology to help customers access services and complete transactions online and on the go. It takes a dedicated team of problem solvers to identify solutions that make sense for customers – inside and outside the County.
One of those people is IT Senior Business Analyst Barb DeLauter, who uses her people skills to impact both her work at King County and her community.
Initially, she began her 11-year career in Elections, but has since moved throughout King County before moving to the Department of Information Technology (KCIT) 5 years ago. She relies on her background in teaching, degree in business administration, experience as a business owner and military experience to connect with others and consistently anticipate challenges in her work.
“I like to try and find the balance in our work,” she said. “There’s two sides to everything, so it’s really interesting to help others realize how you can be part of the solution and not the problem.”
Her ability to see challenges with fresh eyes is useful in her work, as she regularly leads program specific technical and data driven projects to improve business processes. These projects often have long-term outcomes that impact both King County employees and residents. Barb works with her customers to address issues that may arise at every step of the process.
“If you know the problems and can capture them, then the customer can begin to prioritize them to determine which to solve first and how to solve them,” she said. “This allows us to work on the project in little sprints, in thin slices, rechecking with our consumer to assess the value of our work along the way.”
“This lets us work in a more agile environment providing value sooner as opposed to at the end of a long project only to learn that it’s not what the customer really wanted.”
She adds, “By having the ability to change and adapt future plans based on current insights IT teams can be more agile in what solutions we’re providing, and allows us to bring greater value to the project.”
When working to enable successful solutions, it is also important for Barb to provide clarity for others so that they can recognize the best way to move forward. Listening, asking purposeful questions and documenting the business problem helps build consensus with stakeholders. Coming to an agreement on solutions is important for the project to succeed.
“I’m just always looking at the big picture,” she said. “When the projects and people I’m working with say ‘Well this here, this is the problem’ I come back to them with questions.
“I ask the what, who, why, how, when and where of the solution so that we can continuously improve. Having that conversation yields a better solution.”
It’s this patience and willingness to meet someone halfway that also lends itself so well to her work as a mentor in the Albers Mentor Program at Seattle University. She has worked with the program for the last three years, serving as a mentor to a total of six students. They can be either a graduate or undergraduate student, and each bring their own challenges and personal insecurities to the mentor-mentee relationship.
“Sometimes they may not have any experience in business and so I help them connect the dots,” said Barb. “It’s really about helping a student to see the connection between what they are learning and how the classroom challenges they face are the very challenges they will encounter in the workforce.”
“Like for example a team member not pulling their share of the workload or not showing up.”
Barb helps her mentees understand it is their responsibility to find and lead the solution, not their teacher. Similar to how in the workforce it will be them and not their supervisor.
Barb works with each mentee to build their skills and pursue their individual career interests. This includes everything from help with a resume and cover letter, to attending important in-class presentations. Barb finds that being consistently accessible for her mentees empowers them to succeed.
“Anytime I get asked by a student to attend an event, I’m there. I support them all the way,” she said. “I’m there to help them find value and see the importance in their work.”
While she admits that it takes time to get through to a mentee, they eventually come to realize how business practices and strategies can impact their career.
“Sometimes I have to be blunt, but that’s part of the program,” she said. “It’s a great learning opportunity to get students invested in the skills needed for business acumen and help them understand how others work.”
She encourages her mentees to go out and explore the business world, and is proud to connect them with available King County opportunities and workshops, like Lean Lunch and Learns.
“I always tell them to seek out others,” she said. “For example, the Department of Transportation gives tours to people. It shows these students the breadth of opportunities and resources available to them.”
It’s part of her plan to set up each mentee for success, similar to the way in which she sets up her King County projects.
“I love people,” she said. “I love being able to share some of my experiences to teach someone something and to help them avoid the mistakes I have made. I’ll work alongside them to say ‘Let’s really look at this challenge and listen to this perspective.”
“We might have discussions around, “Where are the opportunities? What could be simplified? How are we going to be problem solvers?”
Barb was recently featured in the Albers Mentor Program newsletter for her commitment to leadership and education. For questions about the mentorship program, or to learn more about how KCIT helps create positive change, contact Barb DeLauter at firstname.lastname@example.org.