Team Spotlight: Katie Niekrash
You pass them in the halls, see their faces on Zoom calls, and exchange emails. You know their job title and department, and might even know their extension by heart. But do you truly know who you’re working with? Get to know our Senior Vice President of Healthcare, Katie Niekrash!
Who are you?
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, which might surprise most people. My father worked in liquor and beverage sales at the beginning of his career, so he had to move a few times. We eventually moved to Texas then landed in Connecticut, where I live to this day, so I do consider myself a New England girl. I’m married with two amazing daughters. What’s funny is that everyone knows me as Katie Niekrash or KN at work, and I honestly hoped that one day I’d be upgrading my last name when I got married. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because my husband’s last name is Schwart. No Z, just Schwart. So even though I’m Katherine Schwart, I decided to stay as Katie Niekrash for work. Somehow Niekrash is easier than Schwart for people!
Were you Team Backstreet Boys, Team NSYNC, or something else?
Absolutely none of them. I was not a fan of the boybands of the 90s. Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98 Degrees, none of them were for me. I was a huge rap fan. I had a Tupac poster on my wall and was all about West Coast rap and Death Row Records. Growing up, I used to always have my “California Love” cassette tape (because you know, that’s what we had then) ready to play in my car. My dad would be so mad at me because the music was always playing so loud as soon as he turned on the car. He’d always yell, “This is too loud and this isn’t music!”, but that’s just the music I was into and still am. I mean, you know I went to the Ludacris concert with all my friends a few months ago? It was awesome. And, of course, the Super Bowl halftime show this year absolutely blew my mind. So, no boy bands for me.
Who were your heroes and inspirations growing up?
I’ve got to go with my dad, who is still my hero to this day. He’s just such a great person and truly takes the time and effort to get to know people. And because of that, everyone absolutely loves him. He’s started two charities and is all about doing things for others. The man has absolutely no ego whatsoever too. That’s what a real hero to me is, and that’s my dad. Not to mention, he has a great career in Sales. I followed in his footsteps there.
The Spice Girls are getting back together and you’ve just been recruited to be their 6th member. What’s your spice name and why?
That is a good question. I did like the Spice Girls. Growing up, anyone could kind of relate to at least one of them. But I’d hate to pigeonhole yourself for the rest of your life with a nickname. Like Baby Spice. What is that even about? Hmm, I guess I’d just want to be the fun one of the bunch. I’ll go with Sassy Spice. I feel like Sassy Spice just says that she’s the fun one of the bunch.
What led you to work at the company?
Okay well, that’s actually a funny story. I went to Tulane for college. Love New Orleans. That city will always have a special place in my heart. My first job after college brought me to NYC. It was New Year’s Eve 2006, going into 2007, and I was at a boat party with one of my friends who I knew from high school and he introduced me to his girlfriend (now wife), Dana Thistle. I was doing office management / HR work at the time, and it just wasn’t for me. Dana and I were talking, and she told me to interview with our company where she also worked. One thing led to another and I interviewed the following week and started my first job here a couple of weeks later. I don’t think many people really look into recruitment as a career coming right out of college, so Dana did me a huge favor by telling me about it. Taking that first job here was easily one of the best decisions of my life, and I’ve never looked back
You’re asked to write a novel. What would it be about?
That’s funny you ask that because I always promised my daughters that I would write a book about mermaids for them. I grew up on the ocean. My father has a lobster boat and we go fishing and lobstering all the time. So, it’d have to be something along those lines. I feel like it could definitely be a young adult book, maybe a Twilight-esque series, where a human falls in love with a mermaid. I can definitely do that.
How have things changed at the company since you first started?
First let me say that a lot of people that I started with at this company are still here, which truly says a lot about the company. While the organization has grown significantly and we’ve had a major leadership change in recent years, our core values and culture have held steady. Our company is very purpose-driven, which is why I think we’ve been able to stay true to ourselves as we’ve grown. We all want to work hard and succeed, but more importantly, we all enjoy what we do and like spending time together. The people are the entity that makes a company a great one, and we work with the best.
You can choose anyone in the world to become friends with, who would you choose and why?
Bill Belichick (Note: She answered this before I could even finish the question). I just want to see if he can be normal. He always looks like such a curmudgeon that I want to see if he can actually be a regular, friendly guy that can go to a bar and just have a beer and chat. And if he’s not, I feel like I should be his only friend to break him out of his shell. I really want to know if he’s ever laughed too. Like really, truly laughed. Does he laugh with his wife and kids when no one is looking? I’m a huge Patriot fan, by the way, not sure if you noticed.
How has the COVID pandemic affected your daily, monthly, and yearly routines and workload?
Well, working in Healthcare during the pandemic was like a tornado hit us. Everything changed so quickly. It was wild. Working all hours of the day and dealing with demands and situations that none of us could have even imagined or prepared for. Not to mention, I have two girls who were schooling from home, so then I had to learn how to multitask with them while working. And once I got a grasp of that and started thriving, everything seemed to settle, and things sort of went back to normal for a bit. I got used to my new routine, and then all of a sudden I’m doing 9 million things with work and starting to run errands in-person again and participating in my kids’ carpools. It all went away for so long and then everything just came rushing back. It was a different type of overwhelming. But in a way, it was like a correction or second chance for some families. The pandemic showed me to slow down a bit and have quiet time with my husband and kids. We got really into board games and cooked together more. Working remotely also gave me an opportunity to spend the time I’d normally spend commuting or having other obligations with my family. Don’t get me wrong, the world was going through a terrible health crisis—but I think it definitely helped strengthen a lot of family bonds because it enabled us to have more quality time together. That’s the silver lining for me.
Every day, 12 things appear in your backyard. They are random, but all start with a letter of your choosing. What letter do you choose?
Wow, that is a weird question. Hmmm. I feel like you have to go with “Wheel of Fortune” rules when you do this. Gotta go with one of those great letters. Not a vowel. Maybe a D, T, R, L, or S. Let’s go with “S”. That’s such a weird question. There are so many words and every letter has something bad. Ugh. Now I’m going to have sharks, scissors, and sea lions all over my backyard now. That’s really a tough one. You know, you should really pick a theme next time when you ask this question. (Note: She criticized the question for another minute or two. I apologized. We have since reconciled.)
What does 2022 have in store for the direct hire Healthcare team?
This is our comeback year, our reset year! We’re getting back to normal, core business in a smarter way. Our team typically focuses on direct hire recruitment but, during the pandemic, we did a lot of contract placements because of overwhelming needs. We had to learn a whole new business and get away from our core. We have such an awesome team right now and we’re off to a great start as the market evens out. This is our year to shine, start feeling normal at work again, and not having everything seem like a fire that we need to put out. I think it’s going to be a good year for the team and for our company as a whole.
You’re allowed one last meal (it can be homemade or from a specific restaurant), what would it be?
Easy: Crawfish Monica from Jazzfest in New Orleans. And trust me, it has to be from the “Crawfish Monica” stand at Jazzfest in New Orleans. That’s the best one ever. It’s this pasta dish with a creamy, spicy sauce and crawfish and it’s so good! I’ve had it at a restaurant here and there, even got it from a random deli. But it’s not the same. I don’t even know the name of the place that makes it, but it has to be from the Crawfish Monica stand at Jazzfest in New Orleans.