Employee Spotlight: Kristine Callaghan on How to Successfully Manage a Team

Meet Kristine Callaghan, one of ApplyBoard’s four Team Leads on our Pre-Submission and Submission Teams within the Customer Experience department. Her role includes handling applications for non-India OCAS, the US, the UK, and high schools.

In this Employee Spotlight, we share Kristine’s insights on what it’s like being a Team Lead at ApplyBoard.

Get to Know Kristine Callaghan

An interesting background led Kristine to where she is today. During her childhood, Kristine lived in Australia for two years before moving to Malaysia for three years. Having attended international schools and made friends all over the world, she understands the importance of education and the opportunities that it can unlock for people.

“This is why ApplyBoard’s mission resonates with me,” says Kristine. “I know the reality for many children in developing countries who want to access better education. I want to be a part of making education a right, not a privilege.”

Since starting at ApplyBoard in October 2019, Kristine has experienced significant growth, both professionally and personally. Here are some of the lessons she has learned as a leader.

Kristine celebrating Pride Month

Kristine celebrating Pride Month at ApplyBoard with rainbow-themed makeup and outfit.

Always Put People First

When asked what her management style is, Kristine responds with “a people-oriented approach.” Before COVID-19, Kristine would hold team standup meetings first thing in the morning, three times a week. These were an opportunity for her team members to provide updates, voice questions, catch up with each other, and warm up for the day ahead. Ever since ApplyBoard started working from home, Kristine has made sure to hold a virtual team standup every day, so employees don’t feel lonely and isolated without socializing with their colleagues. 

“My goal is to help the team feel connected and get to know each other on a personal level,” says Kristine. “Trust is crucial to me. I trust my team fully and they trust me completely. There is no micromanaging. We hold each other accountable and get the work done.”

One of AppyBoard’s CX Teams showing off their team spirit

One of AppyBoard’s CX Teams showing off their team spirit.

Communication Is Key

For Kristine, a key component in maintaining team cohesiveness and efficiency is good communication. She stresses the importance of frequent touch-base meetings. She schedules one-on-one meetings with each of her team members every two weeks to discuss their work as well as resolve any issues. This is when she works with her team to establish goals, conduct performance assessments, and check in to see how they are doing personally. 

Besides these work meetings, Kristine also takes the initiative to organize games for her team. One is the “Random Fact” game. Everyone states a fun fact about themselves and the team has to guess whom it belongs to. For example, random facts about Kristine might be:

  • My dad lives in Thailand.
  • I used to be a synchronized swimmer.
  • My twin brother is left-handed and has blue eyes, and I’m right-handed with hazel eyes.

Whoever makes the most correct guesses wins and gets donuts delivered to their house! Small gestures like this go a long way and help her team feel more comfortable with one another and excited about their work. 

“The team is very good at coming to me if they have any questions or concerns,” Kristine says. “I always encourage open communication and for everyone to speak up if they ever encounter any issues.”

Kristine and team celebrates Christmas at the office

Kristine’s team celebrates Christmas together at the office.

Empower and Enable Growth

A good leader empowers their team to grow and advance. As a team lead, Kristine always encourages her teammates to come to her if there is an opportunity on a different team that would better suit them and their abilities. “Whether it’s a promotion or moving to another team, I always do my best to help my team member get there, as sad as I am to see them go.”

Kristine’s colleagues also introduce her to many opportunities for growth at ApplyBoard. They share resources and training opportunities with her, and empower her to achieve more for herself as well. 

Kristine and other team leads catch up over dinner

Team leads reunite after four months and catch up after work.

What It Takes to Be a Good Leader

Kristine believes that in order to be a leader at ApplyBoard and fit into our culture, one has to be flexible and open to change. A startup environment can be hectic, and adaptability is key in a fast-paced workplace. According to Kristine, another quality that makes a great leader is compassion. The work can get so transactional that you have to remind yourself that there is a student behind every profile and every application, and that the work that you do has a real impact on people’s lives. That way, you feel inspired and maintain your work ethic.

After taking on multiple challenges as a team lead, from cross-team collaboration to managing a team during the COVID-19 crisis, Kristine has really built on her managerial courage and become the inspiring leader that she is today.

Interested in joining our team? Visit the Careers page!