Working Girls

Profile of a Gen-Yer and her baby boomer mother

May, 2007

Mother and daughter Kathy and Kristi Inkinen are like mirror images. They’re assertive. They’re fiercely independent. And they both own human-resources companies. Kathy is president and owner of Inkinen & Associates, an executive search firm. Kristi is a principal in Remedy Intelligent Staffing, which recruits entry- to mid-level employees. Kathy, 62, was born at the start of the baby boom (1945) while Kristi, 28, born at the threshold of Generation Y (1978), bears both Gen-X and Gen-Y traits. Here are snapshots of the mother and daughter:

Childhood memories:
My mother had lots of meetings at night. We always joke that my first word was “french fries.” Lots of McDonald’s nights and evenings with Grandma. She and my father were active business people in the community. My father was in the hotel industry.
Mother: At least once or twice a week, there was a nighttime event. So I’d pick her up, have her eat McDonald’s dinner and then get going again.

Childhood aspirations:
Mother: Women in my generation wanted to be teachers or nurses. But when I was in high school, I knew I didn’t want to do that. My mother once told me, “You can be a secretary and go to Honolulu Business College.” Instead, I went to the UH College of Business, where there were very few females in those days.
Daughter: When my mother and father divorced, it was tough for us on the financial side. I was 14, and I had Punahou tuition, and college was coming up. I always had a passion for art. As a child, my aspiration was to get a Macintosh and Pagemaker, which had all the graphics at that time.
Mother: I sold a John Young painting from our house to buy that Macintosh and Pagemaker.

Working style:
Mother: My generation was brought up with a really strong work ethnic. Go in early. Stay late. I still work Saturdays. Kristi refuses to do that. She wants to have a balance in life and also work hard. In my generation, we worked hard, and the other things came.
Daughter: I’m always attached to my Blackberry.
Mother: I have a Blackberry. She initiated me with one. But I have to be in the office. I feel like if I’m physically in the office, I can do my work. We took a vacation together, and she was always on her Blackberry.
Daughter: My mother always says, “Don’t talk on the phone while driving.”
Mother: I would never do that. Only in an emergency, I pick up my phone, even when I’m driving. The younger generation is more about multitasking.

Career paths:
Mother: I’m a UH Travel Industry Management grad, where we had to do a 1,400-hour internship. I started in the kitchen of the Kahala Hilton in the 1960s. After graduation, I was offered a job doing banquet sales. Later, they had an opening in personnel. The office was on a lower level with no guest contact. We called it the dungeon. I told my boss, “I really want to go up to the front desk.” He said, “No.” I didn’t fight it because he was my boss. I became one of the youngest personnel directors at Hilton International. That’s how I got into HR. Then I went downtown to help a small bank that did not have an HR department and opened my business [Inkinen & Associates] 15 years ago.
Daughter: I went to Punahou School and college in L.A., where I majored in marketing and worked part time, but I wasn’t happy with the lifestyle. After graduation, my mother and I went to China, and we sat in one of the hotels having afternoon tea pondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Mother: She wanted to do product marketing, but they didn’t have that in Hawaii.
Daughter: In L.A., I worked very long hours in the product-placement division of the entertainment industry. Very exciting. But not something I wanted to do. I was already burned out, and it wasn’t even a full-time position. I had met my current business partner [Marie Kumabe] a couple of years prior, when my mother received an award. Marie had an HR background, and I was in marketing, so we decided to franchise Remedy Intelligent Staffing, based in California.

Daughter: My business partner and I didn’t open our doors until after October 2001. A horrible time, even to get a bank loan. No one wanted to take the risk on a new business. We were probably the only people opening up a business at the time. Our contacts were calling us, sending people they were laying off. We had a huge amount of people and no jobs. But here we are, six years later.
Mother: The economy was good in the late ’80s. Lots of Japanese investments, business and real estate, so I decided to go out on my own and start my own company in 1992. Then the Gulf War happened, and the economic bubble burst. Hawaii’s economy shut down. Kristi and I had similar challenges in the early development of our businesses. I believe adversity makes you stronger. That’s why we’re surviving.

Mother: When I was at the hotel in the late ’60s, we wore hose and pumps with miniskirts. Even now, I still wear hose. I look at Bishop Street today, and most young people don’t wear hose. I still wear a suit, but not every day.
Daughter: I always kid my mother because she’s so professional at work and casual on weekends. But I’m pretty consistent throughout. I’m definitely business casual. I love black and white. I’m very classic, very BCBG. My mother always tells me to put some color on myself. I’m my mother’s daughter, and I was always raised to do interviews wearing hose, but it was never done.

Mother: I’m more Johnny Mathis. And we both like jazz.
Daughter: I’m a jazz person, and I like Island music and R&B.
Mother: Of course, she has the iPod and the whole bit.

The future:
Mother: In my time, women in management were new. Now, more women are in business or in management positions and they share childcare responsibilities with their husbands. That wasn’t my generation. We had two jobs. We had a career. And we had a home job.
Daughter: Hopefully, I’ll be more successful in this business. We’ve had conversations about acquiring my mother’s business when she decides to retire, but I don’t think it’ll be too soon. My business partner and I are looking at expanding to a second office or the Neighbor Islands.

Each other:
Daughter: I owe my successes to my mother because of the drive she had. I’m not an angel. I was rebellious in high school. But that’s what made me independent and willing to take risks. Seeing the success of my mother helped me to become what I am today.
Mother: She’s not book smart but street smart. She takes shortcuts, and she always thinks, “How can I do better and faster?” I didn’t teach her those traits.
Daughter: My mother is a visionary, and I think that’s how I try to do my own business, looking to the future.

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