It’s always been about challenges for Kathryn E. West. When she launched her career years ago and accepted “the perfect job,” she soon found out the position was not exactly as advertised.
Determined to learn from the experience, West worked through the ordeal. Her persistence has paid off. As vice president of real estate and facilities at Partners HealthCare for nearly 15 years, she has overcome many challenges and, in the process, has made a big impact, both personally and professionally.
Before joining Partners, West served for five years as associate dean for operations at Harvard Medical School. In that role, she managed all campus real estate, off-site commercial and residential properties and administrative services of the college. From 1989 to 1992, she was director of real estate development at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
At Partners, which is the parent company of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, West has had the opportunity to enhance her professional career while boosting the healthcare system’s footprint in Greater Boston. Her responsibilities include the strategic management of more than 16 million square feet of research, clinical, medical office, retail, and office space in Greater Boston. According to Mary Lentz, partner at McCall & Almy in Boston, West’s contributions to Partners have been “impressive and unparalleled.”
With a number of notable projects to her credit, West is especially proud of the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.
“I was a key player in a very complicated negotiation and swap of parcels with a community group, an academic facility and Partners. This project brought enormous benefit to the community and was very important to me,” she said, pointing out that teamwork made the project possible. “It takes many people to complete any complicated project.”
Early in her career, West was often the only woman in the room. Although that situation has improved somewhat, women still need to stay abreast of industry happenings and always look to the future, she said.
“If you can do it, try not to go backward in terms of salary level and position,” she advised, adding that challenges offer an opportunity to enhance your career. “Take advantage of a situation and redefine it.”
The real estate field holds unlimited possibilities and West urges young women to assess their skills and interests before choosing a specific path.
“Think about your own skill set and interests. Try to target areas/segments of the industry where you’ll be happy and succeed,” she said. “Try to pursue a sector where you are most likely to make a contribution.”
While investing in your career is important, West also firmly believes in the importance of participating in public service.
She sits on the board of several organizations, including NAIOP Massachusetts; Habitat for Humanity, Greater Boston; and Boston Center for the Arts. She considers her gubernatorial appointment to the board of directors for the Massachusetts Port Authority a significant achievement.
“I am the only woman on the board,” she remarked. Additionally, she and a colleague founded the Healthcare and Life Sciences Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
For the foreseeable future, West plans to continue her work at Partners. “I am happy where I am. I have a good balance between challenges with work and within the profession. Partners is an exciting place to be, especially with everything that is going on in health care.”
West holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Smith College and earned her MBA with high honors from Boston University. She returned to school for her advanced degree after spending a few years in the workforce and said that this strategy helped her better figure out the career path she wanted to pursue.