From Grief to Grace: Kate Pangallo Is Living Her Mother’s Legacy by Nurturing Others on Their Path to Success

After losing her beloved mother in 2018, Indy Chamber’s Kate Pangallo shares how her grief now fuels her life’s purpose.
A photo of Kate Pangallo of Indy Chamber

Kate Pangallo and her mother
Kate Pangallo and her mother

One of the best gifts a child can receive is permission to be a kid — and as many children navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood, they simultaneously are grappling with fear of their parents’ judgements if they mess up or flat out fail. But Kate Pangallo was raised with a different approach, one that enabled her to learn from her mistakes, lead with grace, and find herself. And this approach to living was modeled every day by her mother.

“My mom was the glue to family and home,” Kate recalls. “She was always there to fill me back up and be there for me when I needed her. And even better, when I thought I didn’t! She was my permission slip to screw things up and take risks because I knew that she would still be there to love me and guide me out of wherever I landed.”

Unfortunately, Kate’s mother and best friend wouldn’t have the opportunity to guide Kate into her 30s, and for Kate, this was a critical time of transition. In the throes of motherhood, with six-month-old and 20-month-old daughters, Kate lost her mother. After a three-year battle with stage four cancer, her mother passed away in March 2018.

“That permanence was instant —I could immediately feel that I had changed. She was gone, and literally so was this whole half of me. I remember feeling this huge weight to keep it together and nurture my dad, my brother, and my family through that time,” says Kate.

Kate Pangallo and her family
Kate Pangallo and her family

Pushing her needs aside, Kate poured herself into caring for her family. This coping method worked for a while and the business of serving others offered a distraction from reality. But the fact remained: Her mom was gone, and Kate’s hopes and dreams for their future together vanished along with her.

With two young babies, a husband, friends, and a career to manage, showing up for everyone was an exercise in maturation. Kate was now forced to learn how to cope with the loss of control, the constant needs, and her desire to honor her mother’s legacy. Fortunately, Kate relied upon the lessons from her childhood to keep her focused on putting one foot in front of the other — without fear of a misstep along the way.

“It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I never allowed myself the grace and space to acknowledge that this had changed who I was,” shares Kate. “I could no longer allow myself to ignore my grief and pour it all into others. I needed to allow the space to be filled with the reality that this grief and loss of nurturing from my mom would likely never go away. One of the biggest life lessons I have learned is that grief is forever, and I had to be able to extend grace to myself and to others when they didn’t show up the way I expected or wanted them to.”

A natural nurturer, Kate’s inclination to serve others isn’t limited to the homefront. As a talent professional, her career has been built on building others up and bringing people together to do game-changing work. In her current role as Director of Partnerships at the Indy Chamber, Kate is energized by her work with people, companies, and culture. When people, companies, and culture align, the trifecta creates nurturing relationships that, simply put, lead to stronger, more sustainable, more fulfilling business.

“When I started this career, we were in the heart of the Great Recession — there were more people than jobs. Many times, applicants were competing for the same job as someone who had been two steps higher and had 20 or more years of experience and were willing to take the drop in pay and level just to land a job again. I will never forget those early offers I gave during that time when candidates would get emotional and tell you that you just changed their life and the impact on their family for providing that news,” she remembers. “For me, I quickly learned that working in talent was really working in human connections and it mattered. Fast forward to today, my years in HR and talent have taught me to approach my work with the individual in mind and work to make it personal.”

A photo of Kate Pangallo
Kate Pangallo

The Director of Partnership role with the Indy Chamber was brand new when Kate was hired, and her first task also happened to be her largest task — to build a talent pipeline from scratch while working with regional talent partners. By developing collaborative relationships with workforce development partnerships, Kate has solidified the Indy Chamber’s role as a critical partner in the talent space.

“Today, when I think about nurturing, I think about those who show up. They may not have known what to say or what to do, they just showed up. I take that with me into all my relationships and my work,” says Kate.

This access to one of the most stressful and exciting times in a candidate’s career allows Kate to nurture those outside her family tree — a skill that paved the way to her role with the Indy Chamber. Today, Kate has singlehandedly spearheaded a Regional Skills Analysis for the Indy region. This first-of-its-kind assessment will provide detailed insights into the skills required for key occupations — helping to inform multiple facets of the organization, including business attraction, talent attraction, and policy work. Her meaningful and personal approach to her work showcases not only her personal strengths, and leaves lasting impacts on the people she encounters, but it creates greater understanding and connection points between employers, talent programs, and qualified candidates inside and outside the Indy region.

“Nurturing doesn’t have to be some soft, mushy feeling that you are afraid to show at work. It can simply be taking the time to understand who your team and colleagues are, what’s going on in their world, what lights them up, and how you can best show up for them,” says Kate. “I like to think of it like opening a hand-written card or note in the mail. The feeling that comes with something small just for you is incredible. How can we provide that little feeling to those around us at work, as friends, or to a stranger?”

Kate’s blend of kindness and strength speaks to her genuine desire to help others succeed, in whatever way that manifests for them. Beyond the tactile representation offered by hand-written notes, photo evidence of a happy family, or public accolades, it’s often the feeling of being nurtured that has the greatest impact on a person’s soul. While not everyone has the chance to be the daughter of a mom like Kate’s, her legacy lives on each time we show up for one another and give without expectation.

Created in partnership with Indy Chamber.

Natalie Derrickson is a communications strategist who’s all for more nurturing, grace, and love for those around us. You can connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her website.

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