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Janet Kilbane: Guiding the Way Forward at Covia

Janet Kilbane: Guiding the Way Forward at Covia

Published 12-15-23

Submitted by Covia

Janet Kilbane

I never could have imagined that the job opportunity I discovered in a local newspaper would turn into a lifelong career. I’ve grown both personally and professionally during my 36 years with Covia and am grateful for the friendships I have made and opportunities I have been given to follow my passion for finance and collaboration.

The Willingness to Collaborate

I grew up in Connecticut and attended Miami University in Ohio, where I earned a degree in accounting. Shortly after graduation, my husband and I moved to Chicago, IL, where I found a job as an accountant. We lived there for a year, then two years in Toledo, OH and then my husband was given the opportunity to transfer to a position in New York City. Thanks to the ease of public transportation, we were able to find a place to live in New Canaan, Connecticut, a commuter town, and my husband could easily travel into the city for work.

After the move back to Connecticut, I was looking for a new career opportunity when I found an ad in the local paper for an accounting position at Covia. I applied for the job and the rest is history.

When I started at Covia, I was the youngest person in the office at the age of 25. I started off working in accounts receivable/payable as well as sales reporting. It didn’t take long until I was put in charge of additional treasury responsibilities.

I enjoyed working as an accountant and felt content in my role for quite a while, until a massive shift happened about 25 years into my career. Andrew Eich, Covia’s current President & CEO, had just started with the company and had an incredible number of ideas to revolutionize the way we worked. He helped us rethink and rework our current accounting processes and procedures to streamline and improve them. I was inspired and felt reinvigorated to help bring about the changes that Andrew proposed.

At the same time, another important change occurred as Covia formed cross-functional teams - rethinking the way we work as an organization. It was exciting to get all the team members in the same room to learn from each other and their unique functional experiences. This was especially rewarding for me because while I love accounting, I also love working with different functional areas and learning from other’s perspectives. These changes inspired me to pursue new opportunities that have led me to where I am today.

Today, as VP of Project Management Office (PMO), I manage all the key projects for the company relating to executing our strategy. I plan out projects that have a material impact on the company performance, covering a wide range of functional areas. When looking at the strategic direction, you need to determine what projects are going to get you there. That is where project management gets to help.

I like to compare project management to throwing a dinner party. The first step to planning a party isn’t setting the table – it’s planning the theme and determining the attendees. The same can be said for project management. It’s crucial to understand what goes into a project and how to tailor it to your needs.

One of my favorite things about my current role is getting to work with others. I really appreciate the openness to be able to pick up the phone and call other Team Members to chat and catch up on what they are working on. This highlights what has evolved the most during my time at Covia – the willingness to collaborate.

Perspective on Project Management

Many projects involve a variety of different work streams. We used to look at many types of projects solely through an engineering lens. That changed with projects like Fort Smith, Kermit wet plant or the Chardon mine move. We know that to properly commission a project, we have to plan holistically, involving procurement, operations, commercial agreements, logistics, and others. We still haven’t gotten everything right, but with each project we do a postmortem look to see what improvements we can make to use with the next project.

Covia always has a lot going on. At any given time, there are many projects, large and small, being managed throughout the company. While I focus primarily on the larger scale projects, the PMO is here to help with any project, and the tool we use, SmartSheets is being utilized now in many of the functional areas of the company.

The Value of Family

Outside of work, I love to spend time with my husband and two adult children. Family has always been so important to me. I am grateful that I was always able to be there for my children – never missing a sporting event. I was heavily involved in the community when they were growing up, participating in several boards as well as volunteering. With my kids all grown up, I’ve been volunteering with a local charity group, Angels and Sparrows, to read to children from a wide range of backgrounds.

Growth on the Horizon

The advantage of having experienced professionals around is that they know their way around the organization and how things work. However, it’s equally important to bring on young talent with fresh perspectives to avoid the risk of doing things the same way they have always been done. I am so excited to see the younger generation at Covia bring their new perspectives that can once again revolutionize the way we work.

In addition to the next generation of Covia Team Members, the potential for new acquisitions and technology on the horizon has me really excited for what’s to come.

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At Covia, we are committed to being more than just a leading provider of high-performance mineral and material solutions – we believe that our company can make a positive difference in the world. This belief is what drives our environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, which is influenced by both our journey as an organization and the events in the world around us.

Our commitment to operating as a responsible corporate citizen has been embedded into every aspect of our business for decades and serves as the foundation for Covia’s ESG initiatives. From our operations to our Team Members and the communities in which we live and work, we continue to define WHAT WE’RE MADE OF as more than the materials we produce, but the impact we can make in every interaction.

In 2021, we enhanced our approach toward accelerating ESG performance by developing our formal GOALS THAT INSPIRE: ESG 2030. These 10 goals, broken into our three core areas - Environmental Stewardship, Positive Social Impact and Responsible Governance & Ethics - were developed by Covia Team members across the company and are designed to drive tangible and measurable progress in areas where we can make the most impact.

We have the commitment and strategy in place to drive meaningful progress and we are pledging to make a positive differences for our people, our planet and our communities.

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