BOONE, N.C. — Twenty years ago, when Appalachian State University alumna Kim Shepherd ’97 worked part time in the repair service department at SkyLine Membership Corp. — a telecommunications corporation headquartered in West Jefferson — did she imagine one day running the company as its CEO?
“Absolutely!” Shepherd said. “That was a goal I set early on.”
During her first interview with SkyLine, Shepherd, who graduated magna cum laude from Appalachian with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics-secondary education, told the corporation’s then-CEO that, ultimately, she’d like to be sitting behind his desk one day.
Immediately after graduation, Shepherd began full-time employment with SkyLine in the repair department, then moved into customer service a few years later.
“I started in an entry-level position, made several strategic decisions to position myself for opportunities and slowly but steadily worked my way up,” said Shepherd, who was appointed CEO of SkyLine in summer 2018.
“I enjoy leading incredibly talented employees as they work to improve the lives of those we serve and to change the ways consumers are able to conduct business,” Shepherd said. She also said she loves the positive feedback she hears about SkyLine staff and finds the company’s philanthropic involvement in the community gratifying.
Shepherd grew up in Ashe County and came to Appalachian with the intention of a career in math education. Though she never became a schoolteacher, she said her math degree has served her well. “What is one of the key components to math?” she asked. “Logic! Someone who has a keen sense of logic will make a good employee in practically any industry.”
Beginning with her first position in repairs at SkyLine, Shepherd said logic skills played a role. “Troubleshooting — an element in repairs and customer service — boils down to logic. It is all about reasoning and working through problems to find solutions.”
As CEO, Shepherd said she uses the same reasoning skills to answer such questions as, “What can we realistically and feasibly accomplish? How much capital is going to be required, and how much capital can we afford to spend?”
Recently, SkyLine acquired three different companies. Shepherd commented, “Of all of the business decisions I have been involved with, these acquisitions have required more logic than any other. The implications of the acquisitions are profound. The greater the potential implication, the more logic and reason required.”
She said the demands and high expectations set for students at Appalachian, along with the quality of educators, prepared her for her career. “I had professors who genuinely cared about me as a person; I was more than just a number.
“To prove that point,” she continued, “two of my favorite professors sent me a congratulatory card after learning of my promotion to CEO. It has been 20 years since I graduated, yet they remembered me and took time to send a note. You don’t find that kind of student–professor relationships just anywhere.”
Shepherd said she thinks Appalachian is an excellent choice for prospective leaders in any field. “Appalachian graduates are prepared to work, eager to contribute and ready to continue learning — a desire that seems to be instilled in students at Appalachian — and that trait will serve anyone with a desire to lead into a successful future.”
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About SkyLine Membership Corp.
SkyLine Membership Corporation is a local, member-owned cooperative established in 1951 to bring telephone service to rural residents of Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties in North Carolina. Later, the cooperative expanded its service territory to include areas of Avery County and Shady Valley, Tennessee, when it merged with Cherokee Telephone Membership Corporation. SkyLine serves a 12-exchange network with over 27,000 access lines across a five-county area in northwest North Carolina and east Tennessee. Learn more at https://www.skybest.com.
About the Department of Mathematical Sciences
The Department of Mathematical Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in actuarial science and mathematics, with concentrations in business, computation, life sciences, physical sciences, secondary teaching and statistics, plus a general, self-designed concentration. The department also offers the Master of Arts in mathematics, with concentrations in college teaching and secondary teaching. Learn more at https://mathsci.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.