EP 33 | International Business Leadership with Karen Kiely

Written by on June 6, 2023

Karen Kiely has played bigger in two hemispheres and multiple industries — and she’s collected amazing insights along the way! 

Karen is the Executive Director of Cap Tulsa, an organization that helps children in lower-income families grow up and achieve economic success through a two-generation approach that prepares young children to succeed in school and helps their parents increase their parenting skills and earning potential. Under Karen’s leadership, Cap Tulsa was named Best Nonprofit to Work For by the Nonprofit Times… for seven consecutive years!  

Prior to joining Cap Tulsa, Karen built an international career spanning Beijing, New York City, Hong Kong, and Taipei. While working for The Bama Companies, she produced apple pies for the first McDonald’s in China!

In this episode of Shift Out Loud, we dive into the twists and turns of Karen’s incredible career path, the biggest shifts that have led her to success all over the world, and the major influence that first set her on her path to playing bigger.

Listen now to discover: 

  • How Karen channeled an aptitude for languages into a thriving international business career
  • How she shifted seamlessly from banking to consulting to manufacturing before the age of 26 
  • How she successfully managed a major product launch… with zero manufacturing experience!


Guest bio: Karen Kiely is the Executive Director of Cap Tulsa. She is a passionate, award-winning leader focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, developing shared vision, building a high-performing team, and achieving desired results in the right way. Karen was named a Woman of Distinction by the Tulsa Business & Legal News in 2016, and nominated for Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO by the Journal Record in 2021.



01:50  Intro

04:17  Meet Karen Kiely

05:17  Booker T. Washington High School 

08:16  Mandarin & exploring possibilities

12:24  Studying in Beijing

17:09  Legacy business & biggest surprises

20:24  New York City & Hong Kong 

25:36  Taipei

29:33  Bama Companies & apple pies

34:39  Corporate liability & launching McDonald’s

38:37  Shifting to Cap Tulsa

45:29  Cap Tulsa

49:14  Big lessons & what’s next



Karen Kiely