Kathleen Carroll was a Marine Corps platoon commander in Kuwait and Iraq. Now, Carroll, who grew up in Lincolnshire, heads Amazon’s recruitment efforts, which keeps her about as busy.
Amazon plans to hire 2,000 Illinois workers over the next 14 months, pushing the online retail giant’s employment statewide to 7,000, according to Caroll.
The hiring for full-time jobs is to be spread across nine Amazon fulfillment centers, the company’s downtown corporate office at 227 W. Monroe, its Lake View bookstore, an AmazonFresh site and a University of Illinois-Chicago campus pickup service. The fulfillment centers in the Chicago area are on Goose Island and in Joliet and Romeoville, with two more in Aurora and one each in Monee and Waukegan under construction.
Carroll says building the company in Chicago has special meaning for her. Beside growing up in the suburbs, she lived at times as a young adult in Lincoln Park and downtown.
“My roots go deep,” she says. “My paternal grandfather immigrated here when he was 15. He was of Irish descent, but he came here via his birthplace in Ottawa, Canada. Everyone knew him as Bill Carroll.”
John William “Bill” Carroll was an Illinois legislator and founder of the Pickwick suburban newspaper chain that he sold to Pioneer Press in 1979. He got his start in the business when he bought the Park Ridge Advocate. That’s where he met Carroll’s paternal grandmother Carole Carroll, an editor there.
“My parents also met at the Advocate,” Carroll says. “My father Mike Carroll started in sales and later was the publisher of 13 Pioneer Press papers. My mom was a journalist.
“My maternal grandparents also lived in Chicago and Park Ridge, where they raised their seven children. My grandpa Jack was the former president and CEO of ILG Industries. My grandma Patsy was a real estate agent and super mom. I have a cousin, aunt and uncle on every corner of Chicago.”
Carroll went from English literature major at Miami University in Ohio to teaching English as a second language in Costa Rica to Marine Corps officer training.
She met with Drew B. Davis, who was an executive with Pioneer Press and the Sun-Times and brigadier general who, as a reservist, was mobilized as director of Marine Corps public affairs at the Pentagon.
He suggested the Marine Corps “since I was looking to build a career founded in service,” Carroll says. “Making it through officer candidate school was the hardest 10-week job interview I’ve ever had.”
A foot injury delayed Carroll’s next phase of training and prompted a career choice.
“I was fascinated by the U.S. State Department and by Washington, D.C., and I was offered a temporary assignment in the Pentagon’s public affairs division for a few months,” she says.
She started about a week after 9/11.
After working in the Pentagon, Carroll was a logistics officer and led a landing support platoon.
“We were positioned in Iraq at an old airfield,” she says. “We had to provide a safe structure so that airplanes and helicopters could get in and out. I wasn’t in a direct combat role, but there was a high level of risk all around us.”
Carroll met husband Chris Kalafatis, a Cleveland native, shortly after 9/11 in Quantico, Va.
“He was six months ahead of me in the Marine Corps’ officer training,” she says. “It was like something out of a movie.”
Kalafatis, a former infantry and reconnaissance officer, works for JPMorgan in wealth management.
“We got engaged a couple months after we started dating,” Carroll says. “We initially went to a justice of the peace to get married. Then, with our families with us, we were married at Old Saint Pat’s in 2003. Our wedding reception was at the Palmer House, and our rehearsal dinner was at the Parthenon since Chris is Greek.
“Our first two years, we spent 50 days together because he spent over a year on a ship off the coast of Japan. He also did three tours in Iraq.”
The couple’s children — Sofia, 12, Gus, 9, and Hank, 7 — were born at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., where they were stationed.
“When we moved to the Seattle area for Chris’ work, Amazon reached out to me with an operations leadership role,” Carroll says.
She started there in 2011 and is also finishing her MBA at the University of Washington.
Apart from work, Carroll is a “huge” Cubs fan.
“My grandpa Jack had four tickets to Cubs games as long as I can remember,” she says. “He’d rotate taking all of us grandkids to Cubs games.”
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