“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
This new series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn.
Read past posts in this series HERE.
Everyone, I’d like you to meet Nathan. He ties a mean bow tie, and other than some healthy sports banter… he is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. I first met Nathan in 2011 when I was on the AFA Student Advisory Team and he was a AFA Student Ambassador. Over the years we both continued our involvement in the organization and remained friends. What has always stood out to be about Nathan to me is his sincerity and energy. He’s driven and a great agriculturist, but he is also witty and fun, and one of those people that you know you’ll like and trust after just a few minutes. As you will read below, Nathan above all, values his faith and family, and has an adorable love story. It is always so encouraging to see others who got their start with me in AFA, go out and start making a difference right away. – Amanda
Name: Nathan Johnston
Hometown: Stanhope, IA
College: Iowa State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Business
Current Location: Ames, IA
Current Job: Seed Advisor for Beck’s Hybrids
Background Story: I grew up on an acreage south of Stanhope, Iowa. Faith and family were the cornerstone of our lives growing up. My Dad (Pops) works as an Investment Banker and my Mother (Mom) works for a company that trains and sells Dairy Quality Assurance practices to vets and large dairy farmers. I am the oldest of three children. Matthew, 22, is the hardest worker I know. Break through his quiet personality and he is the funniest, goofiest person you will ever meet. He is currently a sales rep for Ziegler Cat. Melinda, 18, just started college at Iowa State University. She is the nerd/bookworm of the family and shows it by pursuing her degree in Chemical Engineering; this way she can go to MORE SCHOOL to become a doctor.
The latest and greatest family member to my life is my beautiful bride, Alison. We met at Iowa State. We were in the same friends group for two years and had never met. I went to her birthday party twice and never met her. There are pictures of her where you can see me in the background- never introduced ourselves. The night we met, I took her swing dancing and she pretty much took my heart right there. Wow did God have a plan! We have now been married for just over a year and love the adventure we have set out on. We enjoy supporting ISU athletics, going on walks, camping, hanging out with friends and family, and being involved in our church.
How did you choose your college and your major? Like many high school seniors, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I looked at a couple different colleges, a couple different majors. Eventually I narrowed it down to the Agricultural Business major at Iowa State University. Iowa State was right in my backyard growing up, both my parents were alum, and hands down it was the best Ag Business program in the nation- how could I turn down that opportunity!
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Outside of class, I was involved in a lot of different organizations. My first semester of college I buckled down; I was there to focus on my grades! That got old quick, and I got my start on Freshman Leadership Council planning with the Education Committee. I liked being busy, meeting new people, and working to accomplish a goal to help others. Before long, I jumped in and got involved in Student Alumni Leadership Council, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassadors, Ag Business Club, Agriculture Future of America, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council. I worked as an Ag Business Peer mentor for two years during school, for the College of Ag Career Services Office, and as a Blogger for the office of admissions. Busy was better for me!
I cannot forget my friends- I always had time for to socialize with them and meet new people too!
As for internships, I worked for Mycogen Seeds as a yield trial intern, merchandising intern for ADM, Winter Intern for Waterstreet Solutions, and a Chemical Sales Intern for Dow AgroSciences.
I also had the opportunity to travel to Argentina on a 10 day study trip with some great friends. It was amazing to see life from a different perspective (southern hemisphere). The best (maybe only) grass-fed steak I’ve ever had was on a farm, cooked on an open wood-fire flame, in central Argentina. Those folks know how to host a meal!
My 4 years at Iowa State were a blast. When I look back, I can’t believe the opportunities I was blessed with; the people I met, fun we had, friends I made, free meals I ate, wild stories I’ll be able to tell, adventures undertaken, classes I took, and things I was able to accomplish. What amazing opportunities we have if we only take a step of faith, put in some hard work, and dive into life!
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
When I was in college, time was the biggest challenge. Time to study, time for organizations, and time for friends. I liked the shuffle of being busy, but I would make more time to work while in school so I could take more travel courses.
What is one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Enjoy the time you have- you have an extremely low opportunity cost in regard to your TIME in college! Make the most of it by enjoying your friends, your school traditions, and the free time you have in college!
Tell us about your career so far?
Right out of college I worked for Union Pacific Railroad in their Marketing Development Sales Center. I managed small to medium sized fresh, frozen, and refrigerated business. I also got to explore new business and bring them to rail. It was great! I learned a lot about big business and got to explore many sectors of the agricultural industry I had not seen before. I love flipping over a bag of potatoes in the grocery store and knowing exactly where they came from!
I left the railroad to come work for Beck’s Hybrids. The company culture (faith, family, and farming) and the empowerment we are given to serve our customers is what led me to Becks. It is a company where we are encouraged to take a chance, think out of the box, and develop creative solutions to bring to the farm gate. I believe that this employee empowerment is behind Beck’s rapid growth and the tenant that will sustain their growth far into the future (along with great products). I was blessed to start a territory near my home and love working in central Iowa! I have enjoyed a great year meeting farmers across Iowa, learning about the seed industry, and bringing farmers a great new opportunity!
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Diverse experiences, networking, and never turning down an opportunity served me well in college and I will continue all of these into the future!
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I love my iPad with 3G service- you can get business done anywhere!
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I love thinking of how I get to serve someone else. When I bring a new idea, product, or practice to a farmer I’m not always sure how I will be received; however, I feel refreshed when I think of serving the people I work for!
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Tough question: it is hard to keep work and life separate. You have to take time away from your phone, not check your emails, and seriously put down your phone! Intentionality is important, that’s why it is important to take time for LIFE! Exercising, spending time with friends, and enjoying my family are what I like to do away from work.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I like running outside, working out, fishing, reading, spending time with Alison, serving in the community, and being active in my church.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Reading my bible and praying is a great way to start the day!
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I love coffee; tall and dark black. You bet I’ll make it at home, in the coffee maker I bought on Black Friday for $9.89 four years ago. I figure this keeps my average cost/cup down to approximately $.07 for Starbucks roasted coffee.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Some combination of a design/construction career. I like putting together a plan to make something work and really like the physical work/ problem solving it takes to make a goal a reality. I’m not a huge fan of calculus and engineering.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the free time, friends, and atmosphere. I’ll always be a loyal son, forever true, to my ISU!
Nathan, thank you so much for participating and being you!
Next week I’m featuring a fellow Oregonian that I’ve technically never met before…