The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Zech

“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 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 and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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My sister and I really aren’t that far apart in age (3.5 years), but for whatever reason I had a bit of a moment when I was making my list of the next couple of people I wanted to ask to be a guest on this series and TWO of them were technically her friends first. I know it’s so cliche but time goes by SO FAST.

Anyway… as always I am excited to share the next guest with you! Zech grew up in Eastern Oregon in a little town near my hometown and became good friends with my sister through FFA. He has great work ethic, is very passionate about food and agriculture, has a curious mind and all around is truly one of the nicest guys I know. Zech is very aware of his surroundings and himself, which is a quality I think we don’t put as much value in as we should. If you know him personally, you may or may not be surprised to hear him get real about struggling with self-confidence — something I think more people, including myself, can relate to than we’d expect. I appreciated how insightful he was about sharing his story and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

-Amanda 

Name: Zech Hintz
Age: 24
Hometown: Heppner, Oregon
College: Cornell University
Degree(s): Applied Economics & Management, Marketing Concentration
Current Location: Kansas City, MO
Current Job: Management Trainee, Smithfield Foods

Background Story

Heppner, a small town in Eastern Oregon consisting of just over a thousand people, was where my family lived during my childhood. This tiny corner of the world gave myself, and my classmates, copious amounts of opportunity throughout our k-12 years. Most of us played a sport every season because we needed enough people to make up a team and our graduating classes consisted of 28 people; I never lasted long because I am terrible at anything requiring coordination and athletic ability. We served on the councils of multiple clubs and organizations in school and volunteered at every community event. Most of us tried not to do anything “bad” as small town people know everything about everyone, and the parentals always found out. It was a rural community where gossip was entertainment, but the support and care for others was everything. My life began in Heppner, and that small town is a reason for who I am and what I have accomplished.

My path in life changed forever, and for the better, during the summer between junior high and high school. A lady came up to me at the county fair, after a disappointing performance showing my 4-H hog, and told me that she was signing me up for something called FFA. This person, who would soon become my mentor and role-model, was our high school’s FFA advisor. She gave us FFA members countless opportunities including adventures across the U.S.; pushing us to participate in career development activities, such as public speaking and sales pitch competitions; and teaching us the fundamentals of the agricultural industry. It was in the middle of her class when I found out I was accepted into Cornell University to study agriculture, to which she immediately called the principal who embarrassed me by announcing the news over the loud speaker. She was the person who pushed me to better myself and run for state FFA office, and who celebrated with my family and I every time I made it further in the process, all the way up until the morning I was elected. Our FFA advisor was the person who opened every door possible, and then pushed us through it. Mrs. Dickenson was a pivotal person in my life growing up in that small town, and is the reason I have a burning passion for the agricultural industry.

The credit for my accomplishments goes to a few special individuals. My mother, who gave birth to me, raised me and taught me how to be a caring and positive citizen in society. My father, who always questioning my ideas, solutions and goals which helped sharpen my thought processes. My grandmother, who taught me how to work hard and use common sense to get thing accomplished. My FFA advisor, who showed me how big the world was and how much I could do if I put my mind to it and took the leap. Without these people, I truly believe I would still be in, or near, that small town in Eastern Oregon. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a life for yourself in that great community, however they all knew I wanted something else and pushed me to go out into the world and find it.

Today, I am a proud Oregonian who had an incredible opportunity to attend a world-class university, and who now looks to make a positive impact in both the agricultural industry and our society. My life motto is that the only way to represent farmers and productive agriculturalists is to work just as hard as they do. I am happiest when with a friend, drink in hand, talking about the biggest opportunities and challenges our society faces. (Is it just me, or did this just take a turn towards a Tinder profile that is a bit too much?)

I hope you enjoy my small perspective of the world, and learn something from my mistakes and experiences. My personal goal is to make myself a little better at what I do, one day at a time, learning the best I can from each mistake I make on the road I’ve chosen.

Best,
Zech

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Like most Millennial seniors, I began my last year of high school wondering which college I should attend. And, like most Millennials, I decided to answer a question with a Google search. Having an instilled passion for agriculture from my FFA advisor, my fingers naturally punched best agriculture school in the US in the search bar. The first link in the list of results was some national ranking list, to this day I still do not remember which one, that declared Cornell University the best Ag school in the country. Before this search, I had never heard of Cornell, had zero life-long plans to attend, no dream boards to inspire me every day, nothing. Looking back, I am truly amazed at how life works itself out and how everything happens for a reason. I enjoyed my time at Cornell, and am grateful for the opportunity to attend.

My major was the result of my gap year between high school and college when I served as a state FFA officer in Oregon. I applied to Cornell before running for state office and I had been accepted into the agricultural science program, dreaming of owning a large nursery operation one day. I realized during my year of service, however, that I talk way too much to putz around a farm by myself all day long, and enjoy people so much that I decided to go into the consumer end of the agricultural industry. I transferred into the business school at Cornell, which is within in the Ag school, and earned a degree in applied economics and management with a concentration in marketing.

My best friend Mike and I on graduation day.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
In high school, there always existed a pressure, from parents, teachers, and community members, to be highly involved. Once I arrived at college, it was natural to jump into many organizations because I thought it was the thing to do. Looking back now, I wish I would have chosen to do less, made more time for myself to think about my future, and dove deeper into hobbies and organizations I cared the most about.

With that said, I was a brother of AGR (Zeta Chapter!) social fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu business fraternity, a Food Marketing Fellow, involved in Ezra’s Army (a Cornell sports fan club), a resident advisor, worked for the New York FFA Association, worked for the business school as a social media intern, sang the national anthem at basketball and volleyball games, and was a teaching assistant for 3 different classes. There are many who do, and have done, way more; I recommend doing less, better.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
The biggest hurdle for me was that I didn’t believe I was good/smart/talented (insert whatever word you feel unconfident about) enough, compared to my peers. I clearly remember sitting in my first day of freshman writing seminar. We were talking about some book, and I realized that I didn’t know a noticeable number of words my classmates were using, casually, to describe passages in the book. Genuinely, I had zero idea what some of these words meant and struggled to keep up with the conversation — talk about feeling like you don’t belong. Over the following weeks of my freshman fall semester, I would find other things to help build the case in my mind that I was not good enough, or as smart as, the people around me. For example, my friends and I were sitting at a table in the cafeteria when the topic of SAT scores came up (ugh, so Ivory Tower of us) and a girl at the table, who was an athlete, said, “The only reason I’m at this school is because I’m an athlete. My SAT score was terrible — like toward the bottom of the range that Cornell recently posted about our freshman class.” At first, I felt bad for her because she felt this way about herself. Then, I looked up the SAT score range myself and realized that my score was THE bottom of the range.

From that moment on, I constantly saw myself as the dumbest person in every room, the person who had to find a way to stand out besides grades. My perspective was that there was no way I was ever going to be smart enough to compete with my GPA when it came time to get a job. This is another reason I was involved in so many organizations – I felt like I had to prove to others that I did, in fact, belong.

If I could change one thing about my time at college, it would be my self-confidence. I continue to struggle with this today, never thinking I am good enough. The irony is that by being so critical of myself, I begin to talk about my accomplishments to make the unnecessary case to others that I am good enough to be where I am. This, sadly, comes across as arrogance and self-praise which is never a good thing. I have worked a lot on this, and wish I could go back to my freshman self and tell him that he is smart enough, talented enough, and capable enough, and to stop comparing his talents to those around him because there is a reason he is who he is.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Soak it in. I graduated a semester early because I wanted to save money, and because I had already taken a gap year and wanted to get into the workplace sooner so I could catch up to my original graduating class. I somewhat regret not taking it easier to enjoy the people around me and the limitless opportunities that college provides for you.

Want to learn how to start up a business? Take a class. Want to travel somewhere with a group for little to no cost? Apply for a spot. The opportunities to gain real world experience and travel were my favorite part of school, and I slightly regret not taking one more semester to see what else I could have learned, or opportunity I could have taken. Soak it in while you can, college seniors. The real world can be great, but undergrad is a once in a lifetime experience.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
As a management trainee at Smithfield Foods, you get to work in different geographical locations and have different job functions within the company to grasp the bigger picture. To date, I have completed a six-month rotation in Bentonville, Arkansas working on the sales account to Walmart and Sam’s Club, and am currently in a marketing rotation working on the Smithfield brand, which will end in January. I have found that a rotational program is incredibly valuable, and I highly recommend it if you have the chance. Whenever working on a project, or sitting in a meeting, I now think through problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives. This experience has, and will continue to, make my perspective and ideas more valuable and respected along my career path.

The best part about my career, thus far, is that I have developed confidence in my choice of industries. Working on projects that can help deliver value and meal-time-solutions to consumers, while being able to see your creations/solutions in stores is an exciting thing. Plus, when food has a cultural and emotional value to people across the world, it is easy to be inspired and enthusiastic about what you are working on.

POSSIBLE QUESTION: How did you manage the transition from College to working life?
Graduating in December of 2016, I only have a year’s worth experience thus far. However, I have learned a few key things during the transition from college to work-life: ask as many stupid questions as you want, just don’t ask them twice; raise your hand and ask to be involved when you find an area of work that you find interesting and are passionate about — this helped me get in touch with the right people who eventually created a new position for me; read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and learn to be financially literate, it costs $5 on Amazon; relax on the weekends and let yourself forget about work for 48 hours so you do not burn out.

I certainly do not have “adulting” figured out yet, however these couple of lessons have helped me a bunch and I hope they can help you, too.

My coworkers and I at the end of the 2017 American Royal World Series of Barbecue, the largest BBQ competition in America.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I strongly believe that college serves three fundamental purposes: an opportunity to understand who you are and what you believe, prove to others that you can commit and follow through by earning a degree, and give you the opportunity to realize that human beings, from all corners of the earth, grow up with different perspectives, challenges, opportunities, and definitions of success. The first two purposes are important, no doubt, however I value the third a bit more. Over the course of our careers, the number of people we will interact with, on many different levels, will probably get into the tens, and maybe even hundreds, of thousands. Each person we interact with comes from a different background, believing different ethics, morals, standards for success or failure, life priorities, ways to accomplish tasks, the list goes on and on. The more we can meet and interact with people who have foreign or opposite perspectives than us, and the more we listen to their ideas and keep ours to ourselves until asked, the better we are going to be at working with others and accomplishing things, big and small. College is a fantastic place to do start this.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I have found that real-world work lacks hard deadlines, and it can be difficult to understanding what level of excellence is needed with each task. I struggle with the level of excellence issue a lot because, in college, everything we did needed to be an “A” to be considered successful. My job demands a large volume of tasks to be completed, and there is simply not enough time to get an “A” on all of them.

Additionally, every day, people from every direction ask you to do something, and it is easy to always say yes because you are the lowest person on the totem pole. This can lead to getting so far over your head that you don’t know where to invest your time, making your job a lot less fun. Take ownership of your personal brand throughout your career and tell people when you have too much on your plate, and that they can ask someone else to complete the task at hand, or will need to postpone or remove something that is currently on your plate in order to do what they are asking. You do not want to end up being the person who says “yes” to everything, and fall short on important tasks, making those around you think that you are incapable of doing a good job.

When you decide to add a project or task to your plate, make sure to be transparent and gain clarification on the level of excellence needed (A,B, or C). Also, if a deadline is not mentioned, set one for both yourself and the person asking the task of you so that you can manage expectations and accomplish projects “on-time”.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I used to be 100% paper and pencil, however the world moves too fast for me to keep up, and I am realizing that it is easy to miss tasks or assignments when you must physically write them down. Today, I rely heavily on my Outlook calendar, and supplement it with some sort of list. The Outlook calendar is an easy way for me to see what meetings, events, or due dates I have coming up. A list helps me organize what tasks need to be accomplished to meet those deadlines. As of a couple weeks ago, I began using Asana (which is free!!!) to keep track of my lists online so that I don’t rely on my mediocre organization skills to try and remember to carry around a physical list.

Friends from college visit Kansas City.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Reading this question made my inner nerd super excited. I truly enjoy exploring who I am and how I operate, and equally how those around me work and operate — I just love trying to understand what makes people tick. I use Gallup Strengths Finder, however there is a system for everyone, to better understand myself and others. My top five strengths are Restorative, I like to fix underperforming/broken systems, products, etc.; Futuristic, every moment I spend thinking about the future is engulfed in what things could be like in 10-15 years, I struggle to think about 1-3 years down the road; Significance, I love to be recognized, and thus when working on a team I am always trying to find ways to praise and recognize others; Includer, my soul hurts when people are left out, especially when I accidentally forget to include someone; Competitive, I like winning, a lot.

The things I work to manage so they don’t get in my way are: Organization, thus the new organization tactic mentioned previously; Clear, Precise, and Effective Communication, my passion gets ahead of my thought process so I forget to help my audience understand enough of the situation to help with the task at hand; Fully Listening, it is easy for me to sink my thoughts into a detail or idea at the beginning of someone’s ask-of-me/speech/directions/feedback/etc. so that when they finish talking, I only capture 50-75% of their ideas/needs.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
My church group. I have rough days, like everyone else, and my small bible study group keeps me grounded. They help me focus on the things in life that are great, even in moments of stress or frustration. I appreciate this group more than I could ever describe for both their guidance and support. Find a support group/person in your life, family, close friends, a mentor, whomever you trust, that you can lean on when life gets tough, and that you can celebrate successes with.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I am far from perfect and am still learning how to do this. But for now, it consists of spending time with my nose in a book and adventuring with friends who come visit on weekends. A routine that fits my personality and lifestyle has also made a positive impact on my work-life balance.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Let’s be real for a second — college debt is terrifying. The number of people who live their entire lives in debt (car loans, college debt, mortgage, etc.) makes me want, so badly, to not be in debt. When I moved to Arkansas, I got a second job as a server at the Cracker Barrel down the street to make some spending cash on the side. Many people, including myself at times, thought I was crazy for getting that job. However, I enjoyed my time there because it allowed me to interact with a lot of new people from drastically different backgrounds, and it helped me pay down some serious debt. No one is too good to work anywhere, and I like to think it is that attitude that got me an employee of the month award from that Cracker Barrel a couple of months after starting. That same award is hanging in my cubical today, and is something I am proud of.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I would classify my life as being in a restoration period. Transitioning from home to college was difficult, but transitioning from college to the real world can be a bigger challenge than expected. You start paying bills, making big life decisions (like buying a car or house) and soon realize that “adulting” isn’t all you thought it would be as a teenage kid who just wanted more freedom.

Furthermore, moving from city to city for work makes it hard to make friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am a solid extrovert on the scale of relative sociability. However, when moving to a new place and knowing it may only be for six months, your motivation to branch out and make new friends is abnormally low. It takes three or four months to adjust to a new job and location, so the idea of building a social group is intimidating and seems like a poor investment of time. This loneliness, though, has allowed me to deeper explore who I am, who I want to become, and how I can grow in my personal life, outside of a professional career. This uncomfortable period has been a blessing in disguise, and I have begun doing more things I love. Recently, I picked my professional camera back up again, which has been great, running more, which I used to do a lot of, and have begun building my faith with God more and more each day.

A picture I took earlier this fall.

Remembering who I am and who I want to become has been refreshing, I highly recommend taking more time for yourself.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Being in a rotational program, my short-term goal is to find a full-time position within my company by the end of 2018. Long term, however, I want to revolutionize how fresh food is sold online. Imagine how many people in the world we can provide quality, affordable food to if we can understand how to get it to them on a personalized level at an effective cost.

As I type this goal, I immediately hear people/voices in the back of my mind saying, “Shipping is too expensive, and people like to pick out their own meat and produce… online grocery is going to take years before it is used by the masses, let alone solve issues such as food insecurity.” For me, these are the sentiments that lights a fire within my soul and make me want to prove them wrong. I once heard an entrepreneur on a podcast (The School of Greatness – seriously, look it up!) say something along the lines of, “If the world thinks you’re nuts, or that what you are trying to accomplish is too hard, then you have possibly found a great opportunity.” It may take us years to figure out how to crack the code on online fresh food, and it may seem impossible to many, but I truly believe that together, as an industry, we can make this happen.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
An early wake-up time. My brain runs at about 5% after the lunch hour 🙂 , so I enjoy getting to work around 6:00am to get projects accomplished that may be hard and require high brain power. This means that I am up at 4:15ish, ready to take on the world!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I purchased this awesome ergonomic mouse on Amazon Prime day this year, and seriously have a hard time getting work done on my computer without it. I know it seems silly, but a good mouse makes my working life so much better.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Singer. I would most definitely be a singer.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The people, hands down. Cheesy or not, the people make your college experience, and never again will there be a time in life where all those incredible, talented, brilliant people are in the same place again. College is where you make true, lifelong friends.

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Usually I wrap up these posts with a picture of me with the guest if I have one, but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share a fun throwback of my sister and Zech going to the prom together as juniors! What’s funny is to note that phone cameras have some a long way even since 2011… because this was the best picture of the bunch. The rest were blurry. And yes, I did get Zech’s permission to share, but no, Janci did not get that luxury 🙂

Thank you so much for being my guest Zech and sharing your story! Have a Boulevard for me!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Amanda

“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 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 and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Today’s guest gave me another chance to catch up on the life of someone from my hometown!  Amanda (hey name twin!) moved to our hometown in the 6th grade (or was it 7th?) and quickly became a part of my friend group through middle school and into high school. ( I swear we have pictures together somewhere but I couldn’t track any down for this post.) Because of social media, I’ve been able to catch up on Amanda’s life now and I am not the least bit surprised to see that she is still so passionate about her goals and keeping what is most important to her in the forefront. Reading Amanda’s guest blog was refreshing – she keeps it honest and shares a lot about persistence and the value of seeking out a wide variety of experiences. I think Amanda’s story will resonate with a lot of you. Enjoy!

-Amanda 

Name: Amanda Tuimalealiifano (Bevington)
Age: 26
Hometown: Hermiston, OR (born in Roseville, CA)
College: Whitworth University
Degree(s): BA in Marketing
Current Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Current Job: Marketing Manager with the Professional Bull Riders

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Funny story… being the stubborn and independent woman I was, I wanted to go to college far from home. As I started looking at colleges, my parents made me look at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. I told them I had never even heard of it and that I didn’t want to look at it. They stopped at the college during a road trip and even though I started the tour being grumpy, I instantly fell in love with it. I admired the campus, the culture, the incorporation of faith, and I had the opportunity to play softball. I ended up appreciating being just three hours from home. Attending a tiny, private, liberal arts Christian college was quite an interesting experience, but I met some of the best people in the world and loved the small class sizes and the ability to get to know my teachers well.

I went to college thinking I was going to major in Psychology since it was the most interesting class I took in high school. After two classes I decided it wasn’t for me. At a loss for what else I may be interested in, I decided that I should be an accountant because I was a stellar math student and my intro to accounting class in high school was a breeze. Once again, after the second accounting class, I decided it wasn’t for me. Since I was on the business tract, I had to take marketing as a prerequisite. I found the class to be so interesting: getting into the minds of consumers, why people act the way they do, buying patterns, physical factors in a store that either encourage or discourage consumers to purchase something. It was like psychology…for business! I decided to continue that path and ended up enjoying it, especially when I took a sports marketing class. I’ve always played a ton of sports, so I decided why not work in an environment that I loved. During my senior year I met with the managers of the local hockey team, job shadowed at the Spokane Arena, and had informative interviews with many sports marketing professionals in the field. I heard it was a competitive market and a tough profession with long hours, but I knew it would be something I truly enjoyed and had a passion for. Though I still had doubts if it was the right major for me a few years out of college, I am now confident that it set me up for the most success and joy in the long-run.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I played softball my first year of college, then became a Resident Assistant for two semesters, was a bible study leader, involved in recreational sports, as well as dance. I studied abroad one semester and spent about six months attending the business school at Maastrict University in The Netherlands. I interned at Saint George’s School (a private school) where I was a marketing and communications intern. My college also provided incredible opportunities to be hands-on with marketing projects. I was fortunate to go to schools that allowed students to work with multiple businesses in the community. I, personally, worked with Zoom Industries, ULTA and McClain’s Pizzeria in which we created real-life recommendations and marketing plans to improve their businesses.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
The transition from High School to college coursework hit me like a train my freshman year. High School was so easy for me and I found it difficult to understand how each professor in college had different expectations and different testing styles. I also had a difficult time adjusting to life after studying abroad. Those two things aside, I think the one thing I wish I could go back and change would to be more confident in who I was and what I wanted. There were a lot of varying pressures to be or act a certain way and there was a lot of judgement. I wish I would have deepened more friendships and spent less time worrying and stressing out.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Create meaningful relationships with your professors and make connections in the community. Go on informative interviews. I made great connections that would have led to amazing opportunities if I would have stayed in the area. Also, don’t stress about what will come. Everything will fall into place.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
After college I accepted a sports marketing internship with Youth Missions International. I spent the summer traveling around Northern California putting on sport camps for kids at churches. My internship ended up taking me to Colorado where I aided in the creation of a new division within the company called BASE Sports Ministry.

Once the internship ended I landed a job at the world headquarters of LearningRx as a Social Media and Marketing Coordinator. I spent over three years there, where my experience expanded to include public relations, basic HTML coding, running webinars, learning more about Google Analytics, managing email campaigns, and much more.

Next, I accepted a job with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) as a Social Media and PR Manager. I had applied as a Marketing Manager countless times over a year, but it never seemed to work out. After a few months I received the opportunity to move over as a Marketing Manager, and the move couldn’t have been any more perfect. I now manage some of the events around the country start to finish. From putting the event on-sale, deciding price levels in the arena, placing media buys, and managing public relations for the event, to being there on-site to ensure things run smoothly, there has been a huge learning curve. It has been a whirlwind and crash course, but I am SO thankful for this opportunity. It’s an opportunity that I believe I will look back on as the huge stepping stone in my career. When told to sink or swim, you only have one option: to rise to the occasion and show them what you’re made of.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
As I mentioned before, I am extremely thankful that my college provided opportunities to gain real-world experience with local organizations. I am also thankful that I put myself out there and was able to gain leadership qualities and take advantage to learn from others who are successful and wise in their field. I believe that everyone should have a mentor and someone they strive to be like in their career.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I, honestly, struggled with real-life problems and situations. At my school, I felt that we were a bit sheltered. Everyone was a Christian and most had the same core beliefs as you. It’s absolutely not like that in the real world. There is more conflict, suffering, personality clashes, and bigger things at stake if you mess up. I didn’t always believe in my ability because I felt so young compared to everyone else in the company. It took my supervisors telling me that I was capable and smart and had the freedom to make decisions on my own for me to believe in my own ability. I had to learn to stand up for myself and what I believed in and couldn’t let others walk all over me, just because I was younger.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Honestly, I’m kind of old-school when it comes to staying organized. My tactic is writing lists, lists, and more lists. I have a master list, a daily list, and a list for each event. For some reason, I just can’t do online organizers…there’s just something SO satisfying as crossing something off of a list with a pen and paper.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Some of my strengths are multi-tasking, my ability to learn quickly, and needing to understand the process. I pick things up quite quickly and I question the way things are being done if I don’t think it is the most effective or the most efficient. I also think one of my greatest strengths is my outgoing and positive personality. I enjoy creating relationships and a fun work environment.

Some of my weaknesses that I continue to work on is my confidence in my ability and my ability to work on one thing for a long period of time. It’s difficult for me to stay focused on one thing… I love having multiple things to do. Also, I am not really a reader and I think that is REALLY important in order to continue learning and growing. Because of this, I have started listening to podcasts and join webinars often.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I make lists, take a breath, and focus on one thing at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed. Sometimes I’ll schedule my day in 30 minute to one-hour increments to keep the productivity up throughout the day.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
This has been a new learning experience since I now travel for work. The first few months of training, when I was traveling a ton, I would mostly just plan nights at home with my husband so we could have quality time together. Now, we make sure to schedule date nights out, weekend trips whenever possible, etc. I found that I also needed to schedule more time with my friends: Schedule Skype dates with my friends who live out of town and plan ‘Bachelor’ (and wine) nights, etc. I’ve become much more introverted than I used to be and a lot of the time I just want to cuddle with my Morkie, Smore’s, have a beer or glass of wine and binge watch Netflix. Balancing healthy habits like working out, praying, and getting enough sleep also keep me refreshed and energized.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Working for the PBR is definitely something I am extremely proud of. The growth and strides this company has made in the past few years (including being nominated as Sports League of the Year with the MLB, NBA, NHL, and US Olympic Committee) is tremendous and I am so excited to see what is to come and how I am able to grow as a marketing professional.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Oh man… one word: busy. Typically, I travel once every three weeks for four days at a time to an event, which has been a blast! I play recreational volleyball once per week, am starting competitive softball again, try and get to the gym a few days per week, and hangout with friends. My husband has a huge family and we have created a great network of friends through softball. At least once per month there is a big gathering or celebration, which is always a ton of fun. I squeeze in grocery shopping on the weekends, down time, playing with my pup, dates with my husband, cooking, and attempt to keep our house clean. But, if I’m honest, that’s our biggest weakness. I’d rather spend my time making memories and go exploring than spending the day cleaning the house. Everyone has something, right? Just being honest… I can’t do it all, I’m not Wonder Woman. My husband and I are both passionate about traveling, so we try and take weekend trips as much as possible, as well.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
I can see myself staying in the sports industry for a long while, I am truly enjoying it and I am continuing to be challenged. There is a lot of opportunity to grow and take on more responsibility. Sometimes I think it would be really cool to work for national sports team.

Anyhow, right before I received the offer with the PBR I started my own wedding planning business. I was able to do one wedding, but unfortunately had to put that on pause. In the future our dream is to start a wedding venue. We want to invest in some land, build a barn, dressing rooms, etc. and provide a place where couples can have the best day of their lives. I’ve always been an event planner as well as a romantic, dream wedding type of girl, and I think this is something I would never get tired of.

Photographer.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Actually, thanks to Amanda Spoo, I now receive the daily Shine texts which are motivating and inspiring… as long as I don’t wake up too late to read them. I’ve also been trying to incorporate more spiritual habits right off the bat in the AM and listen to podcasts or audio books on the way to work. So far, I have enjoyed the ‘This Is Your Life’ podcast by Michael Hyatt and marriage books by Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke to help me continue to grow in my new role as a wife.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I do enjoy a post-lunch diet Dr. Pepper to keep me going after that lunch time lull hits, but it hasn’t become a daily habit.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Anything where I could travel the world. I love what I am doing at the moment, so if I could put on events around the world and had some time to explore, that would be incredible. I also have a passion for mission work. I would LOVE to live in a country for a few years and serve the community or help teach them about business to grow their economy and create jobs to help people earn money and thrive. I would also start non-profits to help provide kids the resources they need to attend school, to help the homeless, as well as an organization to fight against sex trafficking.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss not having to “adult.” I miss having the freedom to do what you want, when you want without a ton of responsibilities. But, most of all, I miss my friends. The memories I created and the relationships I built are irreplaceable. I don’t live near anyone I went to college with, which can be extremely hard and lonely sometimes. I’ve made some great friends here in Colorado now that I’ve been here a few years, but I wish I could just go to lunch or have a movie night with some of my close friends.

*****

Thank you for participating in this series Amanda! Now I’ll go back to vicariously living through your Snapchat at PBR events and clicking through your gorgeous wedding photos! Safe travels!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Wyatt

“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 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 and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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One of my favorite things about doing this series is that I get to know people better, but it also means I sometimes get to catch up with people I have been friends with for a long time. Today’s profile features Wyatt, who is one of my really good friends from my childhood in Oregon. We fell out of touch a bit through college, but since moving to Virginia we’ve been able to reconnect since he lives here too, down in Williamsburg. Growing up, I remember Wyatt always being a loyal friend, extremely dedicated to whatever he was involved in and had the kind of bright personality that showed he wanted to make sure others were having fun and felt welcome. I have a lot of great memories from that friend group and while I may not know Wyatt as well in his role as a young professional, I feel confident saying that I’m sure many others would echo my thoughts. 

He also has an incredible story about finding his biological family and even wrote a book about it! It was incredibly cool to see a friend’s name on a book cover like that and even more so that he felt led to share his story with others and use it to help others.

-Amanda

Basics

Name: Wyatt Harris
Age: 26
Hometown: Hermiston, Oregon
College: University of Oregon and Saint Leo University
Degree(s): BA Chinese, International Business and MBA
Current Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Current Job: Financial Adviser with Northwestern Mutual

Background Story
I grew up in Oregon and moved out to the east coast to be closer to my better half Christina. We were only planning on being here for a couple years and now its been 6 years. During my senior year in college I found my biological parents in China and turned my journey into a story. I was fortunate enough to have the book published in China, Taiwan and the United States. With donations, corporate partnerships and royalties, the Second Chance Foundation was started with the sole purpose of bringing orphans from Taiwan to study here in the United States.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I always knew I was going to get into business/finance. My grandparents were very big into real-estate and involved with all sorts of business transactions. I chose the University of Oregon to avoid letting my family down as most of us are UofO alumni. Being a Chinese kid in a primarily white society in Hermiston, I was not exposed to the Chinese culture/history. So, I decided that I wanted to learn more about my heritage.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I did an internship in Taiwan for Daikin, a Japanese air conditioning company. I was also very active in student life groups and organizations on campus.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
My biggest challenge in college would be the balancing of school work and social life. The one thing I regret to this day was not enjoying college enough. I was so focused on my classes and graduating early, I missed out on a lot of fun college life. I did however save my parents a year of tuition, but still wish I had another year under my belt experiencing Autzen stadium and the crowd cheering during our home games.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Meet with a financial adviser in your local area to discuss the value of building sound credit. Also to review what the most common benefits employers are offering so when you get that first job, you know what a 401(k) is and the difference between Roth and IRA.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I enjoy meeting new and current clients and discussing more about my clients personal, professional and financial goals. I work with my clients daily to plan for retirement by utilizing IRA’s, 401(k), 403(b) etc. One of biggest responsibility is to protect my client’s goals by using tools like Life Insurance, Disability or Long Term Care.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Networking and learning how to carry myself both personally and professionally to be approachable.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I didn’t feel like I really understand exactly what career I wanted to be in.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Linked In, Good Mobile.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Strengths- Follow-up
  • Weakness- Time management

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I have a strong vision and purpose for why I come in early and stay late. The biggest thing I would suggest when stepping into a new scary position would be to avoid having a plan B. That moment in your career that you have a bad day/week, you will resort to plan B and potentially regret not sticking it out.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
My vision revolves around travel, Christina and our four-legged kid. We go to the beach during the summers and hiking during the cooler parts. It’s important to remember that we work hard to play hard. But, to always remember that your career won’t always be there, but your best friend will be.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Being able to buy a brand-new house by age 26.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I play soccer, visit breweries and really enjoy being in the outdoors.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Long term goals include being Managing Partner one day for the Virginia or Oregon offices.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Have enough of my favorite toothpaste.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Lotion, chap stick and my Easy Button.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Pilot. My heart and soul belongs in the air. I’m continuously watching Youtube videos of airplanes landing and taking off.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Artichoke dip at 1 a.m. with my friends.

**********

I was a little bummed this was the only photo I could find of Wyatt and I together in my files, because I am positive that there are more somewhere. But on the other hand, this does show quite a few of my favorite people from growing up 🙂

Wyatt, thank you so much for taking the time to share a bit of your story. Looking forward to the next time we can catch up when you are in Arlington!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“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 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 and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

*****

Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Megan

“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 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 and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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If you read this blog even occasionally, then you probably already know who today’s guest is. But in case you don’t… I met my best friend Megan at the beginning of my freshman year at K-State when we both lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship House. We quickly became inseparable and the world hasn’t been quite the same since (dramatic I know, but we are the first to admit that we can be pretty obnoxious together).  We lived together for 4.5 years,  and even as we’ve “grown up” and I moved across the country again, we’ve been really fortunate that our friendship has only grown and evolved to best fit where each of us are at in life. Most of my best memories since 2009 involve this gal.

But this post is really about Megan and her story. First and foremost, what you need to know about Megan is that she has such a kind, thoughtful heart and she REALLY loves food. She has a loud, but warm and contagious personality that makes people feel welcome and like an old friend. She is naturally curious, fiercely committed to what is important to her and isn’t afraid to own who she is, mistakes and all. Because we are so close, I have had a backstage pass to every part of Megan’s life, and I am honestly so proud of who she is and what she has accomplished so far in life. I know I am a better person because of her.

-Amanda 

Name: Megan Torline
Age: 27
Hometown: Derby, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): BS in Food Science
Current Location: Wichita, KS
Current Job: Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech, Inc.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a vet. I was always the animal lover of my family and asked for a dog for every birthday and Christmas. In high school, I worked at a vet clinic my junior and senior year. This gave me a bit of experience in the environment and as my mom put it, “made sure I could handle blood.”

When choosing a college, K-State appealed to me because it had a vet school. There were a lot of perks of doing my undergrad there, plus in-state tuition made a lot more sense to me. My first semester really dove into animal science courses that exposed me to the agriculture industry that I really knew nothing about. Growing up in a more urban area, a lot of the concepts that were part of growing up for most people in my animal science classes were brand new for me. (Amanda here… pretty sure it was studying for ASI 102 our first semester that really solidified our friendship!)

I took a food science course as an elective thinking, “I like food,” and it really opened my eyes to new career options that I didn’t even know existed. I swapped my major to Food Science/Pre-Vet and continued to take more food science classes. Eventually, I dropped the Pre-Vet all together and stuck with Food Science.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had various jobs all through college, so I feel like my involvement in college groups was significantly less than it would have been otherwise. I lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership house with Amanda for my freshman and sophomore year of college. Smurthwaite had a lot of house activities that kept us busy and we also had various events with the men’s scholarship house, Smith House. I met some of my closest college friends through time spent in the scholarship houses.

Right before my last semester of college, I interned at BlendTech Inc., a spice and seasoning blend company, in Wichita, KS. As a research and development intern, I helped develop seasoning blends for various companies within the meat industry. This internship was a great fit for me and at the end of the summer, I was offered a full time position after I graduated that next December. I was extremely lucky in that I went into my last semester of college with a job already lined up.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I think one of the biggest struggles for me in college was saying no to the fun activities like spending time out with friends, tailgates or hanging out in Aggieville. I think there are definitely times I would have been significantly less stressed, if I had just stayed home and worked on homework or caught up on sleep. I was also (and still am) a fairly good procrastinator. When I wasn’t feeling like doing homework or studying, I was very good at finding any sort of distraction to do instead (which let’s be real, what college student isn’t?). Again, I know that if I had just buckled down and done the work, I probably could have saved myself from a few more late nights and stressful weeks.

I don’t think I would have it any other way though. I know that a large part of all that is just my personality and isn’t really something I could change anyway. But I also think that by choosing to spend an afternoon at a tailgate or staying up a little too late on a weeknight chatting and hanging out with friends, I really cemented in some of the friendships I still value today. And in the grand scheme of things, what’s a few stressful semesters compared to some lifelong friendships?

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

Hang in there!! It’s so easy to get caught up in the “almost done” mindset and focus so much on being done that you don’t even enjoy parts of your senior year. My last semester of college was definitely stressful, but it was also included some really fun classes. I wish I had spent a little less time focusing on how stressed I was and more time focusing on the enjoyable classes I got to end my college career with and the great people I got to live and hang out with.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I have been at the same job since I graduated college almost 4 years ago. I work as a Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech. BlendTech is a spice and seasoning blend supplier. We work primarily within the meat industry and supply dry rubs, marinades and injects food companies across the country. We also work some within the snack food industry, supplying seasonings to sunflower seed, chip and other snack food companies. My average week consists of a couple of meetings with current or new ingredient suppliers to stay up to date on ingredients that are currently on the market, developing and testing new seasoning blends based on customer request, current market trends or my own creativity, and creating and updating technical documentation for each of our blends for our customers. I have been extremely lucky to have a job that is always challenging me and every day is different than the one before it.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
In college, I was convinced that once I didn’t have classes, homework or studying to do, my life would be so much easier! I’d have plenty of time to do all the things and my stress levels would be practically non-existent. Adulting is hard. And I know people (jokingly or not) say this all the time, but I never really understood it until I graduated college. I also believe this is something that no matter how prepared or experienced you think you are, it will always throw you for a loop, because you just don’t know until you experience it. There have been many other challenges along the way, but the biggest challenge that I wasn’t ready for has been learning how to deal with new stresses and to sort of figure it out as I go.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I actually don’t use a ton of new and exciting technology at work besides my email. Outside of work, the calendar on my phone is the only way I can keep track of anything. Player FM podcast app gets me through my commute. I also use a meditation app daily. My current favorite is Stop, Breath, Think.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a rock star at forming habits. Whether it’s remembering to take my vitamins, sticking with my bedtime or maintaining a workout schedule, I know how my brain works and what steps to take to cement them in for good. However, I’ve always struggled with managing my time. The main cause of this is a combination of thinking things will take much less time than they actually do and trying to switch from project to project, which makes everything take longer.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I’m a pretty big fan of to-do lists. When things get crazy or stressful, the first thing I like to do is get organized. I prioritize my things to get done, I try to minimize potential distractions (lately that means putting my phone in airplane mode so notifications don’t even show up), I pour myself a cup of coffee and pick out some jammy music. I’ve learned that a positive work environment is crucial to getting me in the zone to get stuff done.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
One of the main things I have really stuck to my guns on since graduating college is leaving work at work. I don’t bring my work home with me in the evenings and I don’t check my work email at home. Of course there are always the exceptions (waiting for an important email to come through, or on a work trip and work carries into the evening), and sometimes when there is a ton to get done or I’m behind, I’ll stay late or go into work early, I don’t mind that, sometimes it has to be done. But my line is drawn at working on work projects in my home. For me, that gives me permission to shut my work-brain off and enjoy my evenings. This gives me the space I need to do things that I love like yoga, hanging out with my friends or having dinner with my family. As long as I’m making time for these things, I feel like I’m much less likely to get burnt out at work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Earlier this year, I started a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to become a certified yoga teacher. I started doing yoga more seriously in college, not necessarily because I loved yoga, but mostly because I knew I needed to be doing some form of physical activity and the thought of cardio and weightlifting sounded terrible. After college, I joined a gym and kept up with the yoga practice and eventually grew to love it for more than just the physical benefit. Starting the training at the beginning of this year has proved to be a huge, unexpected learning experience. Yoga helps me to clear my head and get grounded. It challenges me to focus on myself and my practice and not compare myself to others. The training has been a huge time commitment and a lot of hard work, but so worth it! I’ll finish my teacher training in October. The plan is to find someplace that I can teach others a couple pf evenings a week. I love the idea of introducing people to yoga and sharing the benefits and the joy that I get out of it. It also feels like a great way for me to give back and help me spend a little more time doing something I love.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Life consists of a LOT of yoga (see above question – 200 hours is a lot). Other than yoga, I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend and his 4-year-old daughter. Hanging with a 4-year-old means I get to release my inner child and do things like play on a playground and build blanket forts to watch Disney movies in. My two dogs, Luna, a 3-year-old Corgi, and Ned, a 9-month-old German Shepherd, also do a pretty good job of adding to the chaos (and fun) of life.

I also just started my own blog as well, called Her Inspired Adventure!” My 27th birthday this month marked the start of My Year of Mindfulness. I am using this year to approach all aspects of my life in a mindful and curious way. My goal is to dig deep and really figure out what it means to live an authentic life and speak my truth. As a way to document my year, I started my blog. I’m really excited to dive into this new adventure and see what this next year has in store.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
During the summer months, I start my mornings by walking a couple miles with the dogs. This does all of us some good by getting us out of the house and getting our blood pumping to start the day. In the winter, that’s a little harder, because it’s so much darker in the morning and I’m not about to willingly spend time outside in single digits. Winter mornings usually include dog cuddles on the couch under a big warm blanket instead. Coffee is also involved somewhere in the morning process too. But starting the day with two happy pups has become an essential start to my morning.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Coffee is always a must. I get THE WORST caffeine headaches without it. Yes, I do realize that means I have a problem.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
All limitations aside, I would be a Pinterest tester. Which technically I think is a thing. I think people are probably out there making a living off of testing ideas and things on Pinterest. I feel like that gives me the option to do so many different things. I could test recipes, do craft projects, clean my house, workout, DIY all the things, travel, pick up new hobbies…the possibilities are endless!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

  • Aggieville, the food, the people, the hilarious stories…
  • The fact that everyone around you REALLY FREAKING LOVES K-State.
  • Living with my best friends and having late night life chats that cause sleep deprivation.

*****

Thank you Megan for sharing your story! I am so thankful for our friendship and excited to follow along on your own blog (Because obviously I don’t get enough of you out of our bi-weekly 4 hour long phone calls. 

Cheers!

Life at Random

2015 Christmas in the Country Gift Reveal

Friends, I know I am not the only one who struggled a bit with the first full week back to work after the holidays.
I knew that the Christmas in the Country Gift Reveal blog posts were going live this week but everyday after work I just couldn’t bring myself to look at a computer screen again.

So my slacker plan was to write the post on the plane this morning on my trip to the West coast and post it during my layover.

And then I missed my flight this morning.
So now I’m back in my living room, with a re-booked flight for this evening.
Such is life.

CITC

Anyhow, I excited to finally share  about my first Christmas in the Country exchange!
I particularly love that this exchange brings together bloggers in agriculture.

I had SO MUCH fun “getting to know” Myla at “The Purple Front Door” and going shopping for her.
Read her post on my gift HERE.

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I received my fun box from Chelsea at BoilermakerAg, and she did a fabulous job! Everything was so personalized and well-thought out. Chelsea is a newlywed from Indiana, a proud Purdue Boilermaker and like me, an agriculture communications grad! I have read Chelsea’s blog before and I’m guessing that we have a lot in common. I am looking forward staying in touch.

First I want to share about that little lump of coal you see above on the red bag. This lump of coal (which is really a colored and scented piece of soap), has been passed along through the exchange since 2013 as a little reminder of the true reason for the season. The white tag says” A lighthearted reminder coal deserving sins places us on Santa’s naughty list. Thankfully naughty boy and girls are offered the gift of Jesus.” On the back of the tag it has the history of where this coal has traveled each year so my job now is to keep it and pass it on to someone next year!

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If you know me or have read my blog before you know that I love to be creative and tap into my artistic side, and paints are probably my favorite to use. Chelsea sent me a jar of turquoise custom chalk paint and a few brushes. I haven’t done as many projects since my move to DC and my mind is spinning with all of the ideas that I could use this for! Plus you can never have too many brushes.

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In my mind coffee is a love language all on its own. Chelsea sent me this adorable mug, a few K Cups and homemade chocolate spoon stirrers. They were SO GOOD — now I feel like I need one for every cup of coffee I have.

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Everything in the gift was great, but this last part really hit it out of the ballpark. I love saving different wine corks (and the wine itself of course) and stealing them out of my stash from time to time for a craft. But I’m not sure Chelsea understands just how PERFECT this particular holder is for me. Yes, I used to work for the Kansas Pork Association, but my love for pigs runs far deeper than that. Everyone has a few things that they find hard to explain their love for without seeming a bit loony, and for me, pigs go on the top of that list. This is SO CUTE, and will go perfectly in my home.

Chelsea, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me and for each of the fun gifts. I hope you had a wonderful season with your family and I wish you the best in 2016.

 Thank you to Laurie, Jamie, Kirby and Lara for being this year’s exchange hosts! This was a fun way to enjoy the holidays and make new blogger friends in agriculture.
Click HERE to view the Link Up of other bloggers who participated and to see what everyone gifted each other!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Kylie

“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 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 and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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This week I would like to introduce you to Kylie, one of my new friends here in D.C. I’m laughing as I write this because just this past weekend at a holiday party one of her friends asked me, “how did you meet Kylie?” My response? “Online.” I never would have thought that the writing I do to scrapbook my life over here in my little corner of the internet would ever lead me to making a friend in real life. But early this past summer we both linked our blogs to a bigger blogger that we both follow, which led her to find mine and leave a comment. We started reading each others posts and soon learned that she had recently moved to an apartment just about a mile away from mine. The first time we hung out we kept joking that it was equivalent to the awkwardness of a blind first date. As you will read below, life here in the DC area is typically pretty busy, so we are still “becoming friends,” but I am already so thankful to have met Kylie. She is passionate about her job as a rookie 2nd grade teacher, and is humble and honest about the ups and downs of balancing it all. She has a great sense of humor and adventure, and is so easy to relate to (except for her obsession with candy corn…)

-Amanda

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This is Kylie’s school picture for this year… I feel like getting to take school pictures as an adult redeems one from years of awkward braces and horrible trends growing up!

Basics
Name: Kylie McGraw
Age: 24
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
College: Duquesne University & University of Maryland, College Park
Degree(s): B.S. Early Level Education (Duquesne), Master’s of Education in Reading (UMD)
Current Location: Arlington, VA
Current Job: 2nd Grade Teacher

Background Story: I’m the oldest of three and I love my brothers to pieces. My mom’s family all lives really close together, so I grew up knowing the family is really important. I went to school where my mom was a teacher, so I spent a lot of time in her classroom. I don’t remember deciding that I was going to be a teacher, but I told everyone who asked that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. Hailing from The Steel City, I do in fact bleed black and gold. I like french fries on my salads, ketchup with most everything I eat, and a cookie table at every major event I attend. Pittsburgh has really grown and changed since it gained its name as The Steel City, and I really got to know it better when I went to college! I’m a self-proclaimed candy corn addict and crazy dog lady…even though Colby and Amigo live with my family in Pittsburgh. I love coffee, the dessert menu, running long distances, and laying on the beach.

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With my brothers.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I never really chose my major. As I mentioned, I decided at a young age that I was going to be a teacher and that is the dream I chased for my whole life. My mom has been teaching kindergarten for 27 years so I had a great role model!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had two jobs that I loved! I taught Spinning classes at the gym and worked as a tutor in The Writing Center. Last year when I was a full-time grad student, I continued both of those jobs at my new university, but I was also a research assistant. I like to keep busy!

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Every so often, there would be some roommate drama. Living with good friends can be harder than you think! I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so instead of addressing issues that would come up, I would just ignore them. Senior year, I ended up not talking to one of my roommates (the one I actually shared a room with) for almost four months. We said “hello”, “how was your day”, and “bye”, but that was about it. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about hurting her feelings and just said, “Hey! How can we fix this?” Eventually I addressed all the problems that arose, but not without a long awkward period in between the incident and the talk.

I also struggled with my health and body image. College is the first time when you are really in control of what you eat and how much you work out, and I was a statistic. I went to college and gained weight. I only gained about 9 pounds, but I felt puffy and bloated and I wasn’t happy with how I looked at all. I started to change my eating and exercise habits healthfully, but then I got really extreme and struggled with a little bit of orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating foods that you consider healthy. I only ate certain foods, I counted every calorie that went inside my body, and I worked out more than once a day. Most people were telling me that I looked great, but it wasn’t until a few friends said something not so nice about me behind my back that I realized I was doing something wrong. I never sought professional help for these issues because since I recognized them in myself, I felt that I could fix them, with the support of my family and friends. My mom and my best friend at the time were my go-to people if I ever needed someone to remind me that I did NOT in fact need to work out again or I was actually “allowed” to eat the piece of bread on the table.

I wouldn’t change either of these experiences because they made me more confident and healthy post grad.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
I would tell a senior in college to take advantage of all the events that their campus has to offer. You and your friends DO need to go to a football game, eat the special Thanksgiving dinner in the dining hall, and go to the Christmas Ball. All of the things that you may have skipped in previous years — get your friends and go do them. On the other hand, it’s just as acceptable to stay in and watch movies because your stress levels will probably rise as you finish up your final classes and start thinking about the real world. Remember that there is a whole summer after graduation, so if you get your diploma and you still feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s okay. Make decisions about grad school or your first job, but take a breath. I realized that in the real world, no one really knows what they’re doing…but as long as you put your best foot forward, you’ll go places. 🙂

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Colby (bottom) and Amigo (top)

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

My plan for grad school was to go to UMD for 2 years to get my Master’s in Reading and then move back home to Pittsburgh. Once I moved to this area, I loved it and couldn’t imagine leaving so soon. I was a person who said they would never do their first year of teaching while they were still in grad school because both are such huge time commitments and I wanted to make sure they were both getting my “all”. Since I took most of the classes for my Master’s last year, by the end of the spring semester, I felt like I would be able to manage my first year of teaching and taking one night class. I interviewed at a few different elementary schools in Virginia in June and finally found the right school for me. I was offered a second grade teaching position at the end of my interview! My coworkers are so supportive as I figure out what it means to finally be in charge of my own class. I expected some of the challenges I have faced so far, but sometimes I really have to go back and kind of reteach something, especially when it comes to classroom routines. This is not something that I anticipated and I feel really guilty when I have to make time to do something like that. But, my coworkers always remind me that it is vital and that they still have to do that sometimes too. My students are only 7 years old so behavior is a learning experience each and every day! I really do have a great class so I feel very lucky in my first year of teaching. 🙂

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
When I was choosing colleges, I didn’t look very far away from home. However, it was really important to me to go to a school that would let me be in elementary classrooms all throughout my program. Years ago, education students would take college classes for 3.5 years and then step into a classroom for the first time during student teaching. That was a shock for some who ended up realizing they weren’t where they wanted to be. At Duquesne, I was in a variety of different kinds of schools every semester of college leading up to student teaching. Some of my friends even switched majors (think elementary to middle school) after our first field experience! I think going to all of the different schools let me figure out what kind of school and what age I wanted to work with. Since my mom teaches kindergarten, I always thought I wanted to do that, but I had a lot of experience with second graders during undergrad and now that I am actually teaching second grade, I can’t imagine being in a younger grade (at least right now)! I was also involved in an several organizations in the School of Education that worked to support families in the community. Volunteering with families at places like the Ronald McDonald House opened my eyes to what a student’s life could be like outside of school.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I didn’t expect to still feel so stressed about money. In college, you know your funds are going to be a little limited. Apparently, I had this great vision that once I finally had a “real job”, I would exhale and feel totally calm about money and buy whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. Ha! Not so. Currently, I am living within my means, but I always wonder if I can be saving more, donating more, and so on.

As far as my job goes, I didn’t expect to second guess myself so much. In each of my field experiences and in student teaching, I always felt confident in the choices I was making, but that’s probably because I had a lot of guidance. My coworkers and I plan as a team, but I still have a lot of my own choices to make in my classroom. It’s hard for me to understand that I can plan the world’s best lesson and it’s possible that it might not reach all of my students for one reason or another. I can ask thoughtful questions, assign engaging projects, and still reach the end of the lesson and see that some of my students don’t “get it”. Even though there are many reasons why a student might not get it (academic, social, emotional, etc.), I take it personally and wonder what I did wrong. I try to channel those negative thoughts into positive ones, as I am always asking myself what I can do better tomorrow, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow!

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What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I don’t know that these resources will be of any interest to the regular person, but they make sense for teachers! My teammates and I use an online planbook to write and share resources for lesson plans. I like being able to have everything in one place because if I wrote my lesson plans with pen on paper, I would probably have half my resources printed out and another half in an electronic format on my laptop! With our online planbook, I can log right in, see what I have written for that day or week, and print everything I need from one place. We also use Microsoft OneNote to plan future units and share student data. My students use TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to listen and read stories electronically. They also use Dreambox to practice their math skills in an electronic format. Dreambox is awesome because it teaches them in a game-like format and they are taught based on their current level of learning. So, for example, if they advance to the next math concept and they get a certain number of questions or problems wrong, the game automatically bumps them back a lesson to reteach the concept they are struggling with.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a team player but I also appreciate a little bit of independence. Being a teacher gives me a lot of independence in deciding how I want to teach a certain lesson, but I definitely don’t isolate myself from my coworkers. The other second grade teachers and the reading specialist have been such a huge support system for me as I get all of my ideas in order during this first year. Because of that, I try to share my ideas with them when I can! I want them to see me as a team player, too. On the other hand, I’m a worrier and I want to do everything right. I ask a lot of questions (which is a good thing), but sometimes my questions are more along the lines of, “Is it okay that I did/said ________?” I want to work on having more confidence in my decisions!

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I try to have conversations with my students that aren’t about school. They bring so many random trinkets to school and they always have a story to tell, so if I make sure to find an extra few minutes for them to share something either with me or with the class so that we can all relax. And because I am still taking a night class this year, sometimes a motivating thought is, “Life won’t be like this forever.” Regardless of what your life is like, you don’t want to wish time away, but sometimes the thought that things WILL change is a positive one.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I love to work out. I love to Spin, I love to attempt to lift weights in the fitness studio in my apartment, I love to try new classes at the gym, and I especially love to run. There are plenty of people that I know who ask me how I have time to work out while working full time, being in grad school, and trying to maintain a social life, but the saying is true: I don’t have time, I make time. I don’t get home from work and immediately feel like changing into my gym clothes, but I do. Deciding to do your workout is the hardest part. While you are running or biking or lifting, your mind is cleared of all the stress from the day. Then when you have completed the workout, you feel accomplished and oh so proud. It also helps that my principal supports a work-life balance. She encourages us to have other hobbies and interests outside of our classrooms, which is wonderful!

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m most proud of the fact that I moved away from home and created a life for myself that I love. I never thought I would be a person who moved away from her family, for whatever amount of time it may be, but here I am. And no one tells you the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with moving away from everyone and everything you know. All you hear about is the excitement of that new place! At first, you won’t have friends. You will have to go places by yourself. You will feel like everyone at home is having so much fun and you’re “stuck” in this new place alone. And then pretty soon, you learn how to put yourself out there and make some friends and life starts to feel pretty great.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.
I am passionate about Jesus, my family, fitness, healthy eating, reading, and writing. Monday through Friday, I am very focused on my job and my workouts, but I try to work out with friends to make it even more fun. 🙂 Come the weekend, I am oh so tired, but I try to get out at least once a weekend to do something new and/or fun! I still consider myself new to the area and there is so much to see and do. I’ve made new friends at running groups that I attend and I’ve made new friends at church, so it’s important to me to make time to see those people!

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Running group friends.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I intentionally set my alarm a bit early so I don’t have to pop out of bed when it rings in the morning. I like to lay around for a few minutes and read one of my devotionals. I have my Bible, Jesus Calling, my journal, and whichever faith-based book I am reading at the time on my nightstand, so I pick one of those and read for a few minutes before I get up. Right now, I am reading my pastor’s (Mark Batterson) new book called “If”. Once I am up and moving, I turn the TV on in the family room so I can listen to Good Morning America while I get ready! And typically, I am at work about an hour early. I eat breakfast at my desk and just get my mind right for the day (and usually get 107 things together before the students show up).

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I just have to have some kind of beverage! I drink water on the way to work, I sip on my coffee all morning, and then I keep refilling my water bottle all day. Sometimes a little Peach Tea Crystal Light in my water or an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon happens, but I like to think I am pretty low-maintenance (and not caffeine dependent!) when it comes to beverages. 🙂

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I would want to be a magazine or newspaper editor in New York City. In this life, I will write in some capacity for my career one day. I’m working on that now. 🙂 In college, I started writing my blog so that I could share my new adventures in running and healthy eating. The perfectionist in me wants to have a great post every day, so my blog has ebbed and flowed since it began in 2013. 2015 is actually the first year I have blogged consistently, and I am so happy to be writing more and connecting with the blogging community. You can find keep up with all of my adventures here HERE.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I am pretty introverted and I love hanging out by myself, but honestly how nice was it to have all of your friends either in your room or right next door?! There was always something to do!

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Kylie, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and being so genuine. I am so glad that these little blogs of ours brought us together!

As always, thanks for reading friends!

Cheers.

Linking up this Monday with these bloggers:

 MingleMondayBIG

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