Third Work Anniversary and 10 Things I’ve Learned

I moved to the Washington D.C. area three years ago this week and as of today, I have been working for U.S. Wheat Associates for three years.

Woah. I know it’s super cliche to say, but some days it feels like I just arrived and other days I feel like I’ve been here much longer.

This experience has become a dream and a goal that I didn’t realize I had until the moment I saw the job announcement in a Facebook group (hey Julia!) But as I’ve shared many times before, a few hours later I was on the phone with parents telling them about this job and big move that I suddenly felt so strongly needed to be mine. And, EXACTLY two months later I was walking into the office for my first day on the job.

I laugh now, because I quickly realized that I didn’t quite understand what my job all entailed and what the organization did.  The phrase “fake it till you make it” became my real motto. Those first couple of months were harder than any class I ever took but that feeling I had when I first learned about the job continued to stay with me, and remains with me today. I know that my place in the work force and in the agriculture industry is working on behalf of farmers, and using my words and skills to help them do their job.

In three years, this job has taken me to three countries (and Guam) and on many, many domestic trips. I’ve learned about how complex wheat is and met people from around the world who depend on and prefer the high quality wheat that U.S. wheat farmers grow. I’ve learned about crop production, wheat breeding, international markets, transportation, the immense variety of end products that are made from wheat, export market promotion and how it all affects each other. And I’ve learned about the many areas of trade policy that affect wheat exports, including negotiations and barriers. All that said, there is still so much more to learn, but that part excites me. Most important to me though, is the farmers I’ve met over the past three years. I know these people, I’ve visited their farms and met their families. I respect their hard work and seen how they strive to improve their business and their product. They are humble — both when they make mistakes and when they should be proud of their progress. They care about their communities and the world around them. Personally, its important to me to feel like I have a sense of purpose when I am going to and work each day. And these farmers give me that purpose.

As a young professional, there are certainly ups and downs to figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t, what you want your career to look like and how to get there. Trust me, I am far from having it all together, but I have been lucky to have so many mentors and others who support my career. If we were having coffee together, there is a lot more that I could share about what I’ve learned so far, but since we’re not, here are 10 general pieces of advice I’d like to share:

  1. Ask questions. Sure, some questions are indeed, dumb. But what’s worse is not asking the question at all. Not only does it prevent you from learning, but it prevents others from improving as bosses and leaders, and sets a bad precedent for effective communication.
  2. Don’t work through lunch. Sometimes it is inevitable, but it is important to step away, give your brain a break and your legs a stretch. Make it a habit. (This one is really tough for me!)
  3.  Practice grace. You will make mistakes. Big embarrassing mistakes. And others will disappoint you with their mistakes. I think the only way to get past mistakes is to take a deep breath, own it and determine how to not make the mistake again. In others, identify why you respect them and consider what factors may have led to the mistake. Then give yourself and them, a dose of grace. Life will go on, I promise.
  4. Invest in good shoes. Nobody has time for sore feet, but at 5’2″ I can attest that there is such a thing as comfy heels. But I also know that I shouldn’t wear them if I need to hike it a longer distance. Figure out what works for your style and invest in it. You’ll save your wallet and your feet in the long run. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.
  5. Learn how to write professional emails. Even if you don’t like to write or consider yourself a poor writer, there is no excuse for poorly written emails, no matter what your job is. Yes, people do notice. Luckily, there are many resources out there and asking your boss or superiors for help improving those skills will show them initiative, which is always a good thing.
  6. Don’t shy away from what makes you uncomfortable. No, I am not suggesting anything that is unsafe or negative. What I mean is that pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone helps us grow our skills and our minds. So listen to the argument that you don’t agree with, don’t pass on a task because you don’t know how to do it and don’t back down if you feel strongly about an idea or decision. Staying where you are comfortable does no favors to your career or those you represent or work for.
  7. Find people who will go to bat for you. When I hear from others complaining about their superiors or something in their work place, I am reminded of how thankful I am to know that I have people in my corner. Good bosses and colleagues alike, understand that in order to see productivity and results in the work place, they need to respect your values and support your goals and needs. They will go to bat for you if necessary.
  8. Become a life-long learner. Read, discuss, participate. Seek out opportunities to learn something new or improve your skills. Everyone is replaceable and most industries are constantly changing at a quick pace, so if your job doesn’t spark curiosity and a desire to become better, you might want to fix that or move on, because otherwise you’ll get left behind.
  9. Create a space that fuels your creativity and work flow. I am a strong believer in the importance of having and maintaining a work space that is positive, and aligns with your style, responsibilities, comfort and needs. I think this is crucial for productivity, focus and overall health. If you are spending 40+ hours a week in this space, why should it be anything less?
  10. Not every season is exciting, and that’s OK. I know there are a lot of studies and facts out there about how young professionals today are not staying in one place nearly as long as the generations who came before them. Sometimes the latter will call it lazy or having no sense of loyalty, while many of the young professionals themselves either grow bored or eager to see what else is out there. I think from time to time, both views are wrong and right. However, I think the root is that my generation is used to having more options, has been pushed to “exceed expectations” and like I mentioned for myself above, need to feel like their work has a sense of purpose. So, when a job rolls into a season that is lacking in someway, it is easy to think that it is time to jump ship. I’m not saying that you should completely ignore that feeling, but just sit on it a while and maybe spend that time determining if this season is just cyclical or if there is something you can do to improve it. Yes, I love my job overall, but its not realistic for someone to say that they love it every single day.

Thanks for the adventure so far wheat family.

Life at Random

Emotional Courage

Today’s post is going to be a bit more real life. I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I’ve been struggling with having a positive attitude, but if I am completely honest, it is a bit more than that. I went through a break up right before Christmas and for while I’ve just been flat out struggling. At the end of the day, I know that I have a lot to be happy about and thankful for, but that just has not been enough to keep my mood up lately.

A few weeks ago I saw this Ted Talk, “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage” by psychologist Susan David, that really spoke to me in a way that I needed. She describes her life work as “emotional agility,” and her talk is summarized as “sharing how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility.”

Link to video HERE.

I’ve always been a realist and don’t usually shy away too much from my emotions, but this experience has been a bit different than I’ve ever had before. There have been so many times when someone would ask if I was OK, and I felt compelled to brush it off, and say yes, when I really, truly wasn’t. I felt myself judging or criticizing myself over getting upset over what I deemed as silly things or at really inopportune times.

In her talk, David says, “I was praised for being strong. I was the master of being OK.

She then said that in a study she conducted, she determined that “one-third of us either judge ourselves for having ‘bad emotions,’ like sadness, anger or even grief — or actively push away these emotions… Normal natural emotions are now seen as good or bad, and being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.”

Umm WOW. How many of us take pride in mastering these habits? I do believe in the power of being positive, counting your blessings and so on and so forth, but I don’t know that I’ve ever truly looked at it this way. I just knew deep down this time around that I was going to need some time to feel these ‘bad emotions’ that she describes and didn’t want to feel like there was pressure to be OK anytime soon.

David also said that people who say ‘I just want this feeling to go away,’ have dead people’s goals. And I laughed quite a bit, because its so bluntly true. My favorite quote came shortly after this when she said…

“Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family, or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

This stuck with me the most, because it also resonated with other stages of my life. I’ve always believed and accepted that sometimes, to get to where we want to be, we have to do hard things. If I say that I don’t usually shy away from my emotions in other areas of my life and other obstacles, then why should this be treated any differently? I do not believe in or follow the line of thinking that “Everything happens for a reason,” but this, the thought that “discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life,” is one that makes sense and feels real to me.

I’m obviously not a psychologist and I’m not writing this blog post out of some need for attention. Writing is the way I work through things, and I wanted to share this Ted Talk and a few of my own thoughts because the thing that usually helps me the most is when a friend, or a stranger, says “it’s OK, I’ve been there and I get it.”

Before I saw the Ted Talk, I also got this text from a friend that fit so perfectly with the lesson and was a way of looking at things and leaning on friends that I had never thought of before.

So this is me saying to others, I’ve been there too, and I get it… AND, take your time and let yourself feel all the things that you need to. The rest of us will do the positive thinking for you until you’re ready.


My Office Space + New Standing Desk

Today’s post certainly isn’t Pinterest worthy, but considering how much time I spend in my office, I wanted to share about how I make the space work for me.

I believe SO strongly about the importance of having and maintaining a work space that is not only a positive environment, but one that aligns with your style, responsibilities, comfort and needs. I think this crucial for productivity, focus and just overall health.

Recently, we had an ergonomic specialist visit our office and do evaluations on everyone’s work space and habits. Her trained eye was able to see little ways that we might be putting unnecessary strain on our bodies, that can really affect us over time. After each evaluation, she gave us customized recommendations on tools we could add to our work space to help make improvements. She also provided us with some resources on some stretches and light movements that we should incorporate into our day. Based on her recommendations, I got screen glare protectors (my office gets tons of natural light, which I do love despite the hindrance), a new chair that specifically has arms that can rotate in more so my arms don’t have to work as hard to hold themselves up on their own, and a foot rest, so I can sit at the right height for my screens while still using the backrest properly without my legs dangling or resting on the chair legs.

And though it wasn’t specifically recommended, I also got an adjustable table top standing desk! I had actually been researching and pricing one out to purchase on my own prior to the ergonomic specialist’s visit. I have never been able to sit still well and I could tell that overtime, sitting 8 hours a day, 5 days a week was really starting to affect my overall comfort. Our office ordered the Varidesk brand, and I have nothing but great things to say about it so far. It has significantly helped with energy, especially in the afternoons when I just need to move around, and I’ve found, specifically to my job, that when I am reading and editing text for a long period of time it really helps with my focus. I also think it has been a great tool for collaborating with other employees. Instead of having someone standing right over your shoulder to discuss something on the screen (which I personally hate), you can push your chair off to the side and instead stand and work side by side with that person. I am so thankful that my employer brought in the specialist and gave us the opportunity to make improvements.

With all of these changes, I also took the opportunity to rearrange and reorganize my office, and add a bit to my decor. The main change was rotating my screens so that I can see my door at all times, instead of having my back to it. Our elevator and lobby are right outside my office, so it really bothered me that I always was turning around to the frequent sounds, and since I have my headphones in a lot, people were always startling me because I didn’t hear them walk into my office.


So here is a quick look of my office setup before the changes (I took these back in December right before my standing desk arrived, hence the Christmas tree).


And here it is the After! I obviously still need to do some more cleaning and organizing on my shelf, and I have a few more ideas to add eventually, but for now this is where I am at. I also need to change out the rest of my winter decor over to spring. You can’t see it well from any of these angles, but there is plenty of room underneath my desk for two small tubs that store my seasonal decor, as well as my space heater… which runs year-round.

Because I rotated my screens, I also had to flop the location of my guest chairs with my bookshelf, which honestly I prefer much better because with the set up before, the area where the chairs sat was narrow and hard to get into. That also meant that I moved my gallery wall, which was fine because I wanted to add a few things to it anyway 🙂 The K-State pillow used to sit behind my back in my desk chair, but the new foot rest fixed that problem!

I have to laugh at the fact that I was finally able to find a place and purpose for that bulletin board. I have had it since about the 4th or 5th grade, and it moved with me from two houses in Oregon to 3 houses/apartments in Kansas to here in Virginia. When I moved apartments again here in Virginia, I decided I didn’t want to use it in my new place. I actually tried to give it away a few times, and almost just took it to Goodwill, but it ended up propped up behind my office door — until NOW!

My shelf still needs a bit more work, but this is an improvement from before.

My favorite part of my office though, is this piece that my Mom made for me. Each of those photos are from the wheat farm that my Great-Uncle Hal grew up on in Sherman County, which is just a few counties over from where I grew up in Eastern Oregon. I grew up seeing those photos on the wall in my Uncle Hal and Aunt Diane’s house, so I love seeing them on my wall now in an office where I work for wheat farmers. Below the pictures is a portion of Paul Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer” speech.

Like I said, there is nothing too Pinterest-worthy here, but these changes better align with my functional needs and further create a space that motivates me, feeds my creativity and just makes me happy.

Life at Random

Vision Board Party

I’ve never personally been really big on making New Year’s resolutions. I think goals should be made as we see a need for them and not just because we pushed an imaginary reset button. Plus, if I am being honest, January is always my least favorite month and I think we put way too much pressure on it. We come off of the holidays a bit burnt out, the weather is usually crappy (if you know me, you know how much I hate winter) and for me, the first six weeks of the year always tend to be pretty hectic work-wise. But that’s just me and how I’m wired. I don’t mean to knock anyone down who really anchors themselves to New Year’s resolutions — I think it’s great!

But coming off of a really crummy and unexpected end to 2017, my mood and attitude have been really down. A few weeks ago, I was out in the evening with some friends and they all were sharing what their resolutions were. When it got to me, I fairly bluntly said, “I don’t have any. I’m just in survival mode and doing the day-by-day thing.” I know my attitude is something that I am responsible for working on, but I also accept that this phase is just something that will eventually get better with time.

With all of that said, I was invited to a “Vision Board Making” Party this weekend and really had a great time!

Jackie did her’s on a cork board. I wish I had thought of that!

My friend Brenda from my young adults small group invited a group of women over and really did a great job at creating a positive environment. We had yummy food, a relaxing scent in her diffuser, an upbeat music playlist, the Grammy’s on in the background and all the magazines we could ever need to pick through.

Some of the women had specific focus words or goals that they planned their vision boards around, and it was fun and motivating to hear a little bit about how each one is planning to own their 2018. I decided to just focus on words and things that were positive and just made me smile (or laugh in one specific case). In middle school and high school I used to cover my binders like this, so I really enjoyed the chance to relax with some girl chat and feed my creative side for an evening.

In the last week or so, I did finally jot down I few basic things that I really want to focus on in the next few months.

  • I haven’t been a regular reader since before college and its something I really miss. I’d like to try to read at least two books a month. My childhood self is cringing right now, but hey, baby steps.
  • My blog is still just a hobby, and it probably always will be only that, but it does make me really happy so I am shooting for at least one post a week, but more striving toward 2 to 3.
  • Balancing healthy eating and consistent exercise is probably permanently on my list, and that’s ok. I also want to try to focus on finding things that just make me feel good overall and make bettering these habits less of a chore.
  • I want to read or seek out resources to learn more about personal finance. I have a good budgeting and saving system in place, but I want to learn more about long term planning.
  • After being here for almost 3 years, there are still a few DC-area things that I haven’t crossed off my bucket list! And I want to explore at least one new-to-me East Coast city.
  • I have a few work/career related goals and plans toward being a better professional and communicator

There are a few other things on my mind lately, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I’ve always believed in goal setting, but not just as set hard line of accomplishments to check off. I see a lot of goals as guidelines toward being your best self, whatever that might be during that season of life.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018 and good luck on those goals and resolutions!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Brandi

“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.


This series has allowed me to share a variety of different people, but my favorite is when I get to share the stories of my closest friends, and today is one of those days. This is Brandi, one of my very best friends. We met early on in college, but I don’t think we became good friends until sometime during her sophomore year and my junior year. We were in the agriculture communications department and ambassadors for the College of Agriculture, but truthfully, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our whole friendship was originally built on sarcasm, watching The Bachelor and Sonic happy hour.

Brandi’s story is a great example of being open to opportunities that come our way and placing value in being a lifelong learner. Brandi is hard working, creative and has a knack for detail. She’s fiercely loyal, whether its her people or something that is really important to her. What I probably appreciate most about Brandi, both as a friend and a fellow professional, is that she understands the give and take of relationships. I know that I can rely on her listen and then trust that she is going to know what I need to hear in that moment. I hope you enjoy reading her story.


Name: Brandi Herman
Age: 25
Hometown: Hill City, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): BS in Agricultural Communications and Journalism
Current Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Current Job: Global Product Communicator for Caterpillar

Background Story: I grew up on a farm south of Hill City, Kansas. We currently have around 125 cow-calf pairs that we run. My Dad also plants wheat, milo, and alfalfa. I think that living in a small town with 1,500 people helped prepare me for interacting with people later on in life. I was a waitress while in high school and quite frankly, just enjoyed talking and relating to people. Also, I believe being the oldest of 4 kids and being very Type A explains the type of strengths that have helped me get where I am today.


How did you choose your college and your major?
I had an incredible ag teacher in high school who, without a doubt, helped guide me to where I am today. Toward the end of my junior year of high school, he encouraged me to start looking at colleges and different programs I might like. At State FFA Convention, I read a brochure for the Ag Communications program at K-State. I remember thinking, “this is exactly what I want to do”, and that was that. If you told my 12-year-old Jayhawk self that I would only apply to one college and it would be K-State, I would have never believed you. Honestly, I didn’t even go on a campus visit until after I had been accepted and had already put a deposit down on my dorm room. I was also a statistical anomaly that never changed my major while I was in college.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I never wanted to be overextended in college as I had been in high school. As a freshman, I took a break from being involved and just got used to being in college. Once I was a sophomore, I took the necessary steps to becoming an Ag Ambassador. At that point, I knew K-State was my home and I loved having the chance to talk to students and parents about all the different options and opportunities the College of Ag has to offer. Not to mention all the cool cats (no pun intended) I met in Ag Ambassadors. Some of my very best friends I made in college came from being in Ag Ambassadors.

I took an internship with Cargill between my junior and senior year. Internships are a good opportunity to explore something you might be interested in, but aren’t sure it’s the career path you want to take. That’s how my internship story went. It wasn’t a bad experience, but during that summer I found out that I didn’t like being so far away from home. This really helped me focus my job search and definitely helped me avoid a situation later on where I wouldn’t have been happy being so far away from family.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
High school was relatively easy for me. I never really had to sit down and study before a big test, which was the biggest change I experienced when I went to college. It definitely took a while before I felt like I knew what the most effective ways for me to review and absorb material were. If I could change one thing, it would be to apply myself more in that area and to get better grades.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
If you interview for a job and your gut is telling you it isn’t right for you, follow your instinct.

I was offered two jobs before graduation and I ended up turning both of them down. One was in Kansas City and would’ve been exactly what my degree prepared me to do, but when I interviewed and met some potential co-workers it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. The other job was more of a sales position and would’ve been further away from home than I wanted to be. So when graduation rolled around and everyone asked where I was headed, I got embarrassed when I had to answer, “back to Mom and Dad’s for a while until I figure things out”. Less than a month after graduation I had already accepted my current job. They didn’t need me to start until September, so I got to spend 3 months on the farm helping my dad and hanging out with my family. The time on the farm was priceless and to be honest, I probably won’t have that kind of an extended vacation from work until retirement.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started working for Caterpillar in September of 2014. Most of my responsibilities at that point were for the layout and upload of customer and dealer-facing media for Work Tools (things that go on the front of an excavator or wheel loader; buckets, hammers, etc.). While I mostly did layout work, some of what we do is take the words from product engineers and expertise from field specialists and morph that into customer messaging. My first two years were spent mostly doing that type of work. Last year, I had the opportunity to work on a data project. At first I was skeptical about how much I could bring to the table for this particular project. I had convinced myself I was bad at numbers because I was never good at or liked math. The project I worked on exposed me to creating data sets and connecting them together using Access, which I have really enjoyed learning. Part of that joy comes from it being a new challenge, but the other part I believe comes from having a very linear thought process. This has helped me understand how the data should relate, connect, and flow easier than I would’ve ever imagined. My job role changed a little bit at the end of last year. I will become less of a content manager and more of a content creator that is closer to touch points with our customers, but am excited for what new challenges will come my way.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
As much as I despised group projects in college, they are the reality of my workplace. Some group projects were in classes specific to my major, which wasn’t bad because the people were all similar-minded. Other group settings were in electives where there was the token no-show person and someone who can’t stand if they aren’t in charge of everything. Unfortunately, the latter is a more likely setup for real life even if it is an extreme example. Working with people from different disciplines was better practice for the real world.

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?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is learning the difference between doing something myself because it is easy versus taking the time to teach others and enable them to have the same capabilities. When I started working on the data-centric project, learning the basics of Access wasn’t hard for me. At that point, I would hear a problem and understand quickly how the data needed to be set up. What took me some time was having the patience to let others learn about it at their own pace so they could be comfortable using the data.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
When it comes to staying organized, I’m old school pen and paper. To do lists are my jam and I really like to see a whole month laid out in front of me. At work, I have a plain notebook I take notes in and write down other thoughts and questions. To me, there’s something satisfying and complete about being able to physically check something off your list.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Since I started my job and had to figure out how to budget, plan, and organize a household on my own, those same attributes became stronger at work too. Patience has been a consistent weakness I’ve had to deal with.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I’ve always said that I’d rather go to work and have a million tasks on my to do list than be bored. Part of how I stay motivated is to have the feeling that I’m earning my paycheck and not just going to work to collect it. When things get busy and start to feel out-of-hand, I never hesitate to ask for a priority. For the days that are difficult and stick with you because of a person or project you had to deal with that didn’t go your way, there is always wine and massages.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
The supervisors I’ve worked for so far have been strong advocates of work-life balance. I believe in going to work and doing the best job I can while I’m there and then going home to enjoy my time with my boy and the corgi. There’s a balance to staying late one day to finish a project up, but then recognizing a day you may need to leave early if you’re feeling tired or sick. We also have a flexible time policy at work too, so if you want to get all of your 40 hours in the first 3 days of the week you can. Sometimes I try to front load my week with extra hours so the last two days are shorter. This allows me to have time to run errands or just me time. Plus, I’m not one to pass up time to get some snuggles from my favorite little doggo.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
So from a hobbies perspective, I’m really trying to get back into reading. There’s a point in college where you are reading so much for school, the desire to read for leisure doesn’t sound leisurely anymore. I heard a great quote that has stuck with me. “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” My goal this year is one or two books a month, some for learning and some for fun. Right now I’m in the middle of the first Game of Thrones book.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
When I was growing up my Dad would make breakfast for me. To this day I still need something of substance to get me going in the morning. My go-to is a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on mini bagels or English muffins and a cup of  coffee

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Chapstick. Hand lotion. Purple Beats headphones. Podcasts.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I fell in love with working in InDesign in college. I think I still would’ve chosen a career path where I was designing, but more creative and less technical than what I do now. Prior to this job, I never knew I liked working with data and numbers so nothing in that realm would’ve been on my radar before now. OR I would be an organizer working for The Home Edit #dreamjob

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
In college, I lived with some of my best friends I made in the College of Agriculture. Next door was a house full of my best friends from high school. Having all of my friends so close and being able to drop by between classes or everyone hanging out on Grey’s Anatomy night was the absolute best.


Thanks for being my guest today Brandi! I miss these days!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Elizabeth

“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.


Hey friends! As always, I am excited to share my next guest with you and the first for the series in 2018. I met Elizabeth only a little over a year ago in a young adults small group we were both in, but she gained so much my respect in that short amount time. I was bummed that she moved at the end of last summer, but of course happy for her since it was a move that she had been patiently working toward. Plus, the move was to the Pacific Northwest, so can I really blame her?!

Anyway, Elizabeth has one of those personalities that make you feel at ease. She’s both quirky and an old soul, has such a big heart for others and is a great listener. Although we are really close in age, I often almost felt as if she took on the role of a big sister. Below she says, “I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be,” which is a sentiment that I really appreciate and can relate to. I thought her guest post was both comical and insightful, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Plus, if you are fan of The Bachelor franchise, you’ll be happy to know that you aren’t the only one who lists being a fan as one of your hobbies 🙂


Name: Elizabeth Grimes
Age: 28
Hometown: Southern California
College: Bachelors: University of California San Diego (UCSD) // Masters: California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB)
Degree(s): Bachelors: Political Science – International Relations // Masters: Public Administration – Information Assurance and Security Management
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Job: IT Specialist – Information Security

Background Story:
Right away it is probably best to explain that as an adolescent I never really thought I would live this long, which means that all of my decisions have come out of a place of “Wait, I have to decide where to go to college? … Four years later, I am still here; now I have to do something when I graduate college? … All right well I have a master’s now, and I guess I am here for a while, so let’s adventure!!” And no, I am not terminally ill; I think I just watched Little Women too much growing up and it gave me this weird sense that I was going to have the same demise as the character Beth. Or maybe it just became such a good explanation for why I hated making decisions that I morphed it into an actual memory. We may never know. But here I still am! I do not believe everything happens for a reason (that is a deeper discussion for another time) but I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be. And for me, right now, that is the greater Seattle area working for the Navy in Cybersecurity – a career I never knew existed until five years ago.


How did you choose your college and your major?
In high school, I was more interested in history and yearbook than I was in science and math, so choosing to major in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations was pretty straightforward. I thought I may want to be a teacher, or after watching the movie The Interpreter, some sort of international diplomat. In the last couple years of high school, I was able to go to Morocco for a couple weeks with a team from my church to teach an English camp for kids, and spent two weeks in New York and DC with Lead America – a leadership forum with an emphasis in diplomacy. Along with being a Christian and having the ideals of impacting the world with love, these opportunities and an interest in service landed me at UCSD to major in Poli Sci IR. I could give the long explanation of all the schools I applied to and how it all whittled down, but ultimately I chose UCSD because it was affordable and lauded a good study abroad program — which I never took advantage of, but hey, it got me to go there. My one piece of advice to a student in their senior year of high school: Choosing a college because of affordability is the BEST reason to choose a college, and I think everyone should do it. I know that I speak from a place of privilege that UCSD was affordable for my family, but if community college or a trade school is someone’s best option, I would recommend doing that. College is 100% what you put into it.

Jumping ahead to what got me to CSUSB to study Cybersecurity for my master’s, well that’s where God really went to work. You couldn’t get me out of undergrad fast enough; I was so done always have an assignment due, a paper to write, or a test to take. I could write a book on how in the world I then ended up in graduate school, but the short run-on sentence version is: I got restless at my post-grad job as an administrative assistant and decided I wanted to work for the government, but that I didn’t know enough and should get my master’s in something, but that I didn’t want to pay for said master’s because I didn’t know exactly how to then get a job in the government. Notice a theme of making a decision on education out of affordability? It is the best. Through crazy kismet, God-driven, serendipitous, coincidental, life happenstance, I got into the Scholarship for Service (SFS) CyberCorps program at CSUSB having no technical background but a simple logic that: If the government needs people in cybersecurity, and I want to do something that the government needs, then I will do cybersecurity!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I will go with organizations for my undergrad and internships for my masters. I was on executive leadership in Sigma Kappa Sorority and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I cannot say enough good things about Greek life. It is the primary reason I stuck it out and finished college; It gave me social and leadership skills that you cannot get anywhere else (what other organization teaches you how to speed date with other women once a year for recruitment?); and I met the most incredible women that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Intervarsity kept me grounded in the faith I grew up in, while expanding my understanding of cultural diversity and making some of my best friends to this day. Together, they kept me incredibly busy and made college an experience instead of a degree. Over the summers, I worked at different non-profits from my hometown in telefundraising and food service, and the summer before my senior year, I served with Children of the Nations for 8 weeks in Uganda. THAT was my version of study abroad, and is also a story for another time (see my blog post titled He Stays the Same on if you want to know more about it.)

Part of my scholarship program was to do a ten week internship with a government agency in Cybersecurity. I lived in DC for the summer and interned with the Department of Homeland Security in their Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Branch. Interning was the best way to learn what it is to be a public servant within the federal government. If I had known it at the time, I would have made more of an effort to intern during my undergrad, but like I said — life gets you exactly where you need to be.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
Probably best to explain that my job according to the government for my internship and the last two years of my career is an Information Technology Specialist (IT Specialist) in Information Security (InfoSec). But that is just the formal title and what does that even mean? After grad school, I moved to DC and worked as an IT Security Auditor in the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Commerce. I was there for two years, thus completing my scholarship for service commitment to the government. I really enjoyed the work and people I worked with, but the east coast, metropolis, long distance relationship life just isn’t for me. Through the experience I gained in the OIG at Commerce and connections I had from my master’s program, I was able to get a job with the Navy in the Pacific Northwest. This was also a completely God-driven, fell in my lap, couldn’t be more perfect for me adventure. I have been in this job working as an information system security engineer on Naval submarine projects for three months now, and I have never been more challenged or more proud of myself in my worklife.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Remember when I talked about how awesome Greek life is? Well interviewing for a job and working on a team are some of the things that being in Sigma Kappa set me up for success in my career. I loved my sisters, but were some of them as different from me as night and day, and were we all better humans because of it? Yes. And is that what you encounter in your career and post grad life? Yes. I also think that the nature of my scholarship program, in a field that I was completely new to, set me up for a fake it ‘til you make it, problem solving, and work hard attitude that has gained me a lot of respect in the workplace. It can be hard being the youngest one in a group, or in my case sometimes the only female, but coming from CSUSB’s cyber program’s atmosphere that encouraged and challenged me didn’t just set me up for success but truly catapulted me into it. Along with God and life getting me where I need to be, I am also a firm believer in sharing the credit for any of my success with the incredible humans who walked ahead of me, alongside me, and behind me in every element of my life. They are the ones who set me up for success, and I feel like I am just along for the ride!

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 already talked a bit to the challenge that comes from being in a field where I may be younger or a minority gender, but those were expected and I was sufficiently prepared for them. My first year out of college I remember not being prepared for the “this is it” aspect of life. Prior to graduating, my entire life had been a set of structure and milestones laid out before me: elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Society has fine-tuned this process for us, with pretty minor decision making necessary on our part. (Because like I said, college is what you make of it, not where you make it.) But after I graduated, there was this life in front of me that I had near absolute control of where its phases began and ended. It was daunting and a little depressing at first. We just do this until we die? For some, the natural inclination is that marriage is the next milestone or children or buying a house, but that was too ambiguous and at the time, unattainable for me. I still don’t even want kids and a house only seems cool now because it’s more economical. Additionally, even now that I have found who I want to partner in life with, getting married doesn’t feel like the next milestone I can structure my life by in the way graduating from college did, nor, I would argue, should it. While my scholarship program gave me a structure of two years for a degree and at least two years working for the government after, the year I had between my undergrad and grad school alerted me that “this is it” was coming again soon. It made such a difference to be prepared for it by the time I finished my masters, because then life was about living in the now and not the what’s next. Let me tell you there is nothing more freeing in life than living now; than recognizing that life got you here, so here must be where you are supposed to be, so why not stay awhile and enjoy it for what it is? (As I mentioned before that I must share credit where it is due, I should call attention to the fact that I cannot take full credit for coming to terms with this post-grad challenge. I am so lucky that an incredible man came into my life and continues to love me into this mindset of living in the present.)

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
See previous question; I am just so happy to be here! Although, I do desperately want a dog, so maybe we’ll count that as the next path I am looking to take. And I guess maybe a house to give the dog the most freedom possible 🙂

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Someone at my new job asked me what my hobbies were, and after stressfully scrambling in my brain for “what in the world am I doing with my life?!” I landed on: The Bachelor. Laugh all you want, because I am laughing too. Now what makes a television show a hobby? Well when you watch all the shows in the franchise: Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, (and let’s not forget Winter Games coming soon!), sometimes blog about it, keep up with all the most interesting contestants from the last few years on social media, have group texts and instagram DM chats about it, investigate all the scandals down to every correlating detail you’ve deduced from said social media you follow, THEN I think it becomes a hobby. I think it is one of the most fascinating social experiments ever, and I am so here for it.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Breakfast. Breakfast is essential. I don’t mean a granola bar on the way out the door; granola bars are for mid-morning snack a few hours later. I mean sitting down at a table and eating a bowl of cereal or a couple eggs or a bowl of fruit and yogurt.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I wouldn’t call this a must-have, but I have photos of my loved ones on my desk and it gives me life. It is also a great conversation piece if you update them to keep them current.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
A flight attendant. That is actually what I decided I wanted to be as I was finishing college. You don’t even need a college degree for that, so you can imagine why those last few months of school were difficult. I love traveling, and I am pretty even tempered when people get ridiculous about a situation. But it just so happens that in yet another one of life’s ways of getting me where I need to be — my boyfriend is a pilot. So looks like I have the best of all worlds after all and can stick to my day job.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
My friends! In college your network all live in the same city and have relatively similar frivolous schedules and financial commitments. It is a plus to now have friends all over the world to visit, but man was it convenient when so many of them just lived with you.


Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking the time to be my guest and share your story. We miss you so much here in DC, but hopefully we can catch up when I am in Seattle this summer!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Emily

“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.


My next guest on the series is the very first person I met when I arrived in Manhattan to start my freshman year at K-State (well, other than my student visit as a high school senior.) I vividly remember walking in the front door at the Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House for Women with my Dad and being greeted by Emily’s friendly smile. I also remember after my Dad said hello, he added “what the hell is that sound out there?” …It was August in Kansas, so the cicadas were in full force, but we don’t have those in the Pacific Northwest and didn’t know what they were. I was completely embarrassed but Emily was pretty amused, so I guess I didn’t ruin her first impression of me 🙂

I share that partially because it helps to paint a picture of how warm, friendly and lighthearted Emily is. She really looked out for me especially during my first semester as I navigated being an out of state student, for which I will forever be so grateful for. Even though she ended up transferring schools after my freshman year (which was a really brave decision!), she certainly left an impression on me in many ways. Emily is compassionate, fun, creative and shares my love for a good story. She has a lot of lessons and experiences I think many can relate to and appreciate, so I hope you enjoy hearing her story!


Name: Emily Snell
Age: 28
Hometown: Ellinwood, KS
College: Lipscomb University and Kansas State University
Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management
Current Location: Nashville, TN
Current Job: Team Assistant at The Upper Room


What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
K-State: Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House – regular house activities plus serving as Outreach Recruitment Chair, copy editing and writing for The Collegian, campus ministry, volunteering in my church’s nursery
Lipscomb: internship at United Methodist Communications, lots of part time jobs – student worker in the university business office, nanny, freelance writer for United Methodist Communications, managing editor & then editor-in-chief for the university’s student news website Lumination Network

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
After sophomore year, I decided to move to Nashville and transfer schools. I loved K-State, but I felt a calling from God to go to Nashville. So, despite the fact that it was very out of character for me, I went. Transferring to a new school and moving to a new city where I knew only one person was a big adjustment. I had to pay my own rent, so it was difficult at times to manage multiple part-time jobs while also going to class and doing homework. And living off campus and having so many responsibilities didn’t leave me with a lot of opportunities to meet other students or find new friends. I wasn’t involved on campus much except for my participation in journalism activities. I had great friends within the department, but otherwise, I felt a little disconnected from the rest of the student body. On a small campus, that feels strange. But I was grateful for my small circle of good friends, and I’m still connected with those people today.

Another challenge came at the very end of college. I loved my time at Lipscomb, and I’m so grateful for the way it has shaped my life. But I did have to grieve some when the reality hit me that I would never be a K-State alum. I grew up in a family that, as we like to say, “bleeds purple.” When I came back to Manhattan in May 2012 to watch some friends graduate, I felt genuine sorrow that I was not on the stage with them. As much as I loved Lipscomb, it didn’t quite feel right to know that K-State isn’t my alma mater. I’m proud of Lipscomb and the good work they do in the Nashville community, and I’m thankful for the people I met there who have helped shape me. My diploma may not come from the university I dreamed about, but it’s from a place that I love and appreciate. Sometimes the real picture of life doesn’t turn out the way we imagined, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful!


What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be flexible with your future job expectations and be creative about finding ways to do what you love. Your “dream job” may not appear immediately, so identify what you’re passionate about and what brings you joy and then create a way to implement that in your life, even if it’s not an income-producing opportunity right away. And as you carve out a path for your career, try to be patient with the journey. In my experience, figuring out a meaningful work life can take time, and just like a real journey, the path may not be straight forward.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
When I graduated, I didn’t have a job lined up, so I kept nannying and freelancing while I interviewed for positions at various companies. After a few months, Lipscomb’s Business Office (where I had worked as a student) contacted me about an opening. I thought it would be something to keep me afloat for a few months, but it turned into something I really enjoyed. I worked there as cashier for a year and then was promoted to Student Accounts Representative. I held that position for 3 years and really expanded my knowledge and skills. I grew in ways that I didn’t expect. Serving in that role pushed me to improve my math skills, my leadership abilities, and my capacity for dealing with conflict. Collecting money is not easy…

During my time at Lipscomb, I also worked as a freelance journalist. Freelancing gave me an opportunity to pursue my passions for writing and storytelling. I wrote regularly for Interpreter magazine, the publication for The United Methodist Church, and also wrote two cover stories for Sisterhood magazine. Working for Sisterhood gave me the chance to interview Mandisa and Kari Jobe, two Christian musicians that I love. It was really fun and a special privilege!

This fall I began a new job at The Upper Room. Though my time at Lipscomb was wonderful, I had begun to feel that I needed a transition if I was going to continue learning and growing. And I wanted to do what I really love and more fully embrace my gifts and my journalism/English degree. I now serve as Team Assistant for our Administration, Interpretation, and Development team. In this role, every day looks different – sometimes I’m processing invoices or coordinating logistics for meetings; other times I’m proofreading website content; other times I’m acting as a sounding board for our publisher’s latest ideas; other times I’m calling donors to thank them for supporting our work. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with our books & marketing team to select covers for new books we’re publishing, and I’ve worked with the editions team on selecting meditations for our daily devotional guide. Regardless of the specific tasks, each day I know that I’m a part of an organization that makes a difference in the spiritual lives of people around the world. That brings me a great sense of satisfaction.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
My internship, campus publication experience, and freelance opportunities in college really served me well with finding more freelance jobs after graduation. I think my ability to maintain multiple jobs while also being a full-time student during college prepared me for balancing a full-time job and part-time job as an adult.

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?
Insurance – Why is health insurance so complex and confusing?? I never feel very confident that I’ve made the right choice on the best health care plan! I need a health advisor, please.

Budgeting – I’m bad at this game. Life is just too fun and too full of opportunities, and my bank account is always resisting my urge to enjoy! 😉 Let’s hope that before I’m 30, I learn how to balance my finances more strategically.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Anticipating needs and meeting them thoroughly/efficiently

Connecting with people and building relationships

Editing – If there’s a typo, I’ll find it. If you need something proofread, I’m your girl!


How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Make a thorough to-do list

Take a walk

Practice some deep breathing

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?


Journal – Pen to paper continues to be one of the best ways for me to know myself and feel grounded in life.

Walk – It’s amazing how a little time on a nature trail can restore me.

Spend time with friends

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Conflict Management certificate – During my time in the Business Office, I realized that I needed to gain some knowledge and skills around addressing conflict. No one in my office seemed prepared or certain of how to handle the difficult conversations we had each day. So, I decided to take advantage of Lipscomb’s Institute for Conflict Management. I took 15 hours of graduate coursework, earned a certificate in conflict management, and then put those skills to work in my daily interactions with customers. I also did my best to share that knowledge with my team so that we could all do better and feel more confident.

Leadership in Business Office – Though I was one of the youngest employees in the office, I had more experience in the office than many of my coworkers. (The stress of the job leads to a lot of turnover, so several employees came in after I started.) These coworkers looked to me for leadership and support, and I did my best to, as one of my professors would say, “lead up and lead out” with those in my office.

Mentoring college women – I love college students, and I consider it an honor to be a mentor in the lives of several young women at Lipscomb. Being with them brings me joy and teaches me about the many opportunities we have to learn from one another.

Freelance work – especially my interviews with Mandisa and Kari Jobe

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
The Contributor – On Saturday mornings, I volunteer at a local organization that provides economic opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless people in the Nashville area. These men and women teach me so much about determination, resilience, and positivity.

Ethos Church – I’m really involved in my church, serving on the set up team, participating in a house church (small group), and offering leadership & insight & support wherever I can.

Being an aunt – I have 3-year-old nephew Walter and an almost-1-year-old niece Elanor. They are precious, and being their aunt is so fun!

Compassion International – I sponsor 3 children with Compassion International. Being connected with these kids and their families reminds me of the similarities among people all over the world. Their letters make me smile. Sponsoring them helps me know that I’m doing something meaningful with my life. I’m participating in something bigger than myself and spending my money in a way that makes a lifetime impact on these kids and their families. In 2014, I was able to travel to Burkina Faso and meet Veronique, my sweet little girl there. It was an amazing experience that continues to shape me!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Becoming an editor in the publishing world or working in communications/marketing/development for a non-profit… I’m 28 and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life!

Even though I’m type A and a chronic overachiever, I’m actually not much of a goal-setter. I prefer to pay attention to what’s happening in the here and now and be open to opportunities as they come my way. I trust that as I say yes to what seems right in the current season, it will lead me toward a good path for the future. Maybe that’s foolish. But I think, for me, it’s a healthy balance of being proactive while maintaining open hands and an open heart.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?

Coffee + a little time to sit quietly in my recliner reading and enjoying said coffee 🙂

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Spotify – must have music!

Good pens

Post it notes

What does it say about me if my vices are post-it notes and good pens? I’m a nerd, but I’ve learned to embrace it!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?

University president

CEO of a startup

COO at a tech company

Boss lady at a New York fashion mag

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the freedom of pre-adulthood… plenty of independence but few real responsibilities like paying bills or choosing health insurance

Living with my best friends and always having someone to hang out with


Emily took me to my very first K-State football game during my freshman year in 2009. Look how little we look!

Emily, thank you so much for participating as a guest on my series. Hoping my plan for a trip to Nashville next year works out!