Career/Professional

So I Launched a Website!

This website was brought you by Peet’s Coffee, countless Post-it Notes and a dozen or so Google Drive spreadsheets.

But in all seriousness, after 9 months I am so excited to finally share this finished project!

This project was by far my biggest responsibility so far as a communications professional. I knew what level of quality I wanted the finished project to be, but I knew there was going to be A LOT of learning and figuring it out as I went. It put my super detail-oriented skills to good use, but is also challenged me in so many ways. It pushed me to better think through how I lead and communicate with others, and how I think strategically. I’m sure my Mom and my best friends now know way more about website development than they ever truly cared to know, and I love them for patiently allowing me to ramble on about the ups and down of the project.

There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls (my all-time favorite show ) in season 5 where Lorelai is so consumed with renovating her inn that she wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night to leave herself voicemails with reminders for her to-do lists. I wasn’t quite at that level, but I did live and breath this project for so long that I did start to dream about it at night and at this point the details I could recite from memory to you is a tad bit embarrassing.

In all honesty, it was also therapeutic. There’s nothing like being able to throw yourself into a big project to help you work through some heartache. And for that, I am thankful for the timing of this project.

My biggest hope is that the farmers I work for are as proud to call this website their own — as I am to work for them. U.S. wheat farmers are going through a lot of uncertainty right now, but they still show up to work everyday because they believe in the quality and value of their product. I should add that while I was the leader for this project, I certainly didn’t do it all on my own. I love what I do for a living and a large part of that is the people I work with. They hustle hard everyday and I am so thankful for the work they put in to help me successfully see this project through till the end.

If you have made it through to the end of this post, this is really all my way of telling you that if you follow me on Instagram stories, you won’t have to see pictures of my desk on the weekends any more.

If you are interested, I’d love for you to check out the website at www.uswheat.org.

But if you find an error, keep it to yourself for a few days. Let me in live peace (and denial) for just a little while longer. 🙂

Career/Professional

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.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Anna

“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 a love-hate relationship social media (can I say that if social media is a part of my job?). But one of the reasons I love it is that it allows me to keep up with people that I otherwise would completely lose contact with. My next guest is a great example of that. I met Anna in high school through FFA, because we competed against each other in almost everything and by our senior year we became friends. We both ended up going to out of state schools for college, and over the years we’ve kept up with each others lives and transitions into careers. Anna is such a kind person, hard working and so incredibly talented. In high school, she definitely pushed me to be better and now as young professionals, I am happy to see her dedication and love for the agriculture industry.

I hope you enjoy hearing her story as much as I enjoyed catching up on it!

– Amanda

Name: Anna Smith
Age: 26
Hometown: Willamina, Oregon
College: Cornell University
Degree(s): BS Applied Economics & Management, Animal Science, 2013 // working towards MS/MBA at Purdue University
Current Location: Batavia, New York
Current Job: Loan Officer at Farm Credit East, ACA

Background Story:
I grew up on a small ranch outside of Willamina, OR. Like most farm kids, I grew up working on the farm and showing livestock in 4-H and FFA. During high school, I was heavily involved in FFA, which afforded me the opportunity to travel to the National FFA Convention several times. It was at the convention my senior year of high school when I happened to stop at the Cornell booth in the college fair. Had it not been for that chance encounter I would have never considered going to college on the other side of the country. That set me on the path I’m on today, now working as a farm loan officer in rural western New York.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I never considered anything outside of agriculture, but I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to be in the industry. So I applied at several of the big ag schools and ended up choosing Cornell. Previous to my aforementioned stop at the Cornell booth at a college fair, I had barely even heard of the school. Cornell’s Dyson business school is in the College of Ag, but I found that only a handful of my classmates had similar interests to me. After a semester I started taking dairy classes and really became engaged in that. I ended up doing both the business and animal science majors which combined really nicely.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Cornell has an amazing Greek life. I was a member of Alpha Zeta, which at Cornell is an actual co-ed fraternity that is primarily ag students. I also was active in Collegiate FFA and the Dairy Fellows program. My senior year I was on the National Dairy Challenge team and spent a lot of time training for that. I interned at Farm Credit East one summer, which is how I ended up in my current role.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Sometimes the distance would get to me. My parents were amazing and would send me care packages (and still do) but that’s never quite the same. But at the same time, being away from home in a completely different environment is one of the best growth experiences you can have. And if I could do it over again, I would have spent time even further away and studied abroad!

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Do more than the minimum. Take all the cool/fun/challenging classes that you can, not because you need them but because when else in your life can you do that? Travel if you can and get to know the area around where you are going to school.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started at Farm Credit five days after graduation and had a portfolio of loans on the first day. That was pretty intimidating, being 22 and having responsibility to make loan decisions and manage those relationships. But farmers are incredible people and immediately I felt welcomed into my new role and new environment. Today I have a $120 million loan portfolio of mainly row crops, fruit and agribusiness. It’s not easy, especially when times are tough in ag, but it’s an incredibly rewarding job. You get to see businesses start, grow and transform and see into the inner workings of very successful farms.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Learning to network was huge. I won’t claim to be great at it, but I genuinely enjoy a good cocktail hour.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I am lucky to have two close friends nearby, so they are my work-life balance. One has a flock of sheep and when I need to get out of an office rut I go over there and just help with whatever needs to be done. I work a lot, but I try to never let that get in the way of people.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I didn’t know many people in the area when I moved to WNY so I started right away getting involved. I’m on the county Farm Bureau board and also volunteer at one of the FFA chapters helping students prepare for their speaking contests and such.

I working toward my MS and MBA through Purdue’s Center for Food and Agribusiness. That program is primarily online and I’m about 25% through. I have a fantastic group of classmates that make you forget that the program is almost all online whenever we get together.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I love my half hour drive to the office. It gives me time to drink my coffee and mentally prepare for the day.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I’m counting my car as a second workspace. I spend about half my time meeting with clients at their farms, so I drive around the countryside a ton. Some weeks I live on coffee and sausage egg McMuffins. Its gotten to the point where my friends and coworkers save coupons for them to give to me.

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

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Thanks for taking the time to be a guest on my blog Anna! I could have sworn that I had a picture of us saved somewhere from state convention our senior year, but instead I found this from National FFA Convention in college (2010 I think?). I’ve loved keeping up with you and your success over the years!

Career/Professional

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.

Before

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).

After

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.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Jade

“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 next guest has been on my wish list of people to feature for a while now, but I’ve been trying my best to feature people from a wide variety of colleges, jobs and areas of study, so when people like Jade fall into the two categories that I know the most people in — K-State grads and people who studied agriculture communications/journalism —  I feel like I need to at least try to spread them out.

But those people also tend to be some of my most eager participants 🙂 so here we are. Jade’s story is such a fun one to feature. I met Jade while we were students at K-State, though I don’t know if I can quite pinpoint when I first met her. We both studied agriculture communications, lived at neighboring women’s scholarship houses, were both ambassadors for the College of Ag and we had quite a few mutual friends. Overall though, most of memories with her go back to when we were both taking “ag mag,” which is a production class for our college bi-annual magazine. I was the lead editorial designer and she was the lead photo editor so we spent a lot of hours in the lab together. Jade is a self-starter and betters herself by plunging right in and learning along the way. She is sincere, driven by her faith and so incredibly creative. Personally, I think Jade and I have similar personalities in a lot of ways, which might be she’s one of my favorite “creatives” to look to for inspiration.

I did a mini-portrait session with her for my college graduation, and I guarantee you that if I am back in that part of the country when I need professional photos done in the future, she will be my first choice! I hope you enjoy reading a bit of Jade’s story!

– Amanda

(headshot photo by La Brisa Photography)

Name: Jade Comstock
Age: 29
Hometown: Fall River, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Salina, KS
Current Job: Missionary for Christian Challenge Salina & Photographer/Owner of Jade Creates
Background Story: I grew up in a family of five on a small horse farm in Southeast Kansas. I grew up loving being outside and loving agriculture.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I was heavily involved in FFA in high school, so that meant we traveled to Manhattan a lot for events and I fell in love! I originally majored in Ag Education, but soon figured out it wasn’t for me. I loved to College of Agriculture and didn’t want to leave, so Ag Communications was an easy switch that ended up being perfect for me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
My first few years I lived in the Alpha of Clovia Scholarship house. I also loved being a part of Ag Ambassadors. But the most impactful was being a part of Christian Challenge my senior year.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I can look back and say I was way too focused on friendships and relationships and school was very secondary to that. It even led me to leave K-State for a while to get away. While I love the people I met and grew with, I do wish I would have focused a little more on classes!

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be open to anything! This is a scary time of life, but you never know where the next year will take you. Have fun with your friends and be open to new opportunities! Also… take a fun class. Wine tasting was one of my favorite classes and I actually learned things that I still use today!

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
It’s been a little crazy! I moved to Salina to do photography full time. After a year of doing that, I knew I needed to be doing more. I started a job with a non-profit here in town where I was able to mentor and work with eight high school girls. I loved it so much! Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to join Christian Challenge Staff in Salina. The organization made a big impact on me in college, and I really felt like this is where God was leading me, so I made the switch. While all of that was going on, I was continuing to build my photography business and have started to branch into baking for events!

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being an Ag Comm grad has helped me so much! I was able to get ahead with my photography by knowing how to market myself well and use social media to my advantage.

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?
The not so fun side of running a small business… taxes and such! I still feel a little clueless on this stuff, but am learning every year.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
A good old fashioned planner is my best friend! But outside of that, I love using social media to market myself and my business. (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) I use wordpress to run my blog. I have an awesome app called Pocketsuite that keeps all of my contacts, contracts, calendars, billing and more all together. And.. back on the not fun taxes and such..Quickbooks Self-Employed helps me keep my business and personal finances separate. I really could go on and on… I love apps and technology. There are so many that help me run my business!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
As you can probably tell… I love doing lots and lots of things. This is a strength as I get to do lots of different things and really experience life. BUT sometimes I get my plate overloaded and I get stretched too thin and drive myself a little crazy.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
People! My jobs all revolve around people. Getting to make a difference in peoples lives helps me see that it’s worth doing and I can keep going.  And, obviously, my faith. Above all trusting in God to lead me and give me peace and keep me going

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Again, putting God first helps me stay focused. But outside of that, i am working on being healthier, so working out daily has really helped energize me. I love getting outside and traveling. Seeing new places is very exciting and pushes me to be more creative in my work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Probably having a business that hasn’t flopped!

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I am currently single and living with my dogs. This past summer I got my first house, so I have spent a lot of time trying to channel my inner Joanna Gaines and make it look pretty. I also love love love baking. Getting to do that for my coworkers and students is so much fun.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
I have recently rebranded my business. I am looking to expand outside of photography. I want to offer baked goods and just more creative insights to people.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee and Jesus. Every morning. 🙂

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I need music. It keeps me creative and focused!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Hmm… maybe a baker in a big city… or an adventure wedding photographer… or an interior designer. I could go on and on.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The people. They are awesome. I miss them so much. Oh and of course Taco Lucha. Gimmie all them tacos.

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Graduation – May 2013

Thanks for being my guest today Jade! I love to see how you are growing personally and professionally since college, and I am excited to follow along and see how you expand your brand! Good luck!

For quick reference, I listed all of the ways you can connect with Jade’s business online. I would definitely recommend checking out her Instagram, it’s so pretty!

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Tim

“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 is another friend from college. I met Tim while I was living at the Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership House for women and he was at Smith House for men. Early on he gave me a bit of hard time for being in agriculture communications, while he was instead  in the journalism school, but I think we eventually got past that 🙂 I’ve always appreciated Tim’s work as a journalist. He is a great writer and professional, and I love that every time I open my K-Stater magazine, (which is always a great piece), that I know who put in all the hard work and talent to put it together. Plus, he’s a great guy and one of the biggest true K-State sports fans I know. I enjoyed getting caught up on his career and hearing about the lessons he has learned along the way so far. I hope you enjoy his story!

– Amanda


Name:
Tim Schrag
Age: 27
Hometown: Kingman, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Bachelor of science in journalism and digital media, 2012
Current Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Current Job: Editor of the K-Stater magazine for the K-State Alumni Association

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
My dad went to Kansas State University and earned a degree in horticulture. He also played football and ran track for K-State in the 1980s. He really loved that place, so I really loved it too. Then, I had the opportunity to visit and I knew immediately it was where I needed to be.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
A bulk of my time outside of the classroom was spent working for the student-run newspaper the Kansas State Collegian. I quite literally lived in that campus newsroom. It’s where I cut my teeth in journalism and really got comfortable learning how to craft a news story. I worked as a reporter, desk editor, recruiter and served three times as editor-in-chief. Looking back, I know there were countless long nights, misspellings and hard lessons learned, but I barely remember those. What I do recall, are the great people I met through the paper, the late-night discussions, prank wars, inside jokes and the basics of how to work in news organization.

I also had the opportunity to intern for the Wichita Eagle and the Manhattan Mercury.

I also lived in a scholarship house on campus, helped recruit students to K-State at the Journalism Education Association’s national conventions and worked as a class leader for a freshman introduction to leadership concepts course for the Staley School of Leadership Studies.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I probably stretched myself too thin at times. That was stressful, but then I learned that sometimes it’s necessary to say no on occasion. I wish I learned that lesson earlier.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started a job as a copy editor for the Hutchinson News, right out of college. It was a great learning experience and I wasn’t ready for it.

I knew basic design for broadsheet newspapers and Associated Press style, but I copy editing just didn’t come natural to me. Thankfully, the News’ copydesk had some really talented staff who were willing to teach me. It made me a stronger writer. They taught me to look for holes in every story, how to write a good headline and so many other undefinable aspects of working in a news organization.

I spent about three years with The News. Half of that was on the copydesk. The other half was as a late breaking news reporter. I covered just about everything from congressional town hall meetings, city government, fires (so many fires, too many fires), elections and just about everything in between.

Most of my time at The News was spent working during nights and weekends. I enjoyed the work but really hated the hours. They don’t prepare you in J-School for how much that part sucks. They tell you, but you don’t really know until you live it.

Then in 2015, my college mentor told me about a job opening at the K-State Alumni Association. They have a quarterly magazine which goes out to members. He had been it’s longtime editor before retiring in 2012. He told me to apply for the job. They hired me and now I’m telling my alma mater’s story while also learning the ins and outs of alumni relations.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being the editor of my college’s newspaper seemed to directly relate to my current position as the university’s alumni magazine editor. That’s fairly obvious.

However, I believe the professors, faculty members, staff and other students all taught me life lessons that have shaped me in some way.

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?
People talk about “adulting” and how terrible it is. In college, professors, parents and recent grads all warn us about the real world. It hit me harder than I thought it would. I wish I would have heeded the warnings a little closer.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Google Docs keeps me organized. I use Apple Voice Memos to record interviews. Adobe products help our team put together our publications.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
This always feels like a trick question. I tend to avoid it. That might be because I tend to be very direct. That’s neither a strength, nor a weakness in my book. Do your best, be honest… especially when you mess up, and don’t be afraid to ask questions — even if they seem obvious. That’s how I try to work.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Caffeine and junk food seem to always help me power through.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I don’t answer work emails after 5 p.m. or on the weekends unless it’s an emergency.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
My goal is to make a product that people want to read. Anytime a reader tells me something that can help me produce a better publication, I feel great.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I probably watch too much TV and movies. Who doesn’t these days? I also follow K-State sports (I have season football tickets), go hiking and hunting.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
When I figure that out, I’ll get back to you.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Make your bed as soon as you get up. It sounds dumb, but it starts your day off with an accomplishment.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Caffeine, specifically soda, usually Pepsi.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I guess being a student. Having so many opportunities, being able to meet people so easily. It was just a great life.


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Thanks for being my guest today Tim!

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.

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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.

-Amanda

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.

College

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.

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