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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 elizgrimes.wordpress.com 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.
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!
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.
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!
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? Professor
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!
Happy Monday friends! My next guest is a great example of how this series continues to inspire me and allows me to get to know people in my network a bit better. I vaguely knew who Lyndsey was through ag communications stuff in college, and then I actually met her when I moved to the Washington D.C. area. She was so kind to me as a new kid in the city and I wish I had gotten to know her better before she moved away.
But Lyndsey’s story is such a great example of someone having an idea of how to build a career and life around a passion… and then actually making it happen! Lyndsey is hard working, ambitious and after starting her own business just over a year ago, she has a lot to share about taking risks and growing through experiences. Personally, I think her business is a wonderful idea and something we could use a bit more of. But I’ll let her share all about it 🙂
Name: Lyndsey Murphy Age: 28 Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Ohio College: The Ohio State University Degree(s): Bachelor’s: Agricultural Communications //Masters: Agricultural Communication Current Location: Mechanicsburg, Ohio Current Job: Owner and operator of The Market at the Hive
Background Story: I was raised as the fifth generation on our family corn, soybean and beef farm in a small town in western Ohio. I was fortunate to find my home early on in FFA and participated heavily there throughout high school, culminating with a year as a state FFA Officer. I then traveled onto The Ohio State University where I discovered my love for communications and traveling. I graduated with my bachelors in 2011 and started my masters degree later that fall at Ohio State. My first big girl job was as Communications Director for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, where I spent two and half years managing every bit of communications for the organization and cutting my teeth in the industry. I then moved to Washington D.C. to accept the position of Social Media Director at American Farm Bureau, an opportunity that not only grew me professionally but also greatly expanded me personally. Then, just over a year ago I returned home to Mechanicsburg to help my family run the farm and start my own business. I also taught junior high agriculture for a year in 2016-2017. Phew, I appreciate teachers so much more now!
How did you choose your college and your major? Growing up just 45 miles from campus and being the daughter of an OSU grad, it’s hard to say that it wasn’t in my blood from the start. I really made the decision though after going on a catering job with my mother to the animal hospital as a sophomore in high school, I loved every bit about the campus, the people and all the opportunities. I just knew it was the right place for me.
Like many Ohio State agriculture students, I chose Animal Science originally to be my major. After my first chemistry class, I knew it was not going to be the major for me. Luckily enough, I stumbled across a Communications 101 class and fell in love with it immediately.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? I’ve always loved being part of a bigger group trying to accomplish something and I think student organizations are one of the absolute best ways for you to get the most out of a college experience. I was in our Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow club, Saddle and Sirloin, Collegiate 4H and president of the College of Food Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences Student Council.
Being slightly new to the communications field I also wanted to do as many internships as I could, (plus I was very poor). In college I had internships with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, ABN Radio, Local Matters, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Ohio State BioProducts Center.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? I would have to say my biggest challenge was trying to enjoy the moment, often I was too worried about getting the next job, having the best resume, etc, instead of truly enjoying the moment. If I could change anything I would give myself the wisdom that whatever I was doing that day was enough.
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? Solidify your relationships with your classmates, you never know where you’ll see them down the road and many of them might be in the same industry or area as you. Those will be invaluable in the years to come.
Tell us about your career so far? As mentioned above:
My first big girl job was as Communications Director for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, where I spent two and half years managing every bit of communications for the organization and cutting my teeth in the industry. I then moved to Washington DC to accept the position of Social Media Director at American Farm Bureau, an opportunity that not only grew me professionally but also greatly expanded me personally. Then, just over a year ago I returned home to Mechanicsburg to help my family run the farm and start my own business.
My business is creating and facilitating experiences (mainly cooking classes, farm to table dinners and the day to day business of the market featuring local foods and goods) that connect food and the people that grow/raise it with their customers.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? There are so many points where I look back and I’m so glad that I made friends with a wide range of people with a wide range of views. These people have helped me shape a better business because I ask for their input. I also think the communications skills that I gained in college, like web and print design, are invaluable when trying to work on a shoestring budget.
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 thought that after all the busy-ness of clubs and classes, I would be able to relax a little when I entered the workforce, alas that was not true. I’ve learned it’s so important to carve out personal time, travel time, family time — because if you don’t make time for it, you’ll burn out in a hard way.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? I’m a huge fan of the Google suite of products. I have a Google phone, regularly send and organize documents and pictures in my Drive, and use it to edit documents between multiple people. I’m also a big fan of Buffer as a social media scheduler, their free option is wonderful and their paid is cheap enough to work for any budget. It’s easy to use, well laid out and available for any device.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? Strengths: I feel that my patience and perspective have grown, along with my ability to keep a cool head. I think I’ve also become much more fiscally responsible, and since buying a 117 year old building (that is often trying to fall down), I’ve become much handier and self reliant with tools. 🙂
Weaknesses: I’ve never had so many people to deal with at one time, so I sometimes have calls or emails fall through the cracks for a few days. I can also find myself getting so tied up with the day to day motions that I need a wakeup call to step back and see the bigger picture.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? Well, I’m of the belief that there is no such thing as motivation — you just do it or you don’t. That being said, I often try to set my work space up so that I feel more creative, by organizing it, making lists, and setting it up with things that make me feel comfortable but not distracted. I also try to follow through on smaller tasks that with make jobs down the line easier.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? As a new entrepreneur that lives above her business it is definitely difficult to find a balance. I try very hard to set specific times that I work and don’t (try is the key word there), times that I will answer my phone and email and others that I won’t. I also try to stay in contact with friends, go visit them in their homes or business — it’s really an activity that gives me perspective and leaves me feeling fulfilled and refreshed. I can’t overstate the importance of physical activity either, shoveling out a pen or just being in the pasture with the cows gives me a sense of peace that is hard to find other places.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? I’m proud that I’ve trusted enough in myself to listen to my gut and follow it towards my dreams.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? As of now, I’m a year into creating my own business and still learning everyday. It consumes much of my time and energy. Outside of the business, I am running for town council right now (I’ve got the politics bug), I spend a lot of time on the farm helping out and as much time as I can afford traveling. Truly, I’m most passionate about agriculture and involving every person in it, no matter their background, I’m lucky enough to have that as part of my job and life.
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals? Next! The official ‘Market at The Hive’ opens in February, a market that will feature local meat, produce, coffee, beer/wine and ready to eat meals. Our town has been without a grocery store for nearly ten years and I’m hoping to fill some of that void. Long term, I hope to expand to a larger on-farm operation, giving people the opportunity to see with their own eyes where their food is grown and get information about larger or different operations.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? Coffee, NPR and some sort of physical activity (yoga, a walk, etc).
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? Absolutely. I’m a BIG coffee drinker. 🙂 I also love to have music playing all the time.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? All limitations aside- I’d love to be a photographer for National Geographic. Travel the world, see beautiful places and people, just looking for the next best photo.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? I miss all the people! Having so many incredible people who love agriculture, yet come from so many different backgrounds around me all the time was something I truly cherished. I miss that being the most important part of my life, instead of trying to make money haha.
Interested in checking out Lyndsey’s business? Find The Hive at:
My sister and I really aren’t that far apart in age (3.5 years), but for whatever reason I had a bit of a moment when I was making my list of the next couple of people I wanted to ask to be a guest on this series and TWO of them were technically her friends first. I know it’s so cliche but time goes by SO FAST.
Anyway… as always I am excited to share the next guest with you! Zech grew up in Eastern Oregon in a little town near my hometown and became good friends with my sister through FFA. He has great work ethic, is very passionate about food and agriculture, has a curious mind and all around is truly one of the nicest guys I know. Zech is very aware of his surroundings and himself, which is a quality I think we don’t put as much value in as we should. If you know him personally, you may or may not be surprised to hear him get real about struggling with self-confidence — something I think more people, including myself, can relate to than we’d expect. I appreciated how insightful he was about sharing his story and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
Name: Zech Hintz Age: 24 Hometown: Heppner, Oregon College: Cornell University Degree(s): Applied Economics & Management, Marketing Concentration Current Location: Kansas City, MO Current Job: Management Trainee, Smithfield Foods
Heppner, a small town in Eastern Oregon consisting of just over a thousand people, was where my family lived during my childhood. This tiny corner of the world gave myself, and my classmates, copious amounts of opportunity throughout our k-12 years. Most of us played a sport every season because we needed enough people to make up a team and our graduating classes consisted of 28 people; I never lasted long because I am terrible at anything requiring coordination and athletic ability. We served on the councils of multiple clubs and organizations in school and volunteered at every community event. Most of us tried not to do anything “bad” as small town people know everything about everyone, and the parentals always found out. It was a rural community where gossip was entertainment, but the support and care for others was everything. My life began in Heppner, and that small town is a reason for who I am and what I have accomplished.
My path in life changed forever, and for the better, during the summer between junior high and high school. A lady came up to me at the county fair, after a disappointing performance showing my 4-H hog, and told me that she was signing me up for something called FFA. This person, who would soon become my mentor and role-model, was our high school’s FFA advisor. She gave us FFA members countless opportunities including adventures across the U.S.; pushing us to participate in career development activities, such as public speaking and sales pitch competitions; and teaching us the fundamentals of the agricultural industry. It was in the middle of her class when I found out I was accepted into Cornell University to study agriculture, to which she immediately called the principal who embarrassed me by announcing the news over the loud speaker. She was the person who pushed me to better myself and run for state FFA office, and who celebrated with my family and I every time I made it further in the process, all the way up until the morning I was elected. Our FFA advisor was the person who opened every door possible, and then pushed us through it. Mrs. Dickenson was a pivotal person in my life growing up in that small town, and is the reason I have a burning passion for the agricultural industry.
The credit for my accomplishments goes to a few special individuals. My mother, who gave birth to me, raised me and taught me how to be a caring and positive citizen in society. My father, who always questioning my ideas, solutions and goals which helped sharpen my thought processes. My grandmother, who taught me how to work hard and use common sense to get thing accomplished. My FFA advisor, who showed me how big the world was and how much I could do if I put my mind to it and took the leap. Without these people, I truly believe I would still be in, or near, that small town in Eastern Oregon. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a life for yourself in that great community, however they all knew I wanted something else and pushed me to go out into the world and find it.
Today, I am a proud Oregonian who had an incredible opportunity to attend a world-class university, and who now looks to make a positive impact in both the agricultural industry and our society. My life motto is that the only way to represent farmers and productive agriculturalists is to work just as hard as they do. I am happiest when with a friend, drink in hand, talking about the biggest opportunities and challenges our society faces. (Is it just me, or did this just take a turn towards a Tinder profile that is a bit too much?)
I hope you enjoy my small perspective of the world, and learn something from my mistakes and experiences. My personal goal is to make myself a little better at what I do, one day at a time, learning the best I can from each mistake I make on the road I’ve chosen.
How did you choose your college and your major? Like most Millennial seniors, I began my last year of high school wondering which college I should attend. And, like most Millennials, I decided to answer a question with a Google search. Having an instilled passion for agriculture from my FFA advisor, my fingers naturally punched best agriculture school in the US in the search bar. The first link in the list of results was some national ranking list, to this day I still do not remember which one, that declared Cornell University the best Ag school in the country. Before this search, I had never heard of Cornell, had zero life-long plans to attend, no dream boards to inspire me every day, nothing. Looking back, I am truly amazed at how life works itself out and how everything happens for a reason. I enjoyed my time at Cornell, and am grateful for the opportunity to attend.
My major was the result of my gap year between high school and college when I served as a state FFA officer in Oregon. I applied to Cornell before running for state office and I had been accepted into the agricultural science program, dreaming of owning a large nursery operation one day. I realized during my year of service, however, that I talk way too much to putz around a farm by myself all day long, and enjoy people so much that I decided to go into the consumer end of the agricultural industry. I transferred into the business school at Cornell, which is within in the Ag school, and earned a degree in applied economics and management with a concentration in marketing.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? In high school, there always existed a pressure, from parents, teachers, and community members, to be highly involved. Once I arrived at college, it was natural to jump into many organizations because I thought it was the thing to do. Looking back now, I wish I would have chosen to do less, made more time for myself to think about my future, and dove deeper into hobbies and organizations I cared the most about.
With that said, I was a brother of AGR (Zeta Chapter!) social fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu business fraternity, a Food Marketing Fellow, involved in Ezra’s Army (a Cornell sports fan club), a resident advisor, worked for the New York FFA Association, worked for the business school as a social media intern, sang the national anthem at basketball and volleyball games, and was a teaching assistant for 3 different classes. There are many who do, and have done, way more; I recommend doing less, better.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? The biggest hurdle for me was that I didn’t believe I was good/smart/talented (insert whatever word you feel unconfident about) enough, compared to my peers. I clearly remember sitting in my first day of freshman writing seminar. We were talking about some book, and I realized that I didn’t know a noticeable number of words my classmates were using, casually, to describe passages in the book. Genuinely, I had zero idea what some of these words meant and struggled to keep up with the conversation — talk about feeling like you don’t belong. Over the following weeks of my freshman fall semester, I would find other things to help build the case in my mind that I was not good enough, or as smart as, the people around me. For example, my friends and I were sitting at a table in the cafeteria when the topic of SAT scores came up (ugh, so Ivory Tower of us) and a girl at the table, who was an athlete, said, “The only reason I’m at this school is because I’m an athlete. My SAT score was terrible — like toward the bottom of the range that Cornell recently posted about our freshman class.” At first, I felt bad for her because she felt this way about herself. Then, I looked up the SAT score range myself and realized that my score was THE bottom of the range.
From that moment on, I constantly saw myself as the dumbest person in every room, the person who had to find a way to stand out besides grades. My perspective was that there was no way I was ever going to be smart enough to compete with my GPA when it came time to get a job. This is another reason I was involved in so many organizations – I felt like I had to prove to others that I did, in fact, belong.
If I could change one thing about my time at college, it would be my self-confidence. I continue to struggle with this today, never thinking I am good enough. The irony is that by being so critical of myself, I begin to talk about my accomplishments to make the unnecessary case to others that I am good enough to be where I am. This, sadly, comes across as arrogance and self-praise which is never a good thing. I have worked a lot on this, and wish I could go back to my freshman self and tell him that he is smart enough, talented enough, and capable enough, and to stop comparing his talents to those around him because there is a reason he is who he is.
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? Soak it in. I graduated a semester early because I wanted to save money, and because I had already taken a gap year and wanted to get into the workplace sooner so I could catch up to my original graduating class. I somewhat regret not taking it easier to enjoy the people around me and the limitless opportunities that college provides for you.
Want to learn how to start up a business? Take a class. Want to travel somewhere with a group for little to no cost? Apply for a spot. The opportunities to gain real world experience and travel were my favorite part of school, and I slightly regret not taking one more semester to see what else I could have learned, or opportunity I could have taken. Soak it in while you can, college seniors. The real world can be great, but undergrad is a once in a lifetime experience.
Tell us about your career so far? As a management trainee at Smithfield Foods, you get to work in different geographical locations and have different job functions within the company to grasp the bigger picture. To date, I have completed a six-month rotation in Bentonville, Arkansas working on the sales account to Walmart and Sam’s Club, and am currently in a marketing rotation working on the Smithfield brand, which will end in January. I have found that a rotational program is incredibly valuable, and I highly recommend it if you have the chance. Whenever working on a project, or sitting in a meeting, I now think through problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives. This experience has, and will continue to, make my perspective and ideas more valuable and respected along my career path.
The best part about my career, thus far, is that I have developed confidence in my choice of industries. Working on projects that can help deliver value and meal-time-solutions to consumers, while being able to see your creations/solutions in stores is an exciting thing. Plus, when food has a cultural and emotional value to people across the world, it is easy to be inspired and enthusiastic about what you are working on.
POSSIBLE QUESTION: How did you manage the transition from College to working life? Graduating in December of 2016, I only have a year’s worth experience thus far. However, I have learned a few key things during the transition from college to work-life: ask as many stupid questions as you want, just don’t ask them twice; raise your hand and ask to be involved when you find an area of work that you find interesting and are passionate about — this helped me get in touch with the right people who eventually created a new position for me; read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and learn to be financially literate, it costs $5 on Amazon; relax on the weekends and let yourself forget about work for 48 hours so you do not burn out.
I certainly do not have “adulting” figured out yet, however these couple of lessons have helped me a bunch and I hope they can help you, too.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? I strongly believe that college serves three fundamental purposes: an opportunity to understand who you are and what you believe, prove to others that you can commit and follow through by earning a degree, and give you the opportunity to realize that human beings, from all corners of the earth, grow up with different perspectives, challenges, opportunities, and definitions of success. The first two purposes are important, no doubt, however I value the third a bit more. Over the course of our careers, the number of people we will interact with, on many different levels, will probably get into the tens, and maybe even hundreds, of thousands. Each person we interact with comes from a different background, believing different ethics, morals, standards for success or failure, life priorities, ways to accomplish tasks, the list goes on and on. The more we can meet and interact with people who have foreign or opposite perspectives than us, and the more we listen to their ideas and keep ours to ourselves until asked, the better we are going to be at working with others and accomplishing things, big and small. College is a fantastic place to do start this.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? I have found that real-world work lacks hard deadlines, and it can be difficult to understanding what level of excellence is needed with each task. I struggle with the level of excellence issue a lot because, in college, everything we did needed to be an “A” to be considered successful. My job demands a large volume of tasks to be completed, and there is simply not enough time to get an “A” on all of them.
Additionally, every day, people from every direction ask you to do something, and it is easy to always say yes because you are the lowest person on the totem pole. This can lead to getting so far over your head that you don’t know where to invest your time, making your job a lot less fun. Take ownership of your personal brand throughout your career and tell people when you have too much on your plate, and that they can ask someone else to complete the task at hand, or will need to postpone or remove something that is currently on your plate in order to do what they are asking. You do not want to end up being the person who says “yes” to everything, and fall short on important tasks, making those around you think that you are incapable of doing a good job.
When you decide to add a project or task to your plate, make sure to be transparent and gain clarification on the level of excellence needed (A,B, or C). Also, if a deadline is not mentioned, set one for both yourself and the person asking the task of you so that you can manage expectations and accomplish projects “on-time”.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? I used to be 100% paper and pencil, however the world moves too fast for me to keep up, and I am realizing that it is easy to miss tasks or assignments when you must physically write them down. Today, I rely heavily on my Outlook calendar, and supplement it with some sort of list. The Outlook calendar is an easy way for me to see what meetings, events, or due dates I have coming up. A list helps me organize what tasks need to be accomplished to meet those deadlines. As of a couple weeks ago, I began using Asana (which is free!!!) to keep track of my lists online so that I don’t rely on my mediocre organization skills to try and remember to carry around a physical list.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? Reading this question made my inner nerd super excited. I truly enjoy exploring who I am and how I operate, and equally how those around me work and operate — I just love trying to understand what makes people tick. I use Gallup Strengths Finder, however there is a system for everyone, to better understand myself and others. My top five strengths are Restorative, I like to fix underperforming/broken systems, products, etc.; Futuristic, every moment I spend thinking about the future is engulfed in what things could be like in 10-15 years, I struggle to think about 1-3 years down the road; Significance, I love to be recognized, and thus when working on a team I am always trying to find ways to praise and recognize others; Includer, my soul hurts when people are left out, especially when I accidentally forget to include someone; Competitive, I like winning, a lot.
The things I work to manage so they don’t get in my way are: Organization, thus the new organization tactic mentioned previously; Clear, Precise, and Effective Communication, my passion gets ahead of my thought process so I forget to help my audience understand enough of the situation to help with the task at hand; Fully Listening, it is easy for me to sink my thoughts into a detail or idea at the beginning of someone’s ask-of-me/speech/directions/feedback/etc. so that when they finish talking, I only capture 50-75% of their ideas/needs.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? My church group. I have rough days, like everyone else, and my small bible study group keeps me grounded. They help me focus on the things in life that are great, even in moments of stress or frustration. I appreciate this group more than I could ever describe for both their guidance and support. Find a support group/person in your life, family, close friends, a mentor, whomever you trust, that you can lean on when life gets tough, and that you can celebrate successes with.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? I am far from perfect and am still learning how to do this. But for now, it consists of spending time with my nose in a book and adventuring with friends who come visit on weekends. A routine that fits my personality and lifestyle has also made a positive impact on my work-life balance.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? Let’s be real for a second — college debt is terrifying. The number of people who live their entire lives in debt (car loans, college debt, mortgage, etc.) makes me want, so badly, to not be in debt. When I moved to Arkansas, I got a second job as a server at the Cracker Barrel down the street to make some spending cash on the side. Many people, including myself at times, thought I was crazy for getting that job. However, I enjoyed my time there because it allowed me to interact with a lot of new people from drastically different backgrounds, and it helped me pay down some serious debt. No one is too good to work anywhere, and I like to think it is that attitude that got me an employee of the month award from that Cracker Barrel a couple of months after starting. That same award is hanging in my cubical today, and is something I am proud of.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? I would classify my life as being in a restoration period. Transitioning from home to college was difficult, but transitioning from college to the real world can be a bigger challenge than expected. You start paying bills, making big life decisions (like buying a car or house) and soon realize that “adulting” isn’t all you thought it would be as a teenage kid who just wanted more freedom.
Furthermore, moving from city to city for work makes it hard to make friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am a solid extrovert on the scale of relative sociability. However, when moving to a new place and knowing it may only be for six months, your motivation to branch out and make new friends is abnormally low. It takes three or four months to adjust to a new job and location, so the idea of building a social group is intimidating and seems like a poor investment of time. This loneliness, though, has allowed me to deeper explore who I am, who I want to become, and how I can grow in my personal life, outside of a professional career. This uncomfortable period has been a blessing in disguise, and I have begun doing more things I love. Recently, I picked my professional camera back up again, which has been great, running more, which I used to do a lot of, and have begun building my faith with God more and more each day.
Remembering who I am and who I want to become has been refreshing, I highly recommend taking more time for yourself.
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals? Being in a rotational program, my short-term goal is to find a full-time position within my company by the end of 2018. Long term, however, I want to revolutionize how fresh food is sold online. Imagine how many people in the world we can provide quality, affordable food to if we can understand how to get it to them on a personalized level at an effective cost.
As I type this goal, I immediately hear people/voices in the back of my mind saying, “Shipping is too expensive, and people like to pick out their own meat and produce… online grocery is going to take years before it is used by the masses, let alone solve issues such as food insecurity.” For me, these are the sentiments that lights a fire within my soul and make me want to prove them wrong. I once heard an entrepreneur on a podcast (The School of Greatness – seriously, look it up!) say something along the lines of, “If the world thinks you’re nuts, or that what you are trying to accomplish is too hard, then you have possibly found a great opportunity.” It may take us years to figure out how to crack the code on online fresh food, and it may seem impossible to many, but I truly believe that together, as an industry, we can make this happen.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? An early wake-up time. My brain runs at about 5% after the lunch hour 🙂 , so I enjoy getting to work around 6:00am to get projects accomplished that may be hard and require high brain power. This means that I am up at 4:15ish, ready to take on the world!
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? I purchased this awesome ergonomic mouse on Amazon Prime day this year, and seriously have a hard time getting work done on my computer without it. I know it seems silly, but a good mouse makes my working life so much better.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? Singer. I would most definitely be a singer.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? The people, hands down. Cheesy or not, the people make your college experience, and never again will there be a time in life where all those incredible, talented, brilliant people are in the same place again. College is where you make true, lifelong friends.
Usually I wrap up these posts with a picture of me with the guest if I have one, but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share a fun throwback of my sister and Zech going to the prom together as juniors! What’s funny is to note that phone cameras have some a long way even since 2011… because this was the best picture of the bunch. The rest were blurry. And yes, I did get Zech’s permission to share, but no, Janci did not get that luxury 🙂
Thank you so much for being my guest Zech and sharing your story! Have a Boulevard for me!