Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Rachel

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

I think there is quote that says something about people being in our lives for “a reason, a season or a lifetime,” and I really believe that is true. I have now lived on the West Coast, in the Midwest and now on the East Coast, And between college and my short career, I’ve already had quite a few great experiences. But the most significant part of all of that to me is the different people I have crossed paths with. I think it is really powerful to think about how people flow in and out of our lives, sometimes because of an intentional decision, or something that is entirely out of our hands, and other times because of something simple and fleeting.

I’d like you to meet Rachel. I first met Rachel at some point in college, though to be honest, I really couldn’t tell you when. Rachel is childhood best friends with my college best friend, Megan, which is my complicated way of saying that we now share a lifelong best friend. Megan has always told me that Rachel and I are alike in many ways, and knowing a bit about her over the years, I’ve always had a lot of respect for her. Rachel is very creative, independent and has a kind, old soul. She recently has picked back up on blogging, and focuses on making everything in her life intentional – her conversations and relationships, how she treats herself and how she invests her time. Because of our mutual friend, I have been able to follow a bit of Rachel’s post grad journey and as I started this series, I knew Rachel would be someone that whose story I wanted to share.

-Amanda

the road i traveled RACHEL

Basics

Name: Rachel Williams
Age: 25
Hometown: Wichita, KS
College: Newman University, University of Denver
Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Communication, working on a Masters of Professional Studies in Organizational and Professional Communication
Current Location: Wichita, KS
Current Job: Communications Specialist at Spirit AeroSystems
Blog: Postcards by Rachel

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Who remembers the great recession of 2008? I was lucky enough to turn 18 and pick my college right when the economy crashed. Newman University offered me a fantastic scholarship. I thought I wanted to go to KU, but it was cheaper for me to stay in Wichita and go to Newman. It turned out well and I ended up loving the experience (and meeting my husband!). I left undergrad with zero loans because of my decision to go to the less expensive school. I can’t say the same about grad school…

I started as a business major and changed to communications because the classes sounded a lot more fun. (And they were).

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
The nice thing about attending a small school is I was able to get involved in almost everything. I played collegiate golf, sang in the honors choir for four years, tried being an RA, and studied abroad twice, once to Guatemala and then to Europe. I interned at United Way of the Plains and worked at The White Dress, a bridal shop.

graduation
Celebrating graduation with my husband Raymond.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
My dad died from cancer five weeks before graduation. It was crushing. Besides the overwhelming pain of losing him, in my grief, I lost touch with close college friends. Looking back, I wish we all had known how to communicate better. All I could see at the time was pain and grief. If I’d been able to tell them how I felt – overwhelmed, crushed, depressed and hurt – I think we would still be friends. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. People change and people drift apart.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be open to new ideas, people and experiences. Don’t take anything personally. Take an extra year and study abroad.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
Mid-senior year I started a job at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, KS. The Museum houses amazing exhibits – dinosaurs, mummies, military items and more – and I had the chance to work in a nonprofit while developing professional skills. I met amazing coworkers and still see them for drinks or dinner all the time. My boss was incredibly supportive when my dad died, when I got married, when I decided to enroll in grad school and when I ultimately left the organization. I worked in marketing and development there for almost three years before I started at Spirit AeroSystems. Spirit is the largest employer in Wichita; we design and build aerostructures for both commercial and defense programs. Working in Corporate Communications, I communicate with Spirit’s nearly 16k global employees daily. I work on both internal and external communication efforts for the company. It’s an amazing opportunity and I love my job.

Spirit
I love working in communications! You never know what fun opportunities might come up

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I worked with amazing professors who cared about me and knew my name. Some focused on professional skills, others on better understanding the world and people. Newman University employs some of the best professors I’ve ever met.

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?
Office politics.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Podio, Evernote, my iphone and my Macbook! Podio is an awesome project management app (best on desktop). I put everything into Evernote – work, grad school, and volunteer notes – so I can find everything in one place. Pro tip: organize by tags instead of Notebooks.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I worked really hard in the last year to be more intentional in my conversations, meetings and calendar. I have a weakness for wine and chocolate… and spending too much money traveling.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Self-care. If I’m feeling overwhelmed instead of challenged, it usually means I’m not taking care of myself. For me, that can mean anything from a five-minute break to call my husband, taking a Saturday off to stay home, meeting up with my book club tribe, working out or making a cup of tea.

SanFran
Here’s a photo from Alcatraz on our latest trip to San Francisco in December

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
In the past year, I’ve realized I need to eat real food, get to the gym several times a week, and have quiet time before or after work to decompress and feel balanced.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I feel like I changed my life. I made intentional decisions to change my health, mindset and future. My husband and I live on the 24th floor of the tallest apartment building in Wichita. We decided not to sacrifice our urban living dreams to Kansas jobs. Right now, I’m in the middle of my second to third-ish Whole30, a nutritional program that revolutionized how I think about food and what I put in my body. We travel several times a year, I made new amazing friends founded on mutual support and I left my nonprofit job in such an open and honest way that a few months later they asked me to join the Board of Directors.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
One class at a time, I’m plugging away at grad school. I’m a #Whole30 graduate and Paleo advocate! I’m a leader for Real Life Book Club, a women’s personal development group. I also curate a blog, Postcards by Rachel, where I document my journey of creating a more meaningful life, one conversation at a time. To round it out, I volunteer on the Museum’s board and I’m chairing the organization’s annual fundraiser committee.

Wedding
#whenyouworkatamuseum… you take wedding photos with a T.rex.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Breakfast and coffee. On Thursdays, workouts with a personal trainer and Megan, my BFF that guest posts here sometimes. I’ve learned accountability is worth paying for.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Coffee in the morning, hot tea the rest of the day. Does my Macbook count?

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
A yoga teacher, personal trainer, nutritionist, life coach or travel agent. Oh, was I supposed to pick one?

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Thanks to study abroad opportunities, my husband and I lived in Europe for four-five months. I think it cost us total about $10,000 (for the both of us). I think my summer in Guatemala cost me about $2,000. That is SO CHEAP. We’ll never be able to travel that cheap again.

Florida
Megan and I on a girl’s trip to Florida last summer (before we both lost 20 pounds – the Whole30 is legit).

*****

Rachel, thank you so much for being so sincere and sharing your story with me. I LOVE reading your blog posts and am inspired by the way you see the world. I am so glad that we both call that crazy girl our best friend and look forward to our paths crossing again in the future.

Cheers!