Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Changing Hats

Several years ago my husband and I presented a professional conference session to help attendees work through the mission and vision they wanted to set for their career and personal lives. We started the session with a box of hats in front of us, each taking a hat out of the box, placing it on our head and naming the role in life we assumed with that hat. Mother, partner, coach, father, son, employee, supervisor, planner, student, church member, civic organization vice president . . . the hats we wore seemed never ending. Our participants were in much the same boat.

So what happens when there is a possibility that you will lose one of your hats? What happens if your company is shifting and your role may require a new hat, or you may be asked to turn in your company hat all together?   The uncertainty that comes with this type of change is often difficult to deal with. Humans react to uncertainty with fear, and that fear can cause us to behave erratically in an attempt to eliminate it.

As we work with employees in transition, here are some of the strategies we suggest to deal with that fear:

1. Take some time to make decisions. Do not make a quick, knee-jerk decision in the midst of fear and uncertainty. There is a difference between trusting your gut and reacting out of fear. It has taken you years of education and training to build your professional self, honor that investment by giving yourself space and time to think through options. This is a good opportunity to put on the referee hat and give yourself a time out.

2. Gather information. You can’t make a good decision without good information. Evaluate what you do and don’t know about your company and its future. Make a list of questions  or unknowns. Put on your detective hat and look for answers. Not suggesting you don a disguise and camp at the coffee pot or break room—good decisions are not based on gossip—but ask questions of your manager, colleagues who have been in the field longer than you have, human resource officers, mentors, and those you trust.

 3.  Be the expert on you. Pick up the professor hat here. If you haven’t brushed up your resume recently, now is a great time to do so, regardless of what the future holds. Shop it around to a few individuals you trust, or a career coach, to make sure it is polished. You have to know your skills, strengths and areas for growth better than anyone, so get feedback. Most companies have some personality testing built into their hiring cycle, complete a few online so that you can advocate for yourself.

4. Evaluate your personal finances and budget. Pull out the accountant hat and establish priorities. Eliminate extra expenses now—work ahead so that if you do need to make a change you already have some wiggle room fiscally. Work with your partner or spouse to find ways to save now. Once it becomes clear austerity measures won’t be needed, either keep the savings as savings, invest, or celebrate with those who have helped you walk through this challenge.

5. Gather your advisory board. Speaking of those who have helped you walk through the challenge, this is not the time to sit in isolation. No need to pick up a bullhorn and announce to the world, but be sure to put on your ambassador hat; find some close friends or colleagues; and give them the honor of being there for you. A trusted member of the clergy may also be a great resource as you navigate the uncertain days and weeks ahead. These individuals can be great cheerleaders and an extra pair of eyes and ears for opportunities if you need them.

Changing hats can be difficult and the prospect of facing uncertainty is daunting. We’d love to hear the advice you’ve been given—both good and bad—as you have navigated career change. Feel free to comment below or through any of our social media channels. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dealing with Uncertainty

This year has been a tumultuous one for our students and alumni in the animal health industry. A number of companies have made changes to their corporate structures, and from what we hear, realignment in the industry is far from over.

In visiting with students currently in the midst of corporate change, a few themes repeatedly emerge.

Students consistently share that the most difficult part of managing corporate change is the uncertainty. Once the rumors about a corporate takeover or buyout, merger or acquisition begin swirling, the uncertainty starts to creep in.

The cycle of questions goes along these lines: Will I have a job with this company? Will this company even be a company anymore? Who will my boss be? Will I have to take a pay cut? Will I have the opportunity to move? Is the opportunity to move one I would take if given? What do I need to do to cover myself right now? Do I even want to stay with this company? What is my partner/spouse/significant other going to say? Am I going to be able to find a job somewhere else? What are my kids going to do?

Positive ways to deal with uncertainty include focusing on what you can control, preparing for different possibilities, and being confident in your skills and abilities. For professionals in mid-career, regardless of the field you are in, making a connection with a talent specialist can be a powerful tool in accomplishing all three of these tasks.

The Master of Agribusiness program has partnered with The VetRecruiter, Stacy Pursell, to present a webinar on May 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm CDT to address some of the unknowns regarding this relationship, and demystify this process for current professionals. Registration is free, and located here:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Noted specialist to discuss generational diversity in the workforce at upcoming conference

One of the nation's leaders in management training and generational diversity in workforce will be discussing these topics at an upcoming Kansas State University conference.

"Building the Future: Leadership through Change" is March 30-31 at the Kansas State University Olathe campus. The conference features a keynote speech by Bruce Tulgan, author, business consultant and founder of RainmakerThinking Inc. — a research, training and consulting firm that specializes in generational issues in the workplace. He will discuss management, leadership through change and working with millennials. 

Bruce Tulgan

"As businesses look to grow a pipeline of new leaders and attract the best talent to their firms, change management and working well with diverse teams is a persistent need," said Deborah Kohl, coordinator of Kansas State University's Master of Agribusiness program, or MAB. "No matter where you are in business, Bruce Tulgen will have immediately applicable strategies that will benefit you."

"Building the Future: Leadership through Change" is the eighth professional development and alumni reunion event from the MAB program. The conference is a collaboration of the MAB program and K-State Olathe, with the support of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.

"Agribusiness encompasses many different fields and professions," Kohl said. "We envision this conference and its topics being useful for people in all career stages in both the food supply chain and animal health fields — from a retailer who stocks food to someone interested in starting their own companion animal health related business."

Breakout sessions at the conference include:

• "Data Security/Data Risk," Ken Harmon of Koch Industries Inc. 

• "Meeting in the Digital Age," Neil Caskey of Osborne and Barr.
• "Human Resources," Bruce Tulgan of RainmakerThinking Inc.
• "Government/Policy Outlook" invited panel, Dana Brooks of Land O'Lakes Inc.
• "Unmanned Aerial Systems," Billy Brown of the Kansas Department of Agriculture; Robert Boyd, FFA committee member; and Kurt Carraway of Kansas State Polytechnic.
• "Legal Update," Mark Anstoeter, Shook of Hardy and Bacon LLP.
• "Outcomes Research," Elva Cha of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University.
• "Mergers and Acquisitions," John Breeden of DuPont Sustainable Solutions.

Registration for the conference is $300 per person before March 17 and $350 per person after March 17. The registration fee includes meals and meeting materials. Sign up at

Kansas State University's Master of Agribusiness is an award-winning, distance-education degree program that focuses on food and agribusiness management. Students and alumni work in every sector of the food and agribusiness industry and are located in 40 states within the United States and in more than 30 countries.

K-State Olathe supports the needs of industry in Greater Kansas City through academic programs and educational opportunities, such the upcoming MAB event. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Free webinar: Effective Leadership Strategies Across Generations

Kansas State University's Master of Agribusiness (MAB)  is hosting a free webinar, “Effective Leadership Strategies Across Generations” presented by Kevin Heikes, MAB alum and Vice President of Product for FarmLink. The webinar will be Thursday, September 29 at noon CST.
The presentation will provide effective strategies for leadership for all generations in the workplace and questions to ask team members that will lead them to high-performance engagement.
“While I am technically GenX, many times I end up translating for both the Boomer generation and the GenY/Millennial generation.  For example, I enjoy sharing with Boomers how Hootsuite can turn 99% of Twitter chatter into meaningful customer insights.  Or sharing with a Millennial that they need to put down the phone and go shake the hand of their customer and engage in conversation,” Heikes said.
As Vice President of Product for FarmLink, Heikes develops the product pipeline for agribusiness.  His focus and expertise are in the commercialization of startups, understanding the agricultural ecosystem and then infusing new technologies into the traditional Agriculture Supply Chain.   
Before joining FarmLink in 2014, he was responsible for Technology Operations at Farms Technology, an agtech startup that conducted automated online grain origination, hedging, and trading between grain merchandisers and farmers.  In 2012, the company was acquired by DuPont Pioneer, where Heikes led the integration efforts from a small startup into a standalone development team within DuPont Pioneer. 
Heikes holds a Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness from Colorado State University and a Master of Agribusiness from Kansas State University.  He was raised on a cattle operation in southern Colorado and now resides with his wife and three daughters in Lenexa, Kansas. 

The webinar is free, but attendees must register online at link will be emailed to all registered participants. For more information about the webinar, contact Deborah Kohl,, 785-532-4495.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cerquilho City - Piracicaba City - Campinas - Campo Grande - Aquidauana

Day 3 continued: After visiting the sugarcane mill and ethanol plant in the morning, the group traveled on to Piracicaba City to learn about the Brazilian agriculture industry from Dr. Mark Spekken at ESALQ Agricultural University. 

Dr. Spekken provided ‎an overview of the industry. He shared the main products historically for Brazil are sugar, cattle, rubber, coffee and cotton. Around 1960, Brazil started incorporating mechanization, intensive cultivation of annual crops and using fertilizer to increase productivity. 

‎In Brazil, farmers can grow two crops a year, usually soybeans from September-February and corn from February to August. 

Some current figures he provided:
Sugarcane‎ 9 million hectares
Eucaliptus‎ 3 million hectares
Cotton 2 million hectares
Oranges .5 million hectareS
Coffee 2.3 million hectares
Beef cattle on pasture 172 million hectares

ESALQ has also started an extension program that consults with local farmers.

Day 4: this morning we visited the IAC Grains and Fibers Centre and its Saint Elisa farm to learn about crop research. IAC's goals are to breed plants for drought tolerance, increase pest resistance and improve yields. All of their research is funded by state government and through additional fundraising (seed/plant sales). Research findings are shared with producers throughout Brazil.

While on site, the group toured several greenhouses and plots to see different stages and varieties of dry, edible beans‎ being tested. 

The Saint Elisa farm is also home to 90% of the world's coffee seed germplasm. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Campinas - Days 2 and 3

The second visit on day 2 was to the Boa Esperanca Cofee Farm. The plantation sits on 400 acres and they raise seedlings in an on-site nursery. The coffee plants are good for 20-25 years, and are cut back periodically.‎ New plants produce beans after three years. 

Like at the citrus farm, harvest is done completely by hand. Each plant is also individually fertilized by hand. During harvest, about 50 pickers are hired, and they are paid by amount they pick (average is 5-8 liter buckets a day)

Day 3 - We drove to Cerquilho City to visit the Santa Maria (Copersucar) Sugarcane Mill and Ethanol plant. Started in 1946, it originally only produced Pinga (sugarcane alcohol). After a few years, it added white sugar and in 1977 ethanol‎ production began.

The sugarcane plantation is on 16,000 hectares and they harvest 1.6 million tons of sugarcane each season, which produces 90,000 tons of sugar and 70,000 tons of ethanol. Daily production at the plant is 360,000 liters of ethanol and 120 fifty kilo bags of sugar.

Harvest is completely by both fire (15%) and machines (85%)‎. However, fire will only be allowed by law until 2017, then will have to all be done by machine.

Brazil is the world's largest sugarcane exporter.

Sao Paulo to Campinas, Day 2

Day 2 found us traveling north to Campinas with stops along the way at a citrus (oranges, tangerines and limes) and a coffee plantation.

Alfa Citrus ( is a family-owned‎ citrus farm started in 1976. They have more than 800,000 trees on 1600 hectares. All of their fruit is 100% harvested by hand - more than 1,000,000 boxed a year! 

The Alfa Citrus farms and packing house are certified by origin warranty program, which ties in with their two pillars: quality and customer relationships.

We'll add more details about the coffee plantation and Day 3 soon!