Let’s Hear It for the Girls: Meet Kelly Rivard

One of my favorite article series is “Behind the Pencil (Skirt)” that Levo League does about once a week. The website – which focuses on providing useful information and resources for young professional women – uses this series to highlight 20-something women who are making waves in their respective career fields. I definitely recommend it for anyone interested in learning about the wide variety of careers that are out there and learning from your peers.

Whenever I read “Behind the Pencil (Skirt)”, though, I always wonder how my friends and network of 20-something women would answer these questions. After all, I know a great group of young professionals who are working in all sorts of fields, in the city and in the country. Wouldn’t it be neat to learn more about them and their careers? So, that’s what I’m doing.

Kelly Rivard headshot

Meet Kelly – she’s originally from rural Illinois, but is now an SEO and social media specialist for Kansas City full-service marketing agency, PlattForm.

My friend, Kelly Rivard – or, rather, “sister from another mister” as we like to refer to ourselves – kindly agreed to be my guinea pig for this project. I hope you enjoy learning more about her!

Background

Current location:
Kansas City

Originally from:
Rural northeastern Illinois

Education (college/major):
North Central College (IL), Interactive Media Studies Major

Job title and company:
SEO & Social Media Specialist, PlattForm

Brief description of PlattForm:
PlattForm is a full-service marketing agency with a specific focus on vocational and continuing education.

Where were you before PlattForm?
I was previously with AdFarm, a full-service agency that specializes in agricultural clients.

How did you become interested in SEO and social media?
As an Interactive Media major, I was always fascinated by developing digital communications trends. Even though my focus was graphics, I accidentally became involved in the “social media revolution” of agriculture, often referred to as “agvocacy.” I landed some really life-changing internships in agriculture that focused on social media, which led to my first full-time job out of college at AdFarm. As the social media coordinator there, I learned a lot of valuable skills. Eventually, my career took an unexpected turn and I got the opportunity to learn some new skills as an SEO and social media specialist for PlattForm.

Around the Office

Office culture in a few words:
Nurturing, empowering, and fun.

A day at work looks like:
Every day is different. Usually, my day is a combination of organized chaos and unexpected situations. The job is stressful, but rewarding beyond belief.

Favorite part of your job:
Working in education, I get to know that the work I do changes lives.

Biggest challenge you face at your job:
Time management. So much of my job is free-flowing, independent work with lots of surprises that sometimes it feels like fitting 10 gallons of stuff in a 5 gallon bucket — but it’s fantastic.

Apps (or other tech) you can’t live without:
My Outlook Calendar, my iPhone calendar, and my iPhone clock for timers, alarms, and reminders.

Style

Your personal style in a few words:
A hot mess? The only shoes I like to wear on a daily basis are cowgirl boots and Chuck Taylor high-tops.

Office dress code:
“Smart casual.” Jeans and a t-shirt is acceptable most days; dress for the occasion for different types of meetings.

Go-to work outfit:
Jeans, boots or Chucks, and a t-shirt or cute top depending on my mood!

On-the-go kit:
Clear or pink lip gloss, sunglasses, and a Swiss Army knife with a nail file.

Lifestyle

Morning routine:
Hit snooze as many times as I can get away with. Get up, get dressed, walk my dog, then pack a lunch and head to work. I talk to my boyfriend on the phone for a few minutes, and then listen to 96.5 The Buzz for the rest of my 30-40 minute commute to work.

Favorite spot for brunch:
My boyfriend’s apartment. We love breakfast food. His kitchen is bigger than mine so I love to go over there and cook omelets, French toast, and breakfast burritos for us!

On Saturday, you can be found:
On adventures with my dog and/or friends and/or boyfriend. Or, volunteering. I’m a chronic philanthropist.

Favorite spot for a 10-minute break:
Somewhere inside of a book. I’m currently reading Clash of Kings, the second book from the series that Game of Thrones is based on.

One thing everyone should do when visiting your city:
Kansas City is an AMAZING food city. Find a local favorite restaurant (or several) and eat yourself stupid.

Hobbies:
Reading, painting, video games (I have a pink xBox 360 controller), and volunteering with the American Cancer Society.

Cause you’re passionate about:
Mental health awareness. Statistics say that as a bipolar woman, I should not be as successful, happy, and stable as I am. Yet, here I am, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. Anyone can succeed if they have the willpower and support structure!

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian/professional artist/a flute player in a world-famous symphony.

Dream job:
Someday I’d love to work in a non-profit setting. I have a very charitable soul, and making a difference gives me a deep sense of satisfaction in my job.

Encouraging Other Women

Inspiration:
My parents (my mom, my dad until he passed when I was 12, and my step-dad) have worked hard to give me and my siblings a good foundation in our lives. My mom is especially inspiring to me. No matter how tough life gets, she smiles and does what we needs to for those she loves most.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
Have confidence. I struggle with confidence every day of my life; I KNOW I’m good at what I do, I KNOW I’m a good person, but knowing and feeling are two different things.

My mentor(s):
I have had so many! I’ve stood on the backs of giants to get where I am today, and I only hope I can pass on wisdom like I’ve received from them over the years. A few to mention: Katie Pinke, who was a supervisor for my internship with AdFarm; Libby Hall, who was my supervisor when I was Social Media Coordinator for AdFarm; Mark Gale, who gave me my first ever agency experience as a 20-year-old intern; Janice Person, who has more wisdom than any single person should be allowed to keep in their own head.

In 10 years…
I will be one of those crazy women juggling a family and a professional life.

Career wisdom for young professional women:
Don’t ever pigeon-hole yourself – don’t assume you can’t do a job because you’re a woman, you’re “too girly,” “too nice,” or “too young.” If you have the experience, drive, and passion to do it, go for it!

Happiness is up to me

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last year thinking about happiness. What makes people — and, in particular, me — happy? What doesn’t? How can we do more of the former and less of the latter? And how does personal happiness affect career and relationship success?

A couple months ago, I read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, in which she tries to tackle these exact questions, in way everyone can relate to. As she documents in the book, Gretchen took a year and identified those behaviors which can impact happiness — which she picks based on a mix of research and personal experience — and tries to increase the frequency of those actions in her life. For her, they were things like organizing the house, singing in the morning, taking more pictures of her kids and doing things she finds fun. It’s a great read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to pick up a new book.

So, for 2014, I’ve decided to embark on my own “happiness project”. I’ve come up with a list of things I think will positively impact my personal happiness, as well as a list of three guiding principles. It’s my goal to work away at this list throughout the year to hopefully keep making a better version of me, which should also improve my job and my relationships with family and friends.

So what are my guiding principles? No matter which project I’m working on, these are the things I’m trying to stick to:

    1. Do it when you think about it.
    2. Smile more.
    3. Act the way you want to feel.

And the projects? I’ll talk about the full list in future posts, but in general they fall into these broad categories:

    • Make fitness and health a habit.
    • Increase work productivity.
    • Have more fun.
    • Get the little things out of the way.
    • Build/strengthen personal connections.
    • Make time for me.
    • Think about others.

I’ve already started learning that not everything on my list is going to be easy to accomplish, but I do think it’s all going to be worth it.

So, here’s to a year of putting happiness in my own hands!

What things do you focus on to improve happiness? What impact does improved happiness have on your life? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Stop the work and make time for the people.

As the end of our fiscal year at work winds down, we’ve been putting in a lot of hours trying to get things wrapped up for the current year and get things moving for the start of 2014. That means spending every minute possible at my desk trying to crank away at the many projects we’ve got in the hopper.

Which is why, a couple weeks ago, I was a little irritated to receive a meeting invite for a last minute all agency meeting smack in the middle of the day.

See, everyone knew what the meeting was about. We had won a new piece of business and the pitch team was going to formally announce it to the rest of the agency. In my head, I kept thinking, “Why can’t they just send an email? Why do I have to take 30 minutes when I could be working on client work, just to sit in a conference room and be told something I already know?”

The minute I went to the meeting, though, I realized just how selfish I was being.

This is just a small subset of the awesome people I get to work with every day. Sometimes I need to stop myself for a quick attitude adjustment and remember – these folks are the reason I love my job.
This is just a small subset of the awesome people I get to work with every day. When I get too self-involved in the pressures of the job, I try to take a few moments and remember to be people-focused. After all, these folks are the reason I enjoy heading to work each day.

The meeting wasn’t really about the news at all. It was about the people. It was about recognizing the team that put in long hours to get a piece of business that would benefit us all. It was about giving new staff that had worked on the pitch the chance to share their contributions. It was about getting excited as an agency that we are getting to enter a new business segment and expand our expertise.

In other words, it wasn’t about the work at all. It was about the people.

How often do we get caught up in the work and forget about the people? Whether it’s client work, conquering the never-ending to-do list or meeting a big deadline, there’s always so much to do and so little time to do it. We’ve got our nose to the grindstone so often that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we have teammates at all levels who may need help, a listening ear or a little recognition. While it’s hard to stop what you’re doing (sometimes even for 5 minutes), remember that a good job is rarely about the work. Most times it’s about the people that you get to spend your days laughing, celebrating and overcoming challenges with.

So, next time you’re buried under a pile of paperwork, dig yourself out and take some time to be people-focused instead of work-focused. Play a game of pool, stop by somebody’s desk to check in on their weekend, or take a walk for some coffee, just to get a chance to build those relationships that are so vital to career happiness. If my change in attitude after that meeting was any indication, I think you’ll be glad you did.

Let’s get creative

Would you describe yourself as “creative”? On most days, I wouldn’t. I’m pretty type A, can’t draw and have no eye for colors. I am a pretty good writer, but beyond that, I usually say there isn’t another creative bone in my body.

Which is why it’s pretty lucky I got to hear a great speaker on Thursday.

Last week I attended the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) annual conference and got to hear from Josh Linkner, a best-selling author/entrepreneur/venture capitalist (and fellow Michigander!), on the topic of creativity in business. Here’s some of my biggest takeaways from his presentation:

  • I’m not the only one. Josh referenced a university study which surveyed kindergarteners and found that 98% described themselves as creative. The same study then surveyed high school seniors and found that only 2% describe themselves as such. That means that roughly 98% of adults (including me) don’t think they are creative – but that doesn’t mean they’re right.
  • Creativity is a hot commodity. When 1500 CEOs from across 32 countries were polled, creativity was the single-most important leadership attribute cited. That means, even though most adults don’t feel creative, it’s something that more people should embrace to succeed.
  • Your title doesn’t define your level of creativity. Most people probably wouldn’t describe an accountant as creative. Those people must have never heard of Enron.
  • Everyone can embrace their inner creativity. Josh led a breakout session after his keynote address and he showed us some interactive ways to drive creative ideas when helping our clients. I’ll share my favorites in a later blog post, but suffice it to say that I’m looking forward to trying some of these out with my co-workers!

Every now and then I need a reminder that creativity isn’t limited to being artistic, and Josh’s message hit at just the right time. Do you have any other tricks for improving creativity or stepping outside the norm?

Ideas from our friends in the north!

For the past two days, I have been at the North American Leaders Session, which is a meeting hosted by the Center for Food Integrity designed to bring together leaders of livestock coalitions from across North America to meet and share ideas. Now, you’ll notice that I said North America and not just…well, America. We were really lucky to be joined by a group of great folks from Canada that shared some of their projects and challenges. You may or may not be surprised, but their challenges aren’t much different than ours here in the States and they brought some awesome ideas to the table.

Now, I tweeted about the fact that the Canadian contingent is doing some amazing things related to consumer-outreach and some people on Twitter expressed interest in what those ideas were. In an effort to both share some of those things with you and as a way for me to remember them :) here’s some of the ones I found extremely interesting:

Farmers Feed Cities
This is a program mainly funded by the grain organization in Canada, but has implications for all farmers. Somewhat like the “Farmers Care” program in Michigan, Farmers Feed Cities is designed to raise awareness and education about how farming affects all of us, not just those in rural areas. What I liked most about the program was the material promotions that they’ve put together. They’ve done what I think is a great job with getting the notion of “Farmer Feed Cities” in front of a lot of people. They even gave us a window decal that I fully intend on putting in my car and a pin that’s going on my backpack! You can learn more about what they’re doing on their website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC)
Throughout Canada, there are Farm Animal Councils. The Ontario branch has done a couple of projects that I thought were really neat. They have put together a 40+ page booklet about Canadian agriculture (which is not all that different from the US) called “The Real Dirt on Farming” that they’ve distributed all through the province. It goes to media members, legislators and–something a little different–doctors and other offices. The booklet covers a ton of common topics and is very good at promoting and explaining all types of agricultural production.

They also have created a website where people can take a virtual tour of farms, which range from egg producers to pig farms and orchards. Heather Hargrave, who works for OFAC, said they’d like to get to the point where they produce a modern/conventional, organic and grassfed video for each species that helps show the differences and similarities between different production systems.

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS)
Saskatchewan’s branch of the Farm Animal Council has done some great projects promoting the message that farmers care about their animals (and subsequently the environment and their families). They partook in a very large billboard campaign throughout the province (the largest agricultural media campaign in North America) with the simple message “On our farm…we care.” Billboards featured young farmers and farm families in a variety of animal industries. They partnered with a photojournalist who took the photos, which helped the promotion of the message through journalism circles and built great partnerships with the different commodity organizations to get them done.

They also chose to put together a puppet show–Tales from the FACS Farm–that is used in elementary schools throughout the province to teach kids about animal agriculture. Adele Buettner, who works with FACS, said they hesitated at doing this because they’re not big fans of talking animals (humanizing them) in any way, but also said it ended up being a great choice because of the educational value. They work with a professional puppeteer company and put on the shows at as many schools and libraries as they possibly can during Education Week.

Sometimes we forget about how important it is to get fresh ideas to promote our industries and build trust between food producer and food purchaser. This chance to hear from other people in the US and Canada was a great opportunity for me to think about what we can do in Michigan and throughout the ag industry across the country.

Do you have any neat projects in your state or country that promote agriculture to non-farmers? What do you do? How do you secure funding? Have you done any projects that crashed and burned?!

The pride and tradition of being pure

There’s something about being involved with purebred livestock that just makes my heart swell with pride. Now, that’s not to say anything is wrong with raising commercial livestock – I’m grateful for every farmer that produces the vast majority of what I eat every day – but there’s something to be said for getting around people that have such a deep history in raising outstanding animals.

Like many others, the start of my livestock career focused mainly the county fair. Having only a market show, our goal has always been to develop the best market hog out there – usually the result of crossbreeding. Now, while I will say that I love the market hog aspect (my most favorite set of hogs – Grand Champion Pen! – were a set of crossbred “blue butts”), I developed a whole new appreciation and pride for breeding hogs when I got involved with the National Junior Swine Association, the junior leg of the National Swine Registry.

A Duroc boar from Shipley Genetics in Ohio. Animals like this can have a huge impact on the breed. (And don't you just love how you could drive a truck between his front legs!? Awesome!)

Breeding purebred animals, for me, is an entirely different mindset. Instead of breeding solely for type, you breed for characteristics that will improve the breed – and in turn, all hogs – in the long run. You want to breed Yorkshires and Landraces in a way that will add muscle and leanness to their great mothering ability. You want to add mothering ability and sound structure to the great carcass traits that tend to be associated with Durocs and Hampshires. If anyone can remember how far the pendulum swung towards market hogs that were too lean, too shallow bodied and horribly structured in the late 90s, you know how important the purebred industry can be in making our animals better – whether you’re in commercial production or seedstock production. Having that ability to make an impact is the thing that makes all the difference to me.

Yesterday I got to interview the faculty coordinator and farm manager from the purebred beef farm at MSU and they reminded me how it’s great to be a part of raising seedstock, not only for the pride in your animals, but also for the pride in your people. Throughout the history of the purebred livestock industry, there have been outstanding people that have made a difference – both for animals and for others. There are few things greater than getting to listen to older people – and it doesn’t matter if it’s in cattle, swine, sheep, horses, etc. – talk about those that made a difference in their lives when they were a livestock showman or make a difference in the lives of youth now. That’s huge for me.

As you or your children get involved with livestock – and I sincerely hope you do – I would encourage you to consider involvement in the purebred side of the industry. While both seedstock and commercial production are important for the entire industry, it’s definitely a unique experience to be a part of shaping a breed or multiple breeds. I, for one, am extremely honored to be a part of the great pride and tradition associated with being pure.

The Impact of the Individual

There are a lot of exciting things that happened this past week at the 82nd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. I dropped my first billioniare off at his private plane, I met some of the nicest people in the world, and had my life change in a small way (at least for the next year).

Alexandria Henry was named the 2009-2010 National FFA Eastern Region Vice President.

If you are an FFA member anywhere in the country that has not gotten to meet Alex before, I sincerely hope her travels bring her close to you in the upcoming months. There are very few people that have made the impact on my life that Alex has. I still remember the first time I met her: I was a senior in high school and she was a junior. We were at regional FFA leadership contests and I had come to the extemporaneous public speaking holding room to see my dad, who was chairing the contest. He pointed to the only student left in the room and said, “Have you met Alex? Her dad is an ag teacher, too.”. We muttered our greetings, I talked to my dad for a little bit and left. Little did I know, I had just met the president of my state officer team, my college roomate, my double date buddy, the girl who would let me crash at her house for an entire summer and, most importantly, one of my best friends.

As you may or may not know, Alex is special. She has a heart for not only FFA, but for all people in general. She is the type to leave sticky notes on your desk before you wake up to remind you to have a good day. She may not answer your phone call or text right away, but when she does you will talk for hours and the whole wait seems worth it. She is the one that, when her team is falling apart, becomes the glue to hold us together. The members of the National FFA Organization don’t quite realize how lucky they are about to be. Let me tell you, the members of Michigan FFA will tell you without even blinking an eye.

Over the next year, Alex will have the opportunity to travel from one coast to the other, go to Japan and back, and meet tons of amazing people along the way. She will get to experience this all alongside five other incredible people. Bethany, Chelsea, Levy, Randa, and Chase: you better take care of her for us. We are so happy to share Alex with the 507,000+ members of the National FFA Organization, but know that we will miss her dearly.

Congratulations, Alex, on accomplising your biggest dream yet. We love you!