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On the Job: From Student and Intern to Farm Credit Employee

On the Job: From Student and Intern to Farm Credit Employee

In 2011, Heather Gibson was introduced to Farm Credit at the AFA Leaders Conference. She interned with American AgCredit in Wichita, Kan. after she earned a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Kansas State University. Next, she began her graduate studies in agricultural economics to Kansas State, and American AgCredit offered her a full-time job opportunity.

Here she shares a little bit about her experiences with the Farm Credit System as well as her advice on pursuing a graduate degree.

How were you introduced to the Farm Credit System
I went to AFA Leaders Conference when I was a junior, and I was paired with Farm Credit. At the industry breakfast, I was touched by the story of the gentleman who sat next to me. The message he gave to us was Farm Credit provides funding for farmers in good times and bad. By working with Farm Credit, you really help those farmers build their operation, leave something for the next generation and reach their goals and aspirations. That appealed to me, and I started seriously considering working for Farm Credit when I graduated.

How were you connected to your internship with American AgCredit?
When I returned to K-State for my senior year, I decided to go on to graduate school. I knew I was going to have a summer open after I finished my undergrad degree and a friend who had a good experience at American AgCredit told me how great the people were, how well I would fit in and how much I would enjoy it. I reached out to them through my friend and career fairs.

Tell us a little bit about your internship with American AgCredit.
I was hired as a credit intern. We spent some time learning the credit program and how they did analysis. We spent some time shadowing people in the credit department and also had the freedom to explore other departments. We spent a few days with the marketing manager and some time with the loan officers. We had opportunities to hop in a pickup and visit with customers or serve hamburgers at the county fair.

They also sent us to Santa Rosa, California, for a week of credit training. It helped establish a foundation for the credit culture and credit philosophy. It was a great experience. At the end of the summer, nothing was decided about the future of our working relationship. From the beginning, I had told them I would be pursuing my master’s degree in the fall. I kind of expected I would finish my master’s and then reach out to them for a position after I graduated two years later.

Why did you make the decision to pursue your master’s degree?
Ultimately, I decided if I left K-State without getting my master’s I would really regret it. Personally, I would have trouble working in the industry and then going back to grad school. I felt like the agriculture industry and the environment farmers and ranchers are in was growing more complex. I knew if I wanted to play a part in helping them manage risk or the environment they are in, I needed to be better equipped. I really just wanted to learn more.

After you started graduate school something happened that changed your plans a little bit. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
In my second semester of graduate school, American AgCredit reached out to me about a position in their credit department. At that point, they knew they would have to work with me since I had another year of graduate school left. We worked out the logistics, and I accepted a full-time position with them in July. This past semester, I started my third semester as a grad student and was working for American AgCredit I worked in Wichita, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then went to my classes in Manhattan on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. When I wasn’t in class, I had my laptop and I could work for American AgCredit in the afternoons.

This semester, I’m working on my thesis nights and weekends with my major professor. I will hopefully defend sometime at the end of March or beginning of April and graduate with my master’s in May. Then I will be a full-time resident of Wichita and a full-time employee of American AgCredit.

What were some of the key factors that allowed you to work for American AgCredit while continuing your education?
If you’re going to go to graduate school while you’re employed, open communication is key. Make sure you have a game plan and everyone understands their role. Make sure your company supports your plan and get advice from your supervisors.

For me to be successful, it took flexibility. It took understanding and cooperation. It took support. It took graciousness from my managers. I was a technically a full-time employee, but there was no hiding that I wasn’t doing the work of a full-time employee because I had my school responsibilities. The lines of communication were always open. That’s what really got us through this last semester.

Everybody has been so understanding. It’s amazing what you can do when you have the right people supporting you.

How did you know you wanted to work for American AgCredit?
Everybody I worked with was truly a joy, and they were so welcoming when I was an intern. I knew these were people who shared the same goals, values and work ethic as me. If you have those things in common it makes for a fun work environment. I was part of a team that is here to make the ag industry better. It was inspiring. These were people that I wanted to have a career with.

If you’re interested in learning more about career opportunities with American AgCredit and other Farm Credit organizations, visit our careers page. This article was provided by Agriculture Future of America, learn more about Farm Credit's partnership with AFA.