Most people think their path is linear. Go to school, get your degree and land your dream job. But what people neglect to consider are the forks in the road that can lead to great experiences.
In this episode, two successful young animal science professionals Dr. Nathan Horne and Dr. Sophy Parker Norman, share how being open to different experiences benefited their education and career in the Farming Industry.
What You’ll Learn
About our Founder:
Casey Bradley Ph.D. is an Experienced Animal Scientist and Nutritionist that has worked with swine, poultry, ruminants, and pets. Specialties include product development, technical writing, and presentations, research, technical sales, mentoring, and networking. Academic training includes nutrition, immunology, and animal wellbeing. She has presented at large conferences in USA, Canada, Greece, and Denmark. Work experience includes farm management, research management, technical service and sales, regulatory, project management, and employee management.
About the Guests:
Dr. Sophie Parker Norman is a Globally experienced professional within the ruminant and monogastric feed industries. Expertise in ruminant nutrition, immunology, feed additives and nutritional services. Responsible for innovation in animal nutrition at Volac International, manufacturers of Megalac sustainable rumen-protected fat, Ecosyl silage inoculants, feed additives, and calf milk replacers.
Dr. Nathan Horn is originally from central Indiana and developed his passion for the swine industry during his 4-H career showing purebred pigs. He earned a B.S in Animal Science and Biology, an M.S. in Poultry Nutrition, and a Ph.D. in Swine Nutrition and Physiology from Purdue. His graduate research programs were under the guidance of Drs. Layi Adeola and Kola Ajuwon. Following his M.S. degree and during his Ph.D. program (2006 to 2016) Dr. Horn was employed in various roles at United Animal Health including formulation, nursery pig research and technical support, product development, and swine research management. From 2016 to summer 2020 he was employed at BioMatrix and served various roles supporting research, technical service, and business management. During the Fall of 2020, he returned to United Animal Health as a Staff Scientist within the swine novel products division. Nathan’s professional interests include product development and validation and research model development especially as it pertains improving swine gastrointestinal function and mitigating mycotoxins.
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Well, thank you. I'm going to let Trish take over on the question but I think the one we're gonna start with because I like this question. We have from Jordan, Nathan. He wants to thank you for sharing your experiences. But he's curious he made that I wasn't mature enough to go from my master's, my PhD. What does that mean? What was that benefit in? I think you and I both have similar stories to where we are in Sofia as well. We worked in the industry in between degrees. How has that made it better for you?
I of course it's gonna mean a little bit different to everybody, I think but for me, if you have the chance, and your situation allows, I would recommend you know at least two years of industry experience. I think that most of the professor's I've worked with know that I think it should be a requirement personally. But I think it just adds a lot of perspective. Makes things a lot easier when you get into a leadership role. You have that perspective.
So, Marissa, I'm reflecting back on our webinar where we had with some of my friends and respected young professionals out there are really sought out a panel of experts that have worked in different roles have had different experiences and were not afraid to jump out of their comfort zone and travel internationally. They covered some really good topics and questions from the audience. And let's go ahead and start with the first one that Nathan Horn touched on and that was work experience. Age of going to graduate school. A lot of people myself included when I was young it was like ‘’How fast can I climb the corporate ladder?’’ And you think about that if you're going to go on for advanced degrees, and I'm talking about Marissa, if you don't know Marissa, she is a fast learner accelerated in her education path person, so we're going to get her perspective here. But it doesn't have to be that straight line and I think Nathan and I had a lot of the same shared experiences. So, I wanted to hear from him. He took breaks in between his degrees and had that work experience.
He states that he thinks it's mandatory. Dr. Bradley myself would say the same thing. And I've gotten into arguments with professors, suggesting that a student can take a master's degree and have a three-year program and have them work on a special project where they're getting a lot of experience. It may take them longer, but this mindset of academia is to push the students out as fast as they can. And so where do you get that balance from? And now I want to listen to Marissa because you ended high school early, you graduated I think your undergrad early, and you were starting graduate school before you were what 21 years old? So talk about that mindset. And as you think about that acceleration that you've done already, and your career.
Yes, I finished high school early. I still did four years of undergrad but I will finish my master's here in a few months at only 20 years old. Age-wise. I'm a lot further behind a lot of my peers in the same program that I am. However, as Casey mentioned, experience comes a lot in the play and some professors think he may need some more experience or that experiences should be mandatory. And I think after my master’s or I know after my master's, I'm going to take a break and get some industry experience. I'm not sure that a PhD is anywhere in my future or near future, but if it is, I will have that experience under my belt and hopefully we'll be able to put a different perspective onto a PhD program versus jumping straight from a master's to a PhD.
I'm going to spend it if you're not a traditional student or a younger career professional listening to this, I'm going to spend this to I've met several people. And I'm going to use John Bergstrom as an example because I've also known him throughout his career. He's taken different paths. He was a Marine; I respect him for his service. He also went back into the Army Reserve and did the Vet Corps and things like that in his career. So, he was not a traditional student either, and I think he worked full time if I remember right, John, if you're listening, I apologize. But he also worked for the University while he got his degrees.
I worked during my masters and my PhD from the University and made a little bit more money, but I gained tons more experience. And if you're thinking like ‘’I'm stuck, there's no way for me to go up in this career path’’, what about a new career idea? Will your company support you? Have you been there long enough to say hey, I really want to take this challenge, Just roll you keep telling me I don't have the degree or I don't have the experience to get there? Well, it's never too late to go back to school, and there's so many new programs now that you can go back to school while working full time. I'm going to tell you, doing it through my masters and my PhD. It was tough. I mean, I literally put 40 to 60 hours a week on the farm and I came home and I studied at night I wrote my thesis at night. I think some of these graduate students I learned are quite coddled, actually in their studies, but it's really intensive if it's a goal that something you want there's a and there's a will there's a way so Marissa thinking about that mindset, you're young yet but if there's a challenge or you are afraid to face it in the future or reinvent yourself and go down different career paths that are maybe like an MBA for instance. What is your thoughts about that even for professionals thinking about going back to graduate school, or a different type of program to accelerate their career?
I'd have to say right now I'm not entirely sure that I know exactly what I want my career path to look like and I'm definitely open to other options. Obviously getting my foot in the door and getting started is the priority right now. But down the line, I could see myself maybe getting an MBA or going back to school for something maybe not so relevant to animal nutrition as I'm a learner and I like to take opportunities to advance myself in ways outside of just my not so narrow career field but the field of animal agriculture. There are so many aspects that go into it and there are ways that you can level up your knowledge in different areas to then foresee a future career advancement within the same company or within a different company, I think the options are very endless for fresh grads to advance their career experience and for those professionals who maybe want to change their career going back to school. The opportunities are there.
And I was gonna say Dorie Clark, she has got a good book out there. I follow her quite a bit as she calls herself the expert on reinventing themselves. Well, I think I officially have become the expert, unrelenting myself in the animal science world. And I say that is because you know, I've always loved to mentor students I've always loved to teach and early in my career, I thought I had to go get a PhD and then become a professor. At the time there wasn't positions open. Today. I do not feel like I want to go back to academic setting. I'm never gonna say never though. But at the same time when I think about if that's some of the things I like, well, technical service is all about teaching, is all about service: extension, teaching, there's ways to do that, not in that traditional path. And then we look at my career today, everybody knows me as a swine nutritionist. But that's the least of what I do. I understand nutrition, but I know how to critically think those skills I learned in graduate school, those skills I learned as a researcher from data analytics to critical thinking applies in everything I do as an entrepreneur, and starting my business.
You won't find a better Excel sheet on the business analytics in different data, and the touchpoints I have, and it's so funny I glazed over in marketing meetings when they would come up and talk about this customer journey and the sales sheets and all that and guess what? This data-driven person in my career as a researcher is now a data-driven, analytical marketing business nerd in her bit own business. Like Marissa said, anything is possible, but you should never feel stuck. And I and say, if you're listening this and you're not in the animal agriculture industry, but you love animals, and you thought you’d check us out. I'm telling you, we need some fresh perspective. So if you aren't like us, nerds, I'm gonna call nerds because nerds are cool. I'm sorry, we're cool. But you know that we need some fresh perspectives in the industry. Any last-minute thoughts you want on that topic that Nathan touched on of having that work experience and your career and kind of what you think where you've been and where you're going to go towards?
Reflecting back on how I did school, I think that it really could have benefited me to have a year or two experience on the farm experience before starting my master's. Now I regret the path that I took, but I definitely think it could have added some different perspectives. Into my education that maybe didn't realize at the time. Or maybe I realize now I wish I would have known so I didn't I think there's no right way to do it. Take it with a grain of salt when people give you advice, do what your gut tells you.
And then yeah, and if there's not a road there, build your own road right? Go off-road in anything possible.
(Continuing with the Webinar Segment)
So it seems common for many to go internationally early in their career to gain experience in work life and culture. What do you think is the best advice to give a fresh grad like a PhD looking for and applying to international employment?
I think that it's just so important to look at the company that you're applying to, is it the kind of company that really has got an international coverage and market reach? Nine times out of 10, you know, if you're going into like a technical type role, centrally within a company, you're going to have to travel to different regions, and quite often companies will push that I mean, you know, who knows post COVID world what it will be like, as I'm sure we'll do less traveling around the world, but even so, I think the key is just making a good selection on that first company you're going to, I have friends who did very similar PhDs and they've gone into industry, but they don't work in international companies that kind of UK best companies and they've not had the same experience. And it depends on what you want. But if you do want to that international travel, then I think the selection of the company that you're working for is really important.
Now we're taking a different approach, with a question asked by Trish to Sophie, about international experience, and I've had tons of international experience in my life. On this panel, we had Caroline and Neil. They both moved internationally. Caroline came to the US to go to school. They both went to the University of Illinois, Neil ended up in the Netherlands, Caroline in Germany of all places. And they had a really good exposure, but Sophie, I had the opportunity to work with Sofia at VISTA to where she was UK based, kind of like me. We worked a lot on the forum, we kind of hit it and we really wanted to get that experience internationally Sophie has grown into a superstar in her career and I am so proud of her, but when I look at the experience and this goes for new grads, and even seasoned professionals that think about, especially where do you want to be in life, do you want to live out of a suitcase? I think it's important to get that exposure to different cultures. Because I learned so much in my career from traveling the world about how other people do it, and I get this stigma, especially being an American. That ‘’Hey, that's great that you do that in America but that's not how it's done here’’. Saying the same people in America would say it's a big, it's somebody from Germany came to the US and talked about pig production. And I laugh over that stigma or that mindset that we can't learn from each other. And I think it's really important that to be able to professionally grow, to have that ability to meet other people out of your niche. If you're not that person and you like your little box, then find a career that you can say in your box, but don't be shocked that if I say I'm not going to travel more than two days a week, I'm not going to travel internationally, I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. This is why even later in your career. If you're listening to this, this is why opportunities don't come your way because you're not open to making a small sacrifice for a short period of time for a big win.
And I see that from Sophie is she traveled a lot to the US she kind of maybe wanted to move here in her life knowing her as my friend, but she also is now back in the UK, very happy has an international job. She's a director, so very successful in her decisions, but I don't think she would have had the same success as she wasn't willing to take that risk and say ‘’yes, I'll jump on that plane and learn’’, and I think that's kind of what I took from her comment, if you met Sophie, early in her career, to listening to her just now, she's a totally different person. She's truly grown in her career, and as a friend and being able to walk beside her even as a colleague and seeing that grow out of her. impresses me. She's one of the top young professionals in my mind in the animal nutrition industry today. And I think what she's talking about is that sometimes you have to make some sacrifices to get exposed to truly grow into that level that you want to be. Marissa what is your thoughts? Does international scare you?
I'm actually very intrigued about some international opportunities. I think it would be very beneficial to not only personal development, but in my career, some professional development to just, you know, be able to either work in another country or maybe work internationally just to being able to travel to different countries to kind of immerse myself in different cultures because the agriculture industry as a whole is such a diverse and it's a global industry and you're constantly going to be working with people from all over the place and just being able to maybe experience that, I think it definitely proved very beneficial to my career. I mean, I have nothing tying me to us right now. So I think definitely early on in my career. I could see myself maybe taking some opportunities to do some international travel or potentially relocate.
What are some things that scare you about that International like ‘’Okay, Mom and Dad, I'm moving to clear across the world’’. what are some reservations?
Moving across the world a little different than moving from Indiana and South Dakota culture still pretty similar.
Still a big risk for a lot of people.
Right! I think starting small was a good move for me, but I think some of the reservations I may have about living internationally is just maybe not being aware of all the different cultures. And I definitely have to do my research before going anywhere. I've never done any international travel, So it's something completely new. It scares me slightly, but that also turns into a little bit of excitement and ambition to kind of want to do it. I've done a lot of traveling lately, and I think maybe I've got a nice little niche for it.
She's learned to pack a suitcase.
I definitely think that I have a few reservations about it. But more than anything, I think it's something that I can see myself doing and I'm excited to hopefully have the opportunity to do it in my career.
And another fun thing for the audience. So when I travel internationally, there is one thing I crave coming back to the US every time and I just want a big fat cheeseburger. Doesn’t matter where I go, as just the big cheeseburger plays with all the fixings and I'm really happy.
So coming from a picky eater I think that might be one of my bigger reservations is learning to eat in a different country
I may be concerned with Marissa and maybe a baker diet opportunity, I don't know (laughs). But there's something else about working with people internationally. And if you're in the US and that scares you. There's something about working from people if say you're in Kansas, that's where we are right now recording this, but if I'm in the central US, and I grew up in Kansas all my life, there is even something in the US to say ‘’If we think about the US it's really like Europe’’, our states are like countries over in Europe.
Moving from Kansas, the central US, for instance all the way to the east coast or west coast. The cultures are different. And there are a lot of things to learn from interacting with people that you didn't grow up with or areas in culture and things that you can apply back in your career and different perspectives, and I can use an example back from high school if you're listening to this insane ‘’I'm not going internationally. What does this mean for me?’’…
I grew up in rural Michigan on a pug farm, very white base school that I went to, very country-oriented working class. I participate in a program called Youth in Government and I meet these friends, we're on the law team and we're competing and you know, mock trials and stuff and we make me these friends from Ann Arbor and they're all Muslim, and incredible people, but they ordered pizza so we ordered pizza because we're getting ready for our competition and hanging out and they ordered a Hawaiian pizza without ham and I was taken aback by that. They didn’t eat ham on their Hawaiian pizza and I didn't know about different cultures or religions that they could not eat pork and I was taken aback by that I was a little offended, and I look back and I just have to laugh now about that culture shock for me to say ‘’What do you mean you can't eat pork?’’ And if you knew me, my husband can't eat pork but because he's allergic to it and we don't like to go to the hospital that often. That's just a simple example that I didn't even cross state lines and I met a different type of person, and I was open to that experience. That stuck with me a long time to be very open minded and not get offensive. I see a lot of people get offensive, I've worked with people in the animal sector that are vegetarians for one thing, and people get offended by that and I don't, because there's different reasons for being vegetarian, not eating pork, or not wearing a baseball cap or wearing a scarf over your head, I think there's so much we can learn and you're not going to learn that. It's not going to influence you in a positive way, if you're not open to it. And you don't put yourself out there any thoughts about culture moving because South Dakota and Indiana I think are a little different.
I think everywhere you go you can find a little place of home something that feels familiar and I think that's what's kept me grounded. I think even when you go to other cultures, you can find some way to relate to those people or the culture. So yeah, just find the common ground and be willing, nope, and to learn from those experiences and what maybe different food choices people have to offer. I eat differently now than I did when I lived in Indiana. So maybe moving internationally will help broaden my palate.
Maybe she’ll eat cooked vegetables (laughs). Well, I hope you get a lot from this episode. And basically, I think there are two things experiences can come from work experience and personal experiences. To make you a better professional, help you get to that next level in your career.
Are you willing to take the path less traveled? As Robert Frost once said: ‘’Two roads diverged in a wood. I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference’’