22 Apr Andrew Lauver
Never Eat Lunch Alone
Andrew Lauver’s grandfather always said, “never eat lunch alone.” A captivating thought that Andrew saw epitomized in a John F. Kennedy story of a tour of NASA, where he asked the janitor, “What do you do?” The janitor’s response? “Send rocket ships to space.”
It’s the age old statement that is sometimes forgotten in the modern activities of today; every person, from the janitor to the CEO, matters in the mission of the company. An Iowan farmer, Andrew has been raised with the morals and values of small rural communities, but has capitalized on networking relationships to continue to chase his dreams of being a leader in agriculture and named to the AgGrad 30 Under 30 list.
Current Professional Role:
Manager of Industry Relations at Syngenta North America
Focused on commodity associations and working with the grower leaders of these associations is how Andrew spends his professional career. It involves agriculture policy, discussion on issues and seizing opportunities in agriculture, and the efforts of an annual week long media, public speaking, technology and issues training seminar called Leadership at its Best. Being able to have comfortable conversation between both business leaders and growers, bridging the gap between the two, is imperative to his role.
There isn’t a direct path to this position, it’s based more on the route taken and efforts made in the field to connect with industry professionals and growers alike. For Andrew, that route started at three years-old, bouncing in the buddy seat of the tractor with his father and grandfather; both men that he highly respects. Knowing that the family farm wouldn’t be able to sustain four families and three generations, he earned his undergrad at Iowa State University, then a masters in Agriculture Business from Kansas State and now he’s currently enrolled in Law School at Drake University, pursuing a masters of jurisprudence in agriculture and sustainability.
Tips for building a relationship with someone who has more experience than you:
- Be careful of how you present yourself when you stand up and talk.
- You can always control what you wear; dress professionally.
- Come with talking points prepared for that meeting.
- Communicate the context of the agenda with the host of the meeting.
- Do your homework.
- Talk internally with colleagues with more experience than you.
- When you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I will check and get back to you.”
- Recognize where your experience falls in line and find the best time and way to share.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“As I keep moving through my career, I continue to remind myself that I am a farm kid from Lake City, Iowa. I always reflect back on those days in 4H exhibiting cattle. My father always told me that the calves eat breakfast before you do. It was important to feed them before I ate because they couldn’t feed themselves. That’s something that I have carried with me everywhere I go – executing on what I say I am going to do; if I say I’m going to do it, I will get it done. I never want to be more than one step from the farm.”
“Where are you going?” “I’m going to see you Senator!”
As a junior in college, Andrew was part of a group that started the Iowa State Corn Growers Association, a college chapter to the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Heading towards Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Andrew saw Senator Charles Grassley eating an apple, sitting on a bench and reading a newspaper in the Des Moines, Iowa airport.
“Surely he’s sitting first class,” Andrew though when he saw him. Boarding the plane, as Andrew went to place his bag in the overhead carrier, he realized he was assigned to sit right next to Senator Grassley.
“There were two options; ignore him or see if he’ll talk to me,” Andrew told himself.
“Hi Senator, how are you?” Andrew asked, reaching out for a handshake.
“I’m good, where are you going?”
“I’m going to see you Senator!”
This simple greeting led to a two-hour conversation that resulted in an internship offer from Senator Grassley that led to Andrew’s graduation a semester early to move to Capitol Hill.
“It changed my life,” says Andrew. “It opened a door and Senator Grassley did that for me.”
Tips for Authentic Networking
- Really be yourself.
- People are most interested in who you are, what your story is, where you come from and what you are passionate about.
- Chase what you are passionate about and align yourself with people who are also excited about those things.
- Cultivate those relationships.
- People may not always see eye to eye with you, or you with them, but it’s equally important to have those close relationships with those people.
- “My goal when I am connecting with folks is to learn as much as I can about them in a genuine way; have them share what they care about most and how your connection can benefit them.”
- Follow up!
- Find 5 more tips here!
Make sure to subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture and follow along on the special “30 Under 30 in Agriculture” series! You can follow Andrew on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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