16 Sep Jonathan Williams
Balancing Travel & Family Life
Originally from a cow-calf operation where “if you tried to stick a drill in the ground, it might break,” Jonathan Williams found success in a career that he never would have expected. Jonathan is a regional product agronomist for Hoegemeyer Hybrids. A career that is tasked with crop science, proactive continued education, one-on-one relationships with growers, and lots of traveling – it seems that Jonathan has found his niche.
Getting Started in AgronomyBalancing Travel & Family Life
While attending Oklahoma State University for his undergrad, Jonathan had every intention of following in his father’s footsteps as an ag teacher. However, it took just a few semesters for Jonathan to realize that being a high school ag teacher wasn’t where his passions were. He quickly switched into a degree better suited to his interests in animal sciences.
“I always wanted to get my masters though,” Jonathan explains. “I graduated with a degree in animal science with plans to get a masters in ruminant nutrition.”
Cattle was where Jonathan’s interests were. Growing up on the cow-calf operation, he had been around cattle, caring for cattle and raising cattle. It seemed like the perfect career choice.
Agronomy Research Center
The same summer that he met his wife, Jonathan found himself working at OSU’s agronomy center. He spent his summer working harvest and planting soybeans and found that he really enjoyed the work.
Walking through the research center shortly after graduation, he happened to run into one of his former professors. On a whim, he asked the professor if he had any openings for a graduate position. At the time, it was the third week of July and Jonathan hadn’t even turned in an application; it was an almost improbable opportunity.
“Yeah! When can you start?” The professor asked.
With classes starting shortly, Jonathan was approved for the graduate position with the agronomy department only two days before the fall term started. From there, you could say that the rest was history and Jonathan was an agronomist!
“I figure it’s never too late to ask.”
~ Jonathan Williams
Moving Through Agricultural Industries
With a background in agronomy by way of ag education and animal science, Jonathan firmly believes that if you capitalize on the opportunities available, the growth of your network will be exponential. On that thread, if you are willing and interested, extend your professional network into experts in other industries. Not only will it provide you more connections but more knowledge on different facets of the industry.
“The amount of people and the amount of avenues that you can take are countless,” says Jonathan about his advice to those trying to advance their careers.
Jonathan has been with Hoegemeyer since June 2016, moving to Kansas when he got the position. He was still finishing up his masters thesis when he took the job and was actually cutting his research plots in July after he had already started the position.
Biggest Challenge: Travel
Jobs that have systematic traveling patterns (i.e. on the road the past two days a week) can be a diversity that is much easier to handle than that of an agronomist. Constantly on the road, spring and summer are Jonathan’s busiest times of the year. Jonathan’s territory includes three states and roughly 65,000 miles.
As his two young children continue to grow, Jonathan has found ways to stay closer to home more but remembers that when he first started the position he would be on the road almost every day of the week.
Hardest Transition from Animal Science to Crop Science
Trying to sell to a customer can be challenging when you didn’t grow up in the lifestyle – it means extra effort on the sellers end to make sure that they are knowledgeable and competent. Jonathan prides himself on not being afraid to chase down an answer and will find the best representative that he thinks will be able to answer the questions that he or his customers may have about a product and then report back.
Being in an area that is geographically different than what he grew up in can also be challenging. He had to spend time to learn the crops and soils of the area.
Best Part of Working for Hoegemeyer
A tight knit organization, Hoegemeyer , like so many other seedstock companies, has found themselves in a lot of change over the past few years with mergers and small private companies changing the face of the industry. Despite being corporate, Hoegemeyer was actually still managed by the grandson of the founder up until the most recent merger where they combined with two other businesses. In that merger, the group has stayed close knit despite the diverse backgrounds of the employees from all three companies.
Balancing Family & Work Tips
Balancing family and work isn’t easy in agriculture but Jonathan gives some of his tips below.
- Have a really great spouse that is understanding.
- Consolidate meetings.
If you are going to be driving to an area, make sure that you get as many meetings or appointments in as possible, in order to lengthen the duration until you have to make that commute or trip again.
- Work with your colleagues and co-workers.
Making sure that you communicate remote with your colleagues is important. Also, make sure that you spend time learning and growing together to create systems for serving customers with attention and care without added labor on either end.
“Growing up I was taught that ‘the world doesn’t owe you anything so you can’t be afraid to ask for it,” says Jonathan. A pivotal part of his career path, it seems unlikely that Jonathan would be in his current career if it wasn’t for the fact that he wasn’t afraid to ask that professor for an unlikely opportunity for a post graduate position.
Jonathan’s second line of advice is to make a plan because, “If you don’t ever make a plan, you won’t make your goals.”
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