30 Sep Mindy McBee
Seizing Opportunities in Your Career
Mindy McBee knew that she had a passion for working with people but if you had told her she was going to manage pricing and feed for Cargill Feed & Nutrition, she might not have believed you. Mindy began her career journey at Kansas State University in the apparel design program. She found herself navigating through Cargill taking trainings and moving upwards in her career, before she found the opportunity to be the pricing supervisor.
What is a Pricing & Formulation Manager?
“Essentially, my team is responsible for pricing every single feed that ships out of our over 50 feed locations across the U.S.,” explains Mindy. “We also formulate or choose what specifically is in the diet of every feed that we are shipping…”
Taking inputs from their nutritionists, technology teammates, and on-farm consultants, they are able to negotiate the perfect rates for Cargill’s feed and nutrition program. It is a constantly dynamic job with the team balancing the needs and specifications of the product with what ingredients are available and still providing the best value to their customers.
Why is pricing a constant process of pricing and formulating?
“We are only as good as the market intel that we have,” says Mindy. With a great merchandising team to buy ingredients that will lower the margin for the customer, they are also having to battle against competitors facing the same challenges. There are a lot of different factors that could put Cargill out of play so they rely heavily on customer feedback, the sales team, and merchandising teams to put all the pieces together in a way that is competitive for the end consumer.
Preparing for a job like this:
There are many ways to get into the world of pricing and formulating feed and, at Cargill, they will teach you everything that you need to know. In the formulation sector there are a lot of animal science degrees. While, in the pricing sector, there are any kind of business, economics, agribusiness, etc. degrees.
Personally, Mindy graduated with a degree in Agricultural Business from Kansas State University. Beginning her career with Cargill in the merchandising space, she went through training programs and different locations before she internally moved through Cargill to be the pricing supervisor.
Spending five years as the pricing supervisor, Mindy slowly began taking on more and more responsibility and now manages the entire team. A team that she can honestly call her “work family” as she knows their work styles but also each team member personally.
“[It was] Kind of a career leap to go from trading to this role, but [trading] was a great background in understanding the market and made the transition into pricing, especially easier,” explains Mindy.
With her team sitting in the middle of all of the functions, Mindy says that they communicate every day with supply chains, sales teams, customer service, strategy and marketing. It requires balancing a lot of asks with a variety of priorities.
Colleagues come to the team with the challenges that they are having and requests to alleviate customer pain points. Making one decision requires attention to detail to understand that a “yes” to one decision will not have a negative impact on someone else. Not causing problems for any one person or customer when solving a separate problems can be extremely frustrating and Mindy labels as the hardest part of her job.
While management of so many factors can be challenging for some, it is one of Mindy’s favorite parts. Mindy enjoys the opportunity to get her “hands dirty” and enjoy the hands on parts of her job. In moving through the ranks of the company, she has a strong understanding of what her team members are doing daily so she finds herself empathetic and understanding when an issue may arise.
“They are knowledgeable and my job is to make sure they have the resources they need, not ask too much from them, challenge them and poke holes in what they bring forth,” explains Mindy. The people who report to Mindy are experts in their areas but have also had the opportunity to see her grow, just as she has seen them grow.
Mobility within a Company
Mindy’s best recommendation for your career is to build your network, cultivate working mentorship relationships, and navigate your career with purpose. This theory also applies to your ability to positively and successfully move within a large company.
“When I first came to [Cargill], I had an awesome mentor and boss right away,” says Mindy.
It is always important to be building your network. You never know when it might pay off!
Don’t be intimidated by a company’s size
Large companies like Cargill will typically attend career fairs at universities and it’s important to understand that the network you build may not assist you at the moment the connection is made but later down the road. The perfect analogy is your university system. While a place like Kansas State may be a large umbrella to encompass the entire university, it becomes less intimidating when you break it down into the individual departments (i.e. school of engineering, school of agriculture, etc.) and even smaller when broken into individual classes.
This is the same schematic format of Cargill. On a day-to-day, Mindy may feel like she works for a 2,000 person company, not a 166,000 person global company. A benefit of a company this size is the opportunities to network and grow on a global scale, but know that in the day-to-day it’s not that intimidating.
Entrepreneurship – Following Passions
“I think a lot of people that have a nine to five job or work for a large company wonder what it would be like to be an entrepreneur and have a side hustle,” says Mindy. “I’m not different.”
While Mindy loves her job, her itch for entrepreneurship was strong and so, with the help of a few friends, she was able to turn her hobby into a business to balance the workload.
Casey Bloom Company was Kansas City’s first flower van! A fun and challenging business, the team spent a lot of time repairing their 36 year old van, networking and booking events. They sold make-your-own bouquets and pre-made bouquets at events.
Much to Mindy’s dismay, it became a work-work balance though and she didn’t see that they would be able to outsource Casey Bloom Company anytime soon. As the side hustle became more and more stressful, what was once fun was now more frustrating: it wasn’t a good situation.
They did the smart thing – they quit while they were ahead. Letting the van close in the fall, they didn’t reopen the next spring and sold the van. In the process, Mindy learned a lot about marketing, building something brand new, social media, and more.
“It was absolutely worth the pain and frustration, but it’ll definitely make me think twice about doing something outside of work [again],” she says with a laugh.
One piece of advice that I have really been reflecting on a lot recently is that sometimes, throughout your career, you’re going to have to manage your career. You’re going to be aggressive about what you want. But you also have to take into consideration what is happening with you personally, what’s going on with your family, and what is going on outside of work. It’s important that people think about the whole picture. If you are struggling personally, it will impact your work. Be the best person you can – don’t be scared of that.
You can reach Mindy on LinkedIn or by emailing her at Mindy_McBee@Cargill.com.
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