Work/Life Balance and Technical Agronomy with Nicole Stecklein

Balancing a career, family and personal life can prove to be overwhelming, especially with the constant changes in the agriculture industry. But it can be executed fairly well with the right mindset. At least, that’s what Nicole Stecklein, a technical agronomist for Monsanto’s Dekalb Asgrow brands in Northeast, Iowa, believes.


Implementing work life balance


Work life balance has become a prominent topic of concern around the world in more recent years. The ultimate question is how do you achieve work life balance with a career in the agriculture industry?


With her husband managing and running a farm and Nicole working as an agronomist, she says it’s been a trial and error process for her to get to a good place in balancing out her life.


“One thing I want to point out about work life balance is it looks different for everybody,” she said. “I’m a career person. I love my job and I love agriculture and farming, so for me it’s easy to integrate my kids into my job and my passion.”


It might not be as easy for other agricultural professionals to integrate different parts of their lives to achieve a work life balance, but Nicole has found that the agriculture industry is extremely family oriented, so it does help.


Here are a few tips Nicole recommends for those striving to achieve a work life balance while working in the agriculture industry.


  • Don’t think you’re doing a bad job.— There’s a lot of pressure on parents right now to constantly be present. Children can do well without their parents being there 100 percent of the time. They need to be able to build relationships with other people besides their parents and they need to feel secure even when their parents are not around. Don’t feel guilty if you are working on yourself and your career because that is important, too.


  • Not everything’s going to be perfect— When children are young, that’s when you really want to put in a lot of time, but that’s also usually when you’re trying to advance your career. Be willing to say no. Career is important. Make sure you’re not feeling guilty for not being home with your kids but also make sure you’re not feeling guilty for not being at work. The great thing about agriculture is that every team that I’ve been on says family comes first.


Living life as an agronomist


As an agronomist, Nicole’s daily schedule changes based on the yearly season she is in. Each season brings different tasks that are all equally important.

  • Winter— In the winter, Nicole spends most of her time training constituents who sell the Dekalb Asgrow hybrids and varieties. She teaches them what they different hybrids are, their strengths and weaknesses and where the products fit well. She teaches how to best sell the products that fit each farmers and field.
  • Spring — During the spring, Nicole is tasked with helping plant Monsanto’s seed test plots. She has to make sure the plots are planted correctly so that she can collect the best possible data to evaluate the hybrid’s performance.
  • Summer— Most of Nicole’s summer is spent evaluating plots. She becomes a detective to help discover what is causing problems and how those problems can be remedied. She also accesses that the ratings breeders put on products fit what is growing in the field.
  • Fall— In the fall, Nicole is responsible for collecting plot data to enter into Monsanto’s system during harvest. She runs reports to analysis and evaluate the company’s product performance.


“In my job, I get to be the detective,” Nicole said. “I like knowing more than other people. I like being an expert and I like being an educator. I like helping other people understand problems and learn things. I’m also very passionate about agriculture. That is why I do what I do. I like educating and passing on the information that I learn. That’s the best part about it.”


To learn more about being an agronomist, subscribe to Nicole’s YouTube Channelor follow her on Twitter @nicolestecklein


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Alex Lowery