Kirstine Stewart’s Life Lessons Know No Industry Boundaries

"The time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace." Kirstine Stewart in Our Turn

Anticipation

October 20, 2015 was the release date for “Our Turn” by Kirstine Stewart.  I waited patiently for my local book store to call to let me know my copy had arrived. Twitter was abuzz with details and positive comments about this hot new book on women and leadership. When the call came, I hurried to the book store.  The owner was as happy to put the book in my hands as I was to receive it.

I selected this book to review after reading Kirstine Stewart’s bio on the Advancing Women website. She had been a keynote speaker at AWCWest2015. I knew her book would be at more corporate and executive level than my daily life, but, I was equally sure she had something to say of importance for all women.

I wondered

….does working your way from Girl Friday to the head of Twitter’s North American Media Partnerships transfer to the world of women working in the businesses and companies that research, develop, support, supply and promote the agricultural industry?

…..would her strategies and wisdom apply to women involved in the business of on-farm production? I wanted to find out what the former head of the CBC might offer those who manage businesses from office windows overlooking animals or on a screen in a tractor cab or at a board room table shaped like the tailgate of truck.

As women engaged in agriculture, our ladders of success are unique.  Stewart’s words for her daughter speak to the value of that uniqueness. “What I tell her about ambition, as I would tell any woman, is that success is not just about climbing.  Leading comes from learning, in all its forms, and personal happiness will only be yours when you choose your own ladder.” (p12)  No matter where you are on your ladder, Stewart’s book guides your next steps!

The Details:

202 pages (very manageable)
$29.95 (most reasonable)
9 Chapters, Multiple subsections (all with captivating titles)
Index (11 pages – love this feature)
Numerous dog-eared pages (New copy does not come with this feature, must read & mark important pages)

Reading Response #1 – Dust Jacket Success

Kirstine Stewart’s photo greets me as I open the cover of my shiny new book. The front flap accomplishes its’ purpose.  I am intrigued by the statement “Simply put: the time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace.”

Reading Response #2 – Did I Make the Right Choice?

Stewart’s writing is current, honest and impressive.  It’s high profile, corporate and speaks to her experiences at Paragon Entertainment, Alliance Atlantis, CBC/Radio-Canada and Twitter Canada.  I can’t help but wonder how her words will apply to me and my readers. Page 3 has already given me a positive indicator.  Stewart gives importance to working at a bookshop, library and an agricultural museum (Milton??) by including them as early points along her career pathway. She tells how she responded to an ad, in a newspaper, for her first job as a Girl Friday.  The experiences, as she worked her way through university, gave her the skills and confidence to see the job opportunity, take a chance and then apply herself beyond measure.  The successful results of this attitude resonate in all work worlds.

Reading Response #3 – “Young lady, stop ruining your book”

Reading, reading, reading….. I’m turning the corners of pages to mark content I want to reread or quotes I want to include. My high school English teacher would cringe watching me happily ruin the appearance of this book.  Almost every page is provoking my thinking and inspiring me.  No questions now on book choice.

Reading Response #4 – Quotes & Notes

Stewart’s main message is that women have the talents, skills and attitudes that are best suited for the work world of today. She provides practical strategies along with experiences, observations and visionary statements.

I challenge myself to select four quotes to share.  It’s difficult to narrow down all of those dog-eared pages.

Personal Development – “If you never fail it means you are never trying anything new.  Success means you’ve made more right decisions than wrong ones, but you can’t let failure define you.” (p61)

“The idea of balance doesn’t reflect how the world works, or how we truly spend our time.  It’s not about achieving balance, it’s about flow.” (p130)

Family – “Life’s great hat trick-love, kids and career”…”What has to change is the question.  It’s not “How do you do it all,” but “How will we do it all.”  ….”The work-life juggle isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a family issue-no matter the makeup of that family.  No player scores a hat trick alone; it has to be a team effort. (p102,115,117)

Leadership – “To me, that’s how we need to lead today: being there at the top to clearly express the aims, set goals and expectations, ensure people have what they need to work and then get out of the way so they can get the job done.” (p95)

“The more you act like a leader, the more you learn to be one.  And the more you will be seen as one.  Like strengthening a muscle, it just takes practice.” (p99)

Workplace – “What matters to modern employees is to feel that they’re making a meaningful contribution, that they have purpose and a stake in the work they do, and a certain amount of autonomy in how it gets done.” (p151)  The meeting table isn’t a place to go it alone, but a place where you anchor yourself as part of a team. (p77)

Reading Response #5 – “Dig in your heels & stand tall”

Book finished. Mind full. Wondering.

If you tweet @kirstinestewart late on a Friday night, will she respond?

She does, not once but twice.  She even makes a joke.

I look for a specific quote and find it on page 172. “But today, when it’s not about power but about building connections with employees and the customers you serve, it’s the smartest way to operate.”

Kirstine Stewart is that smart operator.  She talks the talk, walks the walk.

(And “yes”, it was the Ag Museum in Milton!)

-Joan C.

Member Profile: Emma Harris

A quick introduction: My name is Stephanie Craig and I a 29-year-old communications professional currently working for the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph. I’ve been thinking about mentorship through the sharing of experiences for a while now, ever since I read a book called “The Mom Shift” by Reva Seth. It explored the professional successes of women after they became mothers and is filled with case study-styled stories about women and their personal and professional journeys. I want try to produce something similar for the Ag Women’s Network (AWN). I believe that by sharing the experiences of the AWN members, we can all learn, be inspired and encourage one another. The focus of the profiles I will be submitting to the blog will be on women who primarily work off of the farm, although many will also be primary producers.

If you know of a woman whom you think would be a great person to profile, please send your suggestions my way via email (contact.scraig@gmail.com).
For my first profile, I’m thrilled to introduce the AWN to Emma Harris. Emma is an Aggie at the University of Guelph. A more correct label would be calling her a “Suburban Aggie”, which is also the name of her personal blog (https://suburbanaggie.wordpress.com/). In agriculture we often talk about communicating with the urban population, but for Emma that’s what she does in her everyday life. She was raised in suburban Oakville, ON, but is in fierce pursuit of agriculture knowledge. If you’re interested in connecting with Emma after reading her profile, contact her via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/emma.j.harris) or through email (eharri08@mail.uoguelph.ca).

Emma Harris, OAC StudentTo start off, please tell the Ag Women’s Network more about yourself.
I’m a fourth year agriculture science student at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) of the University of Guelph. I’m 21 years old and just dipping my toes in the agricultural world. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood, in the middle of Oakville, ON. I was very interested in environmental science and studies since I was a little kid. Those interests eventually led me to studying agriculture at university! It’s been a fun adventure so far, and I learn more every day.

Right now you are studying at the University of Guelph. Tell us more about your program.
My degree is a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in Honours Agriculture. This means that I take a core set of agriculture-related courses, including plant and animal ag, but I also have the freedom to take electives in any area of interest I wish! I’m choosing to take a lot of economics, communications, and policy courses, which all have an agriculture focus. I’ve chosen this path for school because I want to influence education policy concerning agriculture and environment, and these courses can help me develop my skills and knowledge even before I graduate. I was originally studying environmental management at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, but didn’t like the options that program would have given me. Many of my friends were studying agriculture at Ridgetown. It seemed like a new and exciting field of study for me, so I made the switch after one year!

What are your career aspirations and how do you plan on getting there?
I want to work in education, though I’m not quite decided on which facet. I’d like to either write school curriculum that includes agriculture and food literacy at all levels, or open up an educational farm that will bring kids outside to learn about agriculture hands-on. Or, maybe I could do both! My first step is finishing my degree at Guelph. After that, teacher’s college is definitely on the horizon. Along the way, I’ve met a few people who do what I want to do, so I’d like to reach out to them for some work experience to help me on my journey.

What’s the most burning question for you right now in your career?
At the moment, the biggest question is, “How do I get started?”. I have an end goal in my head of starting my own hobby farm that would hopefully turn into a teaching farm for classrooms. Does anybody have any advice on using their farm as a teaching tool? Do you change your practices to accommodate for classroom groups to come visit?

Professionally, we are often seeking success. How do you define personal success?
To me, personal success is being happy with your life and the goals you’ve set for yourself. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true. I’ve always been one to set big goals and work toward them in small steps. Each time I complete one of these steps, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Right now, my big goal is to move out East, go to teacher’s college, and establish a small hobby farm. Every time I do something to reach this goal, I feel a little bit closer to my dream life. This idea of personal success is what I keep striving for.

Emma HarrisLearning from our mistakes is an important, but sometimes tough, part of life. Can you tell us about a professional mistake you made and what you learned?
In terms of agriculture and my education, the biggest mistake I think I’ve made was holding back. When I was studying environmental management at Ridgetown Campus, I was scared to be involved in agriculture because of what it might say about me; back then, I had no idea about the wonders of agriculture! I hesitated to switch into agriculture science. Looking back, I can see all the opportunities I missed out on. I now know that getting involved and putting yourself out there is important in agriculture. That’s how valuable connections are made. Now, when the opportunity for me to get involved and learn comes up, I don’t hesitate. I take every chance to be a part of the agriculture community.

Who would say is your biggest influencer/mentor?
It would be too difficult to pick one single person. The short answer would be that my biggest influencers (and mentors!) are my classmates. The OAC is filled with young people who have grown up in agriculture. Each day, I get to learn from people my age about the industry. The biggest thing I’ve learned from my classmates is that youth can make an impact – many of my friends and classmates are the main operators of their farms, and have strong voices in the public through their local fairs. It’s inspiring to know that the foundation of the agricultural sector is made up of people my age.

Why are you interested in being a part of the Ag Women’s Network?
For me, the AWN is an invaluable resource. Women from across Ontario and Canada, each with their own experiences, are able to share their knowledge with others in their sector. It’s an incredibly supportive place. It’s nice to have a group like this to support each other, where I am able to learn from others who share the same interests as me.

How do you define agriculture?
To me, agriculture is a lifestyle. Agriculture is something that you pour your heart and soul into, whether it be in production, business, research, or another area of the industry. Agriculture is a unique industry because the people who work in it, live it. Especially when it comes to producers, agriculture is not something you put down at quitting time. It’s a passion.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?
I think agriculture has gained a lot of ground in the eyes of the public in the past few years. It seems that the negative stigma that traditionally surrounds agriculture has started to ease up, and more people are accepting agriculture as a positive part of our country. I think that should be our focus moving forward as an industry. There will always be the odd few that try to fight against agriculture, but I believe that we can, and will, continue to shed positive light on our industry. Using tools such as Facebook and Twitter, we can connect with the public and show them what farming is really like.