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How to Bring Out the Best in Others and Ourselves

For International Women's Day, Kendra Johnson, operations technical capability director at Koch Ag & Energy Solutions, pens what motivates and inspires her career path – and her support of others'

March 8, 2021

min read

In the spirit of helping people improve their lives by developing and applying individual talents to create value for others, Koch Industries is proud to sponsor this year’s [Wichita Business Journal] International Women’s Day publication.

Within my role at Koch Ag & Energy Solutions, I have the privilege of working with and mentoring many engineers – some with years of experience, others just getting started. I was once in their shoes, starting with Koch in the spring of 1982 as a process engineer. In my 38 years with Koch companies, in Wichita and elsewhere, I’ve witnessed firsthand how empowering employees to realize their greatest potential and become self-actualized – creating value for others while loving what they do – has made a real impact, both in individuals’ lives and in our overall operations.

It energizes me to help other engineers, especially women in the field, realize their talents and inspire them to do the same for others. An experienced engineer turned project manager once approached me, concerned about whether she should stay in her role, as she felt she had more to offer. As her former supervisor, I knew her talents and aptitude for engineering. I advised her to “learn from her roots” and reconnect with her technical expertise and capabilities. That approach later helped her utilize those capabilities to solve a problem in the field and become a mentor to another engineer along the way. That she felt empowered in her role to use all her capabilities while also helping others grow is a testament to the freedom we have at Koch. There are opportunities in every direction, and our employees have the ability to reach out to anyone across the enterprise to seek and share knowledge.

Across Koch, there are countless examples of people who became more self-actualized by connecting their skills to refine current roles or design new ones. An electrical engineer came to me wanting to try her hand at project management. She joined my team for a short period of time, helping us construct a building at a facility in Iowa, honing her leadership skills and learning more processes. Now a senior electrical engineer, she brings even more knowledge to her team.

This is possible at Koch because we believe that everyone brings something to the table – and once we discover our talents, the possibilities are limitless, for individuals and businesses alike.

I also see these opportunities as a member of the Wichita chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, which complements my ever-transforming role at KAES. SWE typically hosts an annual EXPO event for Wichita students from K-12. Two years ago, the event drew 4,000 people. This year, we are going virtual on April 17 and 18, with activities for students from across the area to learn about STEM. I often hear from students, particularly young women, who wonder whether they can pursue a career in those areas. I say:  Just ask. That’s how the journey of a lifetime begins.

 

This article was written by Kendra Johnson, operations technical capability director at Koch Ag & Energy Solutions, and originially appeared in the Wichita Business Journal. 

 

Listen to more from Kendra Johnson on the Biz Talk with Bill Roy Podcast