In the third installment of our Women’s History Month series, we spotlight Kelly McMillan, Marketing Director TNUSA.
What advice would you give to women in your field?
Be yourself. Know your gifts. Know your passions. Don’t be afraid to be a bit of a maverick. Understand the value you bring to the table…and bring it to the table. Find roles and organizations that are a good fit, i.e., where you feel fulfilled by the work, and you’re appreciated for not only what you contribute today but what you have the potential to contribute in the future. If that fit isn’t right, you might learn some things along the way, but it’s not ultimately where you’ll have the greatest impact or opportunity.
Listening, asking good questions, reading people and adjusting accordingly, exercising selflessness, and finding common ground, are underappreciated but highly useful skills. Develop them. I certainly haven’t perfected them, but checking myself against these principles is valuable. If a meeting or interaction went poorly I can guarantee I was not exercising (at least) one of these skills appropriately. Agriculture is an exciting place to be! It’s staggering and exciting when I think about just how many more women are taking on important and influential roles in agriculture — from farming and production to research and the C-Suite — than when I started my career 20 years ago.
How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?
I don’t know that I’m breaking any barriers on my own, honestly. Sure, I’ve been the first woman or the youngest person in a few roles, and now I’m a single mom in a senior leadership role. Still, I have never felt like opportunities or advancements were unachievable or that there was anything in my way in the first place. Maybe that’s just my growth mindset or my individual experience. What I’m hopefully doing to help break barriers for others is setting a positive example of leadership, sharing the learning experiences from my unique career path, coaching, mentoring, and encouraging others to identify how they can best contribute their incredible gifts to the very worthy field of agriculture.
Tell us about a woman you look up to and why.
My grandmother. She was an amazing lady who worked extremely hard on the farm and never complained. She loved big and had high expectations of herself and others. She was independent-minded and not afraid to learn and try new things. She was also a great cook and loved to beat me at cards.