Global Scholar Program: Farming Out to San Francisco

IMG_0619I’ve always appreciated, and continue to be impressed by, the vast Ketchum network.  It’s an amazing benefit to have access to colleagues across the country and globe, all of whom have precise areas of specialty and amazing experiences to learn from and weave into your client work.  The only thing better than having access to countless specialists are your fingertips is visiting them in their home office.

This past August, I was lucky enough to do just that and spent two weeks with our San Francisco colleagues. Through Ketchum’s Global Scholars program, I was given the opportunity to travel to our San Francisco office and work side by side with our Sustainability Practice Group.

What an amazing networking opportunity the program provides! Not only is it great to meet team members who you have only seen as a name on an email, but dedicating time to shadow their work and get to know them also unveils shared interests, previously unknown areas of expertise and experiences that can be leveraged down the road.  Even coffee maker chats result in connections being made and resources being discovered!

Immersing yourself in the culture of another office challenges you (in a positive way) to rethink how you do everything at your home office. I found this particularly beneficial as I often fall in the category of “This is the way I do X because it’s the way I’ve always done X and that clearly must be the right way, right?” By participating in team meetings, listening in on client calls and shadowing other team members in their account work, you can’t help but take in different work styles and leave with a refreshed lens to apply to how you do your work on a daily basis.

During the two weeks of my scholarship, I was encouraged by Ketchum Leadership to focus solely on soaking up as much as possible from my San Francisco colleagues and the opportunities available in the city; my regular account work could wait until my return (or course, it was left in the hands of amazing Chicago team members). It’s a humbling experience when you realize that your company is dedicated to investing in you, encouraging your interests and supporting your development into a stronger and well-rounded counselor for your clients.

Through my work with the Chicago Food/Ag accounts, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time on farms and ranches. It’s fitting, then, that one of the highlights from my trip was visiting Tara Firma Farms, one of many of small organic farms in the Marin area, only a short drive out of the city. Tara Firma Farms is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and I was extremely impressed with the connection they encourage their members to make with the farm. Members are free to fish in the ponds, hike the rolling grassy hills and participate in weekly tours of the operation. As a result, I imagine, they feel a strong connection with the land, the animals and the food produced. The production system they have in place is thriving, largely due to the support of the community they’ve built around them.

The topic of transparency is one that touches the work I do within Chicago Food/Ag on a daily basis. There are many intricacies when it comes to transparency within the agriculture sector and while I am a proponent for all types of agriculture models, I was extremely impressed by Tara Firma’s approach. The enthusiasm spilling out from the members onsite for my tour lead me to believe they are as well.

It’s amazing how something so simple as stepping outside of your comfort zone and daily environment can provide a complete refresh and reenergize your approach to account work. I hope my San Francisco colleagues know how much I appreciate them opening their office doors to me. And (I hope) they learned even one thing from me in the process as well!