Kendra Stewart is a tax associate in our Geneva, NY branch office. She is one of Farm Credit East’s (many) rock star teammates who is early in her career. Kendra joined our team after graduating from Clarkson University in 2015 and has covered a lot of ground in just two years – including making a real impact on the customers she works with. I recently chatted with her to learn more about her experience so far. Here’s what she had to say:
Jean Gallagher: How did you discover Farm Credit East and why did you choose to begin your career with us?
Kendra Stewart: I found Farm Credit East at the Clarkson University career fair. I had looked for the businesses at the career fair who were recruiting for my major [mathematics and economics]. I stopped by the Farm Credit East booth and talked to one of the Potsdam employees who later became my mentor. The Farm Credit East employee told me that the company offers a range of careers, and that the Career Development Program provides the opportunity to learn a lot about the careers with Farm Credit East and then decide which direction to go. For someone who was undecided about my profession, this was the perfect fit to learn about my options. I also noticed Farm Credit East had office locations near where I grew up, which is ultimately where I wanted to get back to, so every piece kind of fit together.
JG: Tell me a bit about your career with Farm Credit East so far.
KS: I started in the Potsdam, NY branch office. Since I went to school there and interviewed there, it was great to also start my career there. When I started with Farm Credit East I learned about financial services and I knew right away that was the career path I wanted to stick with.
Since I grew up in a small town with apple farms, I didn’t really know much about the dairy industry, so it was great to learn about it. My mentor in Potsdam knew a lot about dairy and she got me out on the farms a lot – I now know a lot more about cows than I ever thought I would. But, Farm Credit East also knew I wanted to get back to Western New York and after a little more than a year in the Potsdam, NY office, I was able to transfer to the Geneva, NY office. Now I work with a wide range of agriculture, including customers who have apple orchards, wineries and a little bit of everything else, including dairy (so my early career development has proved useful!)
JG: What do you do day-to-day?
KS: I used to do a lot of monthly record keeping for customers – profit and loss statements and things like that. I have switched to more tax work and now work with some large business entities. I have recently been working with a number of clients who had their taxes prepared by someone outside of Farm Credit East. I love completing an amendment on a tax return and being able to get people money back.
JG: How would you describe Farm Credit East’s culture?
KS: In Geneva everyone is so helpful and the credit and financial services teams work so closely together. Everyone is always hard at work, but they’re also willing to stop and talk with you. I always learn something new from them. The staff is really friendly and cares a lot about the customers. That is what I like most – everyone is here because they care about the customers and love agriculture. We’re all working together to help the customers out.
JG: What is your most memorable experience with Farm Credit East?
KS: I’ve had a few. When I first started I went right out to a dairy farm to prepare all of their financial records and payroll on the farm – that was terrifying. As someone who just started, I was nervous to be on the farm with the customer. But this experience helped me develop a relationship with the customer and helped me get the confidence to work with more customers. Diving in and having to learn something so quickly [financial record keeping and payroll processing] helped me become good at it. Being able to tour the farms and see how they operate right up close is a great experience, too.
JG: When you think about your future with Farm Credit East, what are you most excited about?
KS: I’m excited about seeing the same customers and seeing how they grow their businesses and evolve over time. We work so closely with the same customers and the same people, so I’ve gotten to know them. I’m excited to see where their new building projects and other projects take them.
JG: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career?
KS: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most of the time there will be things you don’t know. If you don’t ask, you won’t learn. Maybe you will ask some stupid questions, but I’ve asked a lot and now I know the right answers. You get put into a lot of different work situations very quickly, and to know what you need to be doing, you have to ask the right questions.
JG: What do you like to do when you are not at work?
KS: I’m up at camp a lot. I like swimming. This fall, I took advantage of all of the local activities – fall apple picking and pumpkin carving. In the winter I enjoy I snowshoeing.
JG: What is one fun fact people may not know about you?
KS: I used to compete in triathlons with my dad every summer. We missed this summer because we were so flooded in this area. Hopefully we will get back into it next summer. I’ve completed seven triathlons so far.
Kendra’s advice to people starting their career (or at any stage of their career, really) is spot on – ask questions! The world around us is constantly changing, and we need to be asking good questions to keep learning. What career advice would you share with someone starting out their career? Or, if you are just starting out in your career, what questions do you have that others may be able to provide guidance on?