Three years ago, I was attending a board meeting of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. I have been a member of this board for more than 20 years and have enjoyed having input on the kind of published research that is done at the university on the challenges facing California agriculture. The meeting was at U.C. Davis, which meant I flew from Long Beach to Sacramento for the day to attend the meeting. As per usual, about 15 of us (a mix of businesspeople, university staff and researchers) sat around a large conference table reviewing research and brainstorming.
As we went around the table introducing ourselves, I noticed a young female student seated three chairs from me. When she introduced herself, I quickly logged on to LinkedIn to find out more about her background. Like many students, her name on LinkedIn (Alexandra) was not the name she used regularly (Allie), so during the break I took the opportunity to mention that she should update her LinkedIn profile so people could easily find her. That’s when I found out that Allie was graduating that year with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. Her home was in Southern California and she did not yet have a post-graduation job or internship scheduled for the summer.
Allie was impressive as she presented to our group, so I immediately texted my sister Jackie that I thought I’d found the operations summer intern we were looking for! Of course Allie didn’t know any of this, but during our lunch break, I cozied up to her at the table and asked her if she would like to visit our offices when she went home after graduation.
To make a long story short, even though I was on vacation when she came to visit, Allie came for a tour of Frieda’s. My sister offered her an internship for the summer and Allie accepted. When the three-month internship was completed, we offered Allie a full-time position at Frieda’s as our Product Growth Coordinator in the Planning Department.
Fast forward from 2018 to 2021, Allie is now an Associate Produce Buyer for us, married to her college sweetheart last month, and they spent two weeks vacationing in Costa Rica. When she got back from her honeymoon and was back at work, the first thing she did was send me an email suggesting a book to add to my reading list. Apparently one of her friends gifted her the book “Brave, Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani, founder of the organization, Girls Who Code.
Allie told me that she read the book during her trip and wanted to get my impressions.
I finished the book earlier this week, as always listening to it via Audible. It was especially meaningful as Reshma, the author, narrated the book herself. I came to work today and asked Allie about how she was introduced to the book and what her impressions of it were. We had a fantastic conversation about the challenges many young women face in their careers and personal lives — trying to be the “perfect” version of themselves. What I got from the book was great advice about why it’s OK to be brave, OK to fail, OK to mope around after failure, plus the importance of picking yourself up and moving forward. None of us is perfect and there is no need to be perfect. It’s all a journey, our own personal journey.
So, thank you, Allie, for being brave enough to give me a book recommendation. Thank you for being open to doing an internship at Frieda’s in operations after receiving the Most Outstanding Senior Award when you graduated. I’m sure there were many companies standing in line to offer you a job.
We are all so proud of Allie, as this past year, she participated in an industry apprenticeship program (sponsored by the local Fresh Produce & Floral Council), doing the entire 12-month program virtually due to the pandemic. It was not a surprise that Allie was selected by the other 11 members of her apprenticeship cohort to be the graduation speaker, making all of us proud during their virtual graduation.
And many thanks to her U.C. Davis college mentor, Dr. Dan Sumner (a world-renowned agricultural economist), who whispered to me at that 2018 board meeting: “She is the best student project manager I’ve ever had! You should snap her up!”
Have a great 4th of July holiday weekend — celebrating our freedom and independence!