kris costa

COMMUNITY OUTREACH MANAGER AT GOLDEN STATE FARM CREDIT

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the AgSnacc Podcast where we take a look at careers in agriculture and the journey toward those careers. I’m your host, Erin Gorter, and we hope you enjoy this tasty AgSnacc. 

 

Erin Gorter:

We are here today with Kris Costa, the community outreach manager for Golden State Farm Credit. Hello Kris.  

 

Kris Costa:

Hello Erin! 

 

Erin Gorter:  

Hi, so what does a typical day look like for you? What do you do? 

 

Kris Costa:

So, my main role with my job is to ensure that Golden State Farm Credit is participating in, and sponsoring, community ag events: so, anything that's tied to county fairs, County Farm Bureau events, anything in the community that’s supporting agriculture. It’s really kind of my main role to make sure that Golden State Farm credit is represented. We’re there as a sponsor at whatever level we think is most important. My typical day is just making sure that I've met my deadlines, and I've got everything kind of where the next events are for the next 30 days to make sure we've got everything set to go, that our sponsorship levels are where we want it, and what comes with that. So, making sure all the marketing pieces are there. So, banners and handouts that go at a booth, or if it's just an event where there's no booth, just making sure that we're represented there as a sponsor, and whatever marketing materials need to be there. Sometimes it's a flyer, sometimes it's giveaways, pens, fun stuff that people want to take in so that our logo gets in the hands of a lot of people. A typical day for me is really surrounded by that. My other big responsibility is managing our social media accounts. So, making sure I have a calendar in place and making sure everything is posted correctly and on time and setting the schedule. I try to do that a week out. Those are my two, I’ll call them main activities every morning when I start the day. I make sure I've got everything in motion and that all of our events are that were set up for all of our events. And if I have to send some of my staff, that they're ready to go to. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Cool. So, we like to get to know a little bit of background information on everyone during interviews. Thinking back to your high school experience, kind of, what molded you through high school? Any sports, extracurricular, special classes you took… 

 

Kris Costa:

Yeah. So, I was super involved in student government when I was in high school, as well as the FFA chapter for a couple of years. I played sports as well. And so, I didn't finish my junior year in the FFA program because my other activities took away from my ability to do that. I will say probably one of my biggest regrets was stepping away from FFA. I went back into the 4-H program my junior and senior year but looking back now and participating in some of the FFA events in a professional manner, I wish I had kind of stuck it out a couple of years, but I have that background. I still was connected to the FFA program through my student government activities. But sports, student government and just different community clubs on campus. I was really tied to activities at our local community church, so community service projects for a lot of the things that I did. So, I kept very busy in addition to responsibilities that my parents had for us on our family farm as well. 

 

Erin Gorter:

What sports did you play? 

 

Kris Costa:

I played volleyball and basketball. I played softball one spring, but it was not my, it's not my thing. It’s a little too slow moving for me after playing basketball for four months; that’s pretty fast paced.  

 

Erin Gorter:

What was your favorite to play?  

 

Kris Costa:

Basketball. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Basketball? 

 

Kris Costa:

I played basketball all through and after high school, at an intermural level and in junior college, and then at Cal Poly as well. I play now but I haven't been practicing or running at all in a long time, but I did love it. It’s still my favorite sport and it really was a great experience for me to play. Then, because of my basketball coach, she played at the college level after high school, she pulled together a City League for those of us who weren't playing at the college level. So, I got to play that for a while after that. But my dad always told me that college was to focus on my education and not playing basketball, so I did that. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Do you have a favorite basketball team now? 

 

Kris Costa:

I do not. I grew up watching we were big fans of the Lakers in my house. My brother is a big sports fan. When I was at a job for a while, my boss was a season ticket holder for the Sacramento Kings. So, I kind of became a fan because we got to go to a lot of the games, and he gave us tickets. So, I just, you know, I liked the Lakers in the 80s and 90s, the, you know, Magic Johnson era, they were kind of my thing. I mean I watch more college basketball, truthfully, now than I do professional basketball. I follow it, but I'd say my hearts is probably still a Lakers fan. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very good. Switching gears back to careers, sorry I got sidetracked with sports, when you were in high school, did you expect to be in this profession? Or like, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

 

Kris Costa:

I always wanted to. When I was like a freshman in high school, we did this kind of ‘based on your interest what would be good careers for you’, and it was always kind of advertising and marketing. As I've gone through the course of my life, I always wanted to be where there was lots of people and going to lots of fun events. My time on student government, my senior year we were in charge of putting together all the rallies on campus. So, there was always something going on, like every other week. And so, for me, I always liked that kind of event planning and finding fun things to do. I'm an extrovert. I like to be around people. For me, I always want to go into something where it could be a little creative, be able to go out and do events and activities, so I think marketing, communications, advertising. I do like to write, so that communications part of it was always fun. Kind of what I’d call advertising, marketing gets to use some creativity and all that, so I thought I'd be working in an ad agency. When I was in high school, that was my big dream. Then I worked in a small ad agency for about 9 years and it really wasn't my thing. I went back and you know, I was out of agriculture, and I wanted to get back in agriculture, so I found a balance between ag marketing and communications. So yeah, I'd say pretty similar to what I wanted to do with my life. I tried a couple of things in an internship program in college that I thought might be interesting, but I always came back to marketing and communications, which is where I am now. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah. Tell us a little bit more about your college experience. Where did you go? What was your major? Then maybe go into a little bit more detail about your work experience previous to this job. 

 

Kris Costa:

So, after high school I went to Modesto Junior College. My parents were big proponents of education. Both my parents immigrated to the United States; my mom had her education here, but my dad was 18 so he did not. But a big proponent of college education and so, my dad told me if I went to school locally at a community college, that he would then do anything he could to help me finish my bachelor’s degree somewhere. So, I stayed about 2 1/2 years, went to Modesto Junior College, and was actually a business major with a minor, with the focus, in marketing.  I then transferred to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a business major and spent the first quarter there thinking something didn't feel right. I had a couple of friends who were in the ag department. The Dairy Science Department was adding an ag journalism concentration to their program, so I met with a few people and then changed my major over to dairy science with a concentration in ag journalism. Half my curriculum at Cal Poly was actually in the Journalism Department, so I got to do, you know, learning about writing for journalism, public relations, and we did some radio stuff. It was kind of a fun mixture for me and I got heavily involved in ag ambassadors and the dairy science club there. So, for me it was, you know, Cal Poly was kind of a, I'd say a, life changing movement for me. I found my space. I didn't quite feel like I found my space in the Business Department, and when I went into the College of Ag, I felt like, I always tell people, when I went left and came back to ag like, I felt like I was coming home again. It was a good experience for me. Several years later I went back to school and got my Masters in teaching English to speakers of other languages. I wanted to teach just an English class or two at the community college while I was working full time. It actually helped me learn a lot about my writing and how to teach people. I was helping my nephew through school at the time with some learning challenges. So, for me, it helps I learned a lot of different skills about how to help people, and how to write better, and how you learn that when he learned it. When you're learning to communicate with someone who English isn't their first language, you have to stay take a step back and look at how you're communicating with people. I think all of my educational experiences helped me just be a better communicator. When I have to work with teams in my job, you know, I have 7 offices that I work with in my company, and I have to learn how to communicate to everybody a little bit differently. So, I think all of my education has helped me just be better at that. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah, no doubt. So, do you speak other languages besides English? 

 

Kris Costa:

Yeah, so I grew up with and I speak Portuguese. Both sets of my grandparents on my mom and dad’s side did not speak English growing up. For my dad, English was not his first language. We did speak it in the home when I got older. So yeah, I mean, you know my dad and my grandparents are no longer around, but my mom still speaks Portuguese and my circle of friends and cousins, we try to speak it. I definitely still hold on to my Portuguese culture and try to participate in those events as well. It's important to keep that second language to me. It's a little rusty, but I'm hoping to get a little more time into studying that the next year. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah, that's cool. That's cool. I'm coming back to your current job, what is your favorite part about your day at work? 

 

Kris Costa:

I love the people. I think when you work in an environment where it's fun to get up and go to work every day, people are very supportive. At Golden State Farm Credit, I get to work directly with senior management, and they’re super open to new ideas and new opportunities, you know, to brand the company. For me it's very much an open communication organization. Very open to ideas, really strong leadership, but also give you the ability to bring your own ideas to the table, and very open to them. They're all finance guys, so when I bring a lot of, kind of like all, crazy marketing ideas to the table, they always kind of pause and they're like well let's try it. I think, I appreciate that every day they're willing to listen to me and think about thinking outside the box. Right, so, it's just a really supportive group of people. There are 78 total employees in the entire organization. There's about 10 of us in my office building, but I do communicate with everybody kind of on a regular basis. So, I like the people without a doubt; they’re fun and supportive. Unfortunately, you know with COVID this year we haven't, I haven't, been able to spend a lot of time with our farmers. But I'm excited about that opportunity as we move into a new year! 

 

Erin Gorter:

What would you say, besides the pandemic right now, what, on a normal day, is the biggest challenge of your day at work? 

 

Kris Costa:

I would say that probably depends on the day. I'd say for the most part it's I'd say trying to manage different employees and communicating with different employees at seven different locations. Each office is very different because they're serving a very different community of farmers. So, I'll find out for my North part of this state, that people are very, they do things very kind of, what I would say, old school. Communication is very much pick up the phone, send a letter, or go out and visit. In my South Valley region, like Hanford and Kingsburg, they're a little more technologically in tune with things. So, the people down there prefer to be communicated with electronically or over text or whatever. I think it's just finding a balance. The hardest thing is trying to find a balance and in the first year here, it’s learning how everybody operates. You know people have been here 25 years and they've done things this way, don't question that. Which is OK, I appreciate that because there is some value in experience. I think if you just try to listen, like I'm trying to listen every day, to take in their ideas, people really are open to new stuff and new ideas. So, I'd say just trying to balance everybody's history in the company and the way we've done things and trying to manage how I communicate to about 70 of them on a kind of a regular basis.  

 

Erin Gorter:

And I think that's something that like transitions to all aspects of life: figuring out how each different person works and how you communicate with them and how you work with them and how they work with you. So, that's interesting, especially working for an organization that has offices in different places and there's like a different like culture to the region of the state. Yeah, crazy. Alright. So, I think I know the answer to this next question, but I'm going to go ahead and ask it anyways. So, we're in the business of producing, managing and marketing the distribution of food; what is your favorite ag commodity? 

 

Kris Costa:

Dairy, without a doubt. Specifically, I’d say cheese today, but I’m sure you knew that.  

 

Erin Gorter:

Yes. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Kris Costa in person, ask her where the local best artisan cheese place is, and she will tell you. She knows how to select excellent cheeses. Yes. What was your biggest challenge in pursuing this career path? 

 

Kris Costa:

Good question. The biggest challenge I'd say is, just with any career choice you make, I think the best piece of advice I ever got was just get to know the people working in the industry you want to work in. For me when I finished college and was looking for work in this industry, I did know a lot of people in agriculture because I grew up in agriculture, but for me was a little challenge. Like people, this is going to be a weird challenge, but people put you on this pedestal. A professor told me one time, when people put you on this pedestal, they say all these great things about you, there's only one way to go and that's down. For me, it was very much because my family was involved in the ag community very heavily, I was involved in it growing up, I was involved in a lot of stuff at Cal Poly, so and so I did a lot of things. People are like: “well Kris will do it”, you know? And that's never I think a bad thing, but then you go into a professional environment where people are giving you these really high recommendations, which I appreciate, but there was a lot of pressure. I think for me as a recent graduate, going into a career where they told the people that I was going to work for, like “she's great, she should be great to bring all this value to your company”, you know. It's a little intimidating once you leave your, I called it my little college environment of safety, into the real world. It was that it was really hard for me to get, or for people to know that like, yes, you could rely me and I was a good employee, and I did have the ag background, but I’m still you know in my early 20s had a lot to learn. For me the challenge was trying to get people to not just, because they know me and loved my family, though I was a good kid, they still need to understand that I still have a lot to learn. So, it was a lot of pressure for me. I'd say that was my biggest challenge was making sure I didn't end up, you know, making a lot of people disappointed in, you know, the expectations they put up on me. So yeah. 

 

Erin Gorter:

I think it's important to remember that throughout your whole life, you're still learning and growing and becoming like a better version of yourself. It doesn't just end when you walk out of the door at high school, like that's not like the ultimate person you're going to be. Still, there's always room for improvement and growth, so that’s  a good point. Do you know of any internships or volunteer opportunities for high school students, if they wanted to maybe get involved in your line of work and community outreach? 

 

Kris Costa:

I would say we would be completely open to it. We have a college internship program, but we would be open to it. Golden State Farm Credit would be completely open to any high school student who is interested in learning, not just about what I do on the communications and marketing front, but also anybody interested in going into ag finance, ag lending, appraisal, loans, accounting, any of our departments. We'd be more than happy to work with, you know, high school students because their next step is, you know, in the college you know. And then we have a college internship program. I think the farm credit system really truthfully across California, or even the U.S., would be very open to any kind of opportunity for high school kids who are interested in agriculture. That's the one thing I love about Farm Credit. They are very supportive of youth programs from 4-H to FFA to college in any opportunity, right. For our organization, we're always looking for young students who want to learn and be passionate. We have to be the next generation of ag advocates, as I call them, to be passionate about agriculture because if we don't have someone coming up behind us to keep it going, agriculture will suffer. I think for I can speak for Golden State Farm Credit and say we'd love to have high school kids that are interested in learning about what we do, and I'm sure Farm Credit across the state would be more than happy to welcome any high school kids into a program. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very cool. That sounds like an awesome opportunity. Thinking about your career now, and where you're at now, what would you go back and tell high school Kris Costa about yourself? What advice would you give yourself? 

 

Kris Costa: I

would say couple things. Be patient. Right, we want to get out of school. We want it, you know; can't wait to get out of high school and then get into college and you know we have all these big plans, right? Life is going to throw you some things that are going to change the path and where you're going. So, be patient. Right, things take time; building your career takes time. Right, so I say just be patient. Take every single opportunity to learn from the people around you, whether it's in high school, in the community, once you get into college, or you know, whether it's your four-year university or trade school or just junior college for a couple of years. Any opportunity to just meet people working in the industry that you want to be in is the most important thing that I could probably give as advice to my high school self. And then I would say, I told a student recently, she was recent graduate from college finishing her first job and trying to move into the next one is: don't get so hung up on having a big fancy title. Because I think that you know you can have all these big fancy titles and it doesn't always mean you have a great job or that you're doing good work right. So, don't get hung up on the title. Focus on the job that you want to do and does that job title meet your interest? Right, is that job going to make you grow and learn and move to the next level of wherever you want to be in your career? So, I think we get so focused on, well, I want to be a manager, I want to be a supervisor, I want to be a vice president, and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that, but don't miss out on an opportunity to learn and grow in your professional career and personally by getting hung up on a title and a job. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Good call, good call. In your particular line of work, what changes do you think will happen in your profession in the next 20 years? Like, looking forward, what are some skills that you think would be important to develop now? 

 

Kris Costa:

I think if you're a high school student right now and want to go into marketing, advertising, communications, community outreach, it’s kind of all tied together, you have to understand technology. Right, I think about how quickly it is changed in the last five years of my career. When I first started my career technology, was very little of what we had to learn. So, I think you need to understand technology, how it works. Social media love it or hate it, it's how people communicate now. But learning how to use it in a good way, right, thinking about the positive things that you can do with social media. We hear a lot about the negative but there are lots of ways to focus on the positive: on how to use social media to share your message, to tell your story. I think the biggest thing about that is going to be, people are going to move away from, you know, kind of traditional print media type of stuff when we communicate. For us working in agriculture, I don't think will ever move away from, you know, the personal connection, whether it's meeting with customers, meeting with farmers, meeting with people in the industry, because I think agriculture is very personally tied personal relationships. Communicating to the masses really, in agriculture, is just learning about technology and how quickly it changes and always be willing to learn. I mean every single day I feel like I learn something new about social media and how to use it better. And then being able to offer that what you know and learn about communications and marketing and technology and sharing that with a generation that maybe didn't grow up with it. That's where we're going. You'll see more and more just technology and people will communicate. People’s attention span will get shorter because there's so much being thrown at them. But I would say my best advice: don't lose the personal connection to things, but still learn the technology on how to communicate with people. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very cool. Thanks for that advice and thanks for your interview. So, again this is Kris Costa, the community outreach manager for Golden State Farm Credit. Thank you, Kris! 

 

Kris Costa:

Thanks Erin. I appreciate it. 

Thank you for listening to this AgSnacc, a production of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in collaboration with the South Coast Region Agricultural Education Consortium. For more information, please visit our website at www.agsnacc.com. That’s www.a-g-s-n-a-c-c.com.