Schlechter shines in dual career, shares ‘vital’ secrets to success
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
One of Kayla Schlechter’s key pieces of advice to young professionals is to be “well-rounded,” a solid assertion coming from a woman who embodies the trait with ease and excellence.
Schlechter works for POET, a South Dakota-based company that leads the world in the production of biofuels. Although she spends much of her time doing the day-to-day work of a field communications manager, she doubles as an editor of the company’s magazine, Vital.
Schlechter’s been involved with POET since college. She earned a degree in consumer affairs with emphases in public relations and event planning from South Dakota State University and began an internship at the company directly after graduation. After completing her internship, she was hired full time and has been at the company for seven and a half years.
Schlechter’s split role in the company is accompanied by a lengthy but rarely concrete list of daily tasks. As field communications manager, she keeps things running smoothly at both the main office in Sioux Falls and the 27 plants scattered across the country. She also dedicates a significant amount of time to organizing and participating in the company’s annual mission trips to Kenya, among many other things.
“I know everybody says this, but there are no two days that are the same,” she said. “It just depends on what projects are immediate at the time and where we are in the Vital process; what needs to be done to keep everything on schedule.”
The company’s publication, which is released quarterly, has about 26,000 subscribers, including all POET team members, corn producers, investors and even members of the Senate and House of Representatives. The content typically includes the goings-on of the plants, updates on the ethanol industry, excerpts on farm technology and various other items that are relevant.
The part Schlechter plays in the production of the magazine goes well beyond editing. Her duties include, but are not limited to, sending out assignments, scheduling photo shoots and writing stories.
“Project management is huge in my position,” she said. “When you’re publishing Vital there are several working parts and pieces with different functions on different schedules that need to be kept aligned at all times. Even though it’s a quarterly magazine, we still want it to be timely. We want it to be what people want to hear at the time and what they need to be informed of.”
It is obvious that the company and its goals – to provide the world with clean, American-made fuels, engage in philanthropy and change the world along the way – are near and dear to Schlechter’s heart. The magazine has played a significant role in aiding this mission.
“With Vital we need to know what’s relevant, what people want to hear, what they need to hear,” Schlechter said. “When people say that they really enjoyed an article or they are more knowledgeable now because of an article, I know we’ve achieved what we wanted to. It’s awesome to know that it’s reaching the hands of the people who need to read it.”
As far as advice to up-and-coming professionals goes, Schlechter stressed the importance of diversifying oneself. Regardless of career path, she said, it is imperative to have a generalized set of skills. Most importantly, she encourages students to do what they love.
“You’re the best at something you enjoy; you’re motivated to do things you like. You’ll strive to be better if it’s something you’re passionate about. So find something you enjoy and work very, very hard at it.”