On Monday March 7, 2016 the Student Fellows had the opportunity to listen to Renée Laird, Founder and President of Tallgrass International Ltd., speak about her career and lessons she learned from her work and life experiences. Renée Laird grew up in Rooks County, in western Kansas; she attended Kansas State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics. Following graduation, Renée obtained a job with Koch Industries in Wichita, Kansas, where she worked as a trader. While at Koch, she learned a great deal about risk and how to manage it. Through her experience in managing price risk, this built the foundation for her moving forward. After Koch, Renée moved to New York to work as an Executive Director for Rabobank International. While at Rabobank International, Renée oversaw multiple facets of the business that further developed her expertise in risk management. The events of 9/11 ultimately compelled Renée to leave Rabobank in New York and move back to the Midwest for a trading and management role at a global broker/dealer and futures commission merchant in Chicago. While at Fimat/Newedge, she managed a global business line as Global Head of Agricultural Commodities and OTC, as well as having direct oversight of the Chicago office as General Manager. After Newedge, she headed up a commodities trading advisor as CEO, where she oversaw the strategy for restructuring, growing, and implementing infrastructure and teams leading to a doubling of assets under management for the hedge fund. The Student Fellows were interested in hearing how Renée’s professional career took her to lead businesses across the United States and globe. In every position Renée has worked in her career thus far, it was evident to the Student Fellows that she took it upon herself to accept challenges and opportunities to learn new skills. With the variety of titles Renée has held, she has gained experience in many sectors of business including management, business strategy, budgeting, marketing, consulting, and sales. The knowledge gained through her career led Renée to establish Tallgrass International Ltd., which focuses on business and management consulting. Renée currently serves as the Founder and President of Tallgrass International Ltd.
While Renée’s resume showcases her impressive ability to manage risk in the professional world, she was also able to speak about her personal life and what she has learned in managing personal risk. Renée spoke of the challenges of being a female in the industry, being away from her home and family, and how life is not always a fairytale. The Student Fellows were delighted to hear about Renée’s personal life and her growing up in western Kansas. Renée’s roots share similarities to a handful of the Student Fellows of the Center, growing up on the family farm in a small midwestern community, being a member of 4-H, and eventually attending Kansas State University.
Listening to Renée gave the Student Fellows a different perspective on the industry as she has worked in a variety of executive positions allowing her to speak about the different challenges associated with each new job. In addition to learning from Renée the skills imperative for being an informed decision maker, Student Fellows also appreciated Renée’s guidance for the Fellows’ future careers and personal lives including: know the culture of a company, find a mentor, speak up, take risks, challenge yourself, network, be curious, and always stay connected to your roots.
The Student Fellows would like to extend a thank-you to Renée Laird for taking time out of her busy schedule to visit with us, answer our questions, and share with us her personal and professional life experiences.