Younkin has worked in the ag industry for 19 years. Today, her job includes technical expertise in range science, land management and U.S. environmental law and managing staff, projects, budgets and other administrative duties for the company.
How did you end up in the occupation you have now? Is this what you’ve always wanted to do?
I’m extremely fortunate to love what I do. I started college in business administration. I hated it (which is ironic now that I own a business), especially accounting. When I realized I could pursue a career that would allow me to continue working with ranchers, I jumped at the opportunity and switched majors to range science. I added federal lands policy in my master’s program, which was eye-opening to say the least. I’ve been able to continue to work with public lands and the ranching community my entire career.
As our company has grown, I’ve had to take on more administrative duties, but I have been adamant about maintaining my involvement in our ranch projects. I love the West and ranching, and think I’ve found an effective way to help my clients continue to ranch on public lands.
Who has influenced you in your leadership role? Why?
My dad was a huge influence on my life. He was a quiet guy but steady and always there. He only had daughters, so if he wanted help … it was one of his girls who was going to do it. I never expected to be treated differently because I was a girl.
How have your experiences as a woman in your field influenced your growth, personally and professionally?
I’ve been lucky to be my own boss for a long time. I’ve had a few great role models and some very good examples of the kind of boss I didn’t want to be. I developed strong technical skills through college and early career jobs, but what I felt I lacked was an understanding of how to manage people. I read a lot of management- and business-oriented materials to help supplement my knowledge. I think women can have a unique type of empathy that allows us to be creative in how we do our work. My work is relationship-based, and I have a different way of dealing with each client and staff person. Everyone needs different things, and different levels and kinds of care. Understanding the nuances in relationships has helped me to be successful. I don’t have “one-size-fits-all” relationships.
What roadblocks have you run into as a female in the ag industry? How have you overcome them?
My field has a limited number of professionals, and even fewer are women. Early in my career, it was hard to be taken seriously. My solution was to work harder and perform better than anyone else. I had to learn that being offended by someone’s behavior wasn’t going to do me any good. People are who they are, and I can only control how I respond to the situation, so I’ve done my best to focus on the things I can control and let the rest go.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Believe in yourself.
What advice would you give to other women in your field?
Stick to it.
What is the best part of your day?
Mornings. I am an early bird, and I really enjoy the quiet time before the phones start ringing and people start dropping in. I get a lot done in those quiet hours.
How do you balance your job with family and personal time?
Poorly. We try to travel to far-away places for a few weeks annually to recharge. When your husband is your business partner, we can do business just about everywhere, so taking a real break takes a lot of planning and deliberate action.
Do you involve your family in your work? If so, how?
My husband and I own our company. My niece works for us in the summer. Work is pretty much an around-the-clock thing for us.
What inspires you to come to work each day?
Progress – whether it’s watching our young staff step up into new roles or making progress on a long-term project. I enjoy mentoring staff and working with them on professional development.
PHOTO: Brenda Younkin. Photo provided by Brenda Younkin.