International Women's Day 2024

In celebration of International Women's Day, we recognize two leaders who are paving their own paths and contributing to the success of our organization.
Posted on Friday, March 8, 2024

In celebration of International Women's Day, we recognize two leaders who are paving their own paths and contributing to the success of our organization.

Leslie Sommers: Supporting Operations through Finance
In her 26 years with Koch, Leslie Sommers, Koch Ag & Energy Solutions finance director – operations, has had a remarkable career journey. Intrigued by her mom’s career in banking, Leslie decided to study business management in college, but switched to accounting after realizing she had a natural talent for it.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University, Leslie's career began as a staff accountant with Koch Beef, which aligned with her farming roots.

Leslie's career exemplifies continuous growth and adaptability. She’s navigated various roles — mid-office accounting, back-office accounting/treasury, system implementations and acquisition integration — to reach her current role supporting operations.

“I find my greatest fulfillment helping operations — it’s such a dynamic, diverse set of individuals, the stakes are high, and the challenges complex,” she says.

To find pockets of value for our business, it requires collaboration across a diverse set of capabilities and skills. It’s a challenge to find a way to highlight the opportunity that will resonate with others, and then collaborate with the right people with the right capabilities to quickly drive progress.”    

As a leader, Leslie says the most exciting part of her role is helping other people be successful and fostering high-performing teams. Through mentoring and leadership development programs, she not only imparts her expertise but also learns from the challenges faced by her mentees, which enhances her problem-solving skills.

“It’s very rewarding when someone mentions that something I suggested was helpful to them or made a difference to them,” Leslie says. “In my role, I have the luxury of having insight across sites and teams. I love to find two people who have complementary skill sets that are working on similar problems, encouraging them to collaborate and then watching them take off.”

As Leslie reflects on her journey, she emphasizes the importance of taking career risks and embracing feedback for growth. She encourages everyone to focus on continuous self-improvement and resilience in the face of challenges.

“The beauty of our Principle Based Management culture is that we aren’t bound by job descriptions,” Leslie says.

By working with our supervisors, we can craft the perfect role for us to create the most value for our business and thus ourselves. As individuals, we are always a work in process, and the world is constantly changing. It’s important to spend time self-reflecting on how you need to adapt to consistently achieve better results.”

Melissa Meisgeier: Leading with Vision and Mentorship

From a process engineer intern to plant manager, Melissa Meisgeier’s career underscores what can be achieved through hard work and taking chances.

Melissa, plant manager in our Fort Dodge, Iowa fertilizer plant, has been with Koch for 12 years. While earning her degree in chemical engineering from Iowa State University, Melissa had three internships at multiple Koch facilities.

“I always loved math and science, especially chemistry in high school, so chemical engineering seemed like a good fit,” Melissa says. “It wasn't until I had my first internship with Koch that I realized my love for chemical processing plants.”

Following graduation, she joined Koch full time as a process engineer at Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend. She spent more than four years as a refinery shift manager and then the next four years as an area operations manager before transitioning to plant manager at Fort Dodge.

Her tenure as a refinery shift manager and area operations manager equipped her with invaluable insights, preparing her for the challenges of leading a plant. She recognizes the challenge of striking a balance between understanding operational intricacies and maintaining a big-picture perspective.

“The most exciting part of my job is working with the team to create a shared vision of where we want to go and then supporting the team to figure out how we get there” Melissa says. “And of course, celebrating success when we make progress!”

Driven by a passion for mentorship and continuous learning, Melissa emphasizes the importance of overcoming perceived barriers and seizing opportunities for growth. Her leadership style revolves around creating a culture of empowerment and growth, where individuals can flourish and contribute meaningfully. She says “nothing is more rewarding than knowing you were able to influence that growth in some way.”

For other women in their careers, Melissa’s advice is not to let barriers get in the way.

“If you feel like you have the capability to do something but you're hesitating because you think ‘I'm too young’, or ‘I'll be the only woman in the room’, or any other thousands of reasons that may stop you from pursuing it, do it anyway,” she says. “Those barriers may not be the barriers you think they are.”