At 30 years old, Megan Stewart is a Marketing and Outreach Manager at the Kansas Turnpike Authority in Wichita, Kansas. The Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) maintains 236 miles of user-fee supported roadway from the Oklahoma border to Kansas City. The KTA doesn’t receive state or federal tax funds and its mission is to provide safe, economical, high-quality highway transportation service to its customers. In 2016, the KTA released a Long Terms Needs Study. It outlines plans to preserve, modernize, and enhance the Turnpike system throughout the next 10 years. The study serves as a resource, allowing people to better understand what to expect from the KTA during this time. 2016 also marks KTA’s 60th anniversary celebrating “236 Miles of Possibility” for its users.
Five Questions with Megan Stewart
Title aside, what would you say it is that you do in your current position?
I have several different roles at KTA, but after reflecting on the focus of my job responsibilities, the core of my day-to-day activities is to promote and grow the use of the K-TAG program, which in Kansas is our electronic tolling system, similar to PIKEPASS or E-ZPass on the East Coast. I do this by creating business and community partnerships, coordinating and attending events, and utilizing other traditional advertising mediums (print, television, and radio).
How do you see your experience in Next Leader Now making you a better boss going forward?
Through studying the DiSC profiles and deliberately focusing on how people give and receive information, Next Leader Now is transforming me into a much better communicator, which will undoubtedly help me as I move forward in my career. I have started to listen and adapt my messaging in a way that will effectively resonate with my clients, colleagues, and peers. Since starting the Next Leader Now program, I am much more intentional in my communication methods.
Given that your organization is making this investment in you, would you say that you’re more likely to pursue career growth within the organization rather than looking elsewhere?
Absolutely! I have had several different jobs since graduating from college. I have also personally sought out development opportunities in the past. My experience with KTA and Next Leader Now has been exceptionally different. This is the first time any organization in which I have been employed has come to me with a development opportunity. KTA presented me with the chance to participate in the Next Leader Now program because they wanted to aid in my growth within the organization.
By offering me the opportunity to participate in the Next Leader Now program, it shows me that my company values me as an employee, and that they want to do what they can to keep me around. I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization that has taken an interest in my development. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
One of the early exercises in the program is developing a personal vision that guides your overall personal strategic plan. What impact do you think Next Leader Now has had and will have on your ability to achieve that vision?
The impact of Next Leader Now was instantaneous. The very first day, at the kickoff workshop, I was taken out of my comfort zone. I was forced to self-reflect and consider what I really want, both personally and professionally. While this wasn’t a foreign concept to me – I’ve created goals for myself in the past – having to write a vision and create a plan to achieve that vision created a clear roadmap for me, something that I’ve never experienced before. My personal vision has raised my level of self-accountability and keeps the goals that I have created for myself top-of-mind.
What would you say is the secret sauce of Next Leader Now and why?
I believe the secret sauce of the Next Leader Now program is the development of a mindset. It is very easy to get distracted and immersed in the daily routines of our everyday lives. Because of the fast-paced nature of today’s society, including the workforce, we forget that someday, someone will have to replace us. The Next Leader Now program has instilled in me the idea that we have to continue to adapt, cultivate, and develop not only ourselves, but also the people around us. There is always going to be succession. It’s inevitable. And instead of denying or fighting this actuality, we must continue to mold and develop it.
If you could bust one myth about Millennials, what would it be?
Let me begin by saying, there are a lot of myths about the Millennial generation. Myths I don’t think are any different than any other generation has felt about the generation that came after them. But if I had to pick one, the entitlement myth would be one that I would like to bust. Millennials understand chains of command and the traditional corporate ladder. We just believe there’s a different path to take. A path that may or may not have been paved for us. We still want to learn and grow from the ones before us – or our leaders. Why else would we ask so many questions? As a generation, we want to feel empowered. I think sometimes empowerment gets misperceived as entitlement.