Editor’s note: This article is the next in a series of articles featuring the leaders of the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation.

Jessica Held has been a member of the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation since 2012. A member of the organization’s student chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she joined the alumni association soon after graduation.

Recalling how the student chapter had helped her, Held said she wanted to join the alumni association to give back.

“The association does so much for students,” she said.

And with her skills in finance, Held lends her talents as chair of the financial-management committee of the Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation.

“Jessica has put in a lot of time in the association in her role as financial-management chair,” said Chrissy Meyer, the organization’s president. “She also was key to helping us achieve 501©(3) status.”

Jill Armbruster said, “Jessica is a real asset to the organization.”

Armbruster is a member of the organization and an enrolled agent for Compeer Financial, for which she helps taxpayers and small businesses. She became acquainted with Held when Held was still at UW-Madison and involved with the student chapter’s finances. Armbruster conducts audits of the association’s corporate board as well as the student account and house account.

“Audits have been easier for me because Jessica does a good job of keeping records accurate and up-to-date,” she said.

Knowing Held’s financial skills, Armbruster asked Held – a student at the time – if she would be interested in helping her during the tax season. Held worked two tax seasons — and eventually joined Compeer Financial as an assistant vice-president loan officer after graduating from UW-Madison. She currently serves as a lending officer in the company’s consumer-mortgage division.

Held was raised in Burlington, Wisconsin. She didn’t live on a farm, but enjoyed spending time at both of her grandparents’ farms near Burlington and Omro, Wisconsin, she said. In her freshman year of college in 2008 she wanted to meet other students with agricultural interests and so she joined the Association of Women in Agriculture.

Both the student and alumni organizations provide women with professional development and career guidance. A large alumni base also is available to teach students various professional skills and values.

“And when I was a student the AWA house was a home away from home,” Held said. “I could grow and develop with people with similar interests.”

At UW-Madison she pursued a degree in agricultural business management. She said she was comfortable in her classes in UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“The college has a close-knit feel,” she said.

Held’s advice to other young women is to network and become involved in organizations.

“Take on a leadership role,” she said. “In the professional world employers are looking at grade-point averages, but also job-candidate participation in organizations and leadership skills.

“Follow your passion. Life is too short to do what you don’t enjoy.”

The Association of Women in Agriculture Benefit Corporation’s mission is to advance the education of women in agriculture. The organization also supports the student chapter of the Association of Women in Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Visit awamadison.org for more information.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email lgrooms@madison.com to contact her.