Knowledge is not a straight line to be walked in a single direction. Moments of insight are beams of light that, when caught in the prism of knowledge, can proliferate every which way, bouncing off of each other into different perspectives.
I was recently reminded of this scope of knowledge when discussing mentorship, and those who can gift both of them to us, with Oppy’s Kelsey Van Lissum.
Shining brightly just seven years into her fresh produce experience, the rising Marketing Communications Manager is a glistening example of how multi-directional mentorship can be when based on something as malleable as experience, both in who you might learn from and who might learn from you.
“We have hired so many brilliant Gen Z additions, and I’ve been thinking about who could be my next mentor in this group. No matter our generation, we can all learn from each other. Is there somebody younger—fresh out of university with new information we didn’t have when I was in school—who could have the answers to what is next for us?” Kelsey asks me, turning me on my head and checking my bias. I have learned so much from our own writers, younger and newer than me, yet I assume mentors are going to be more senior than mentees.
Kelsey’s observation isn’t just evocative, it’s paradigm-shifting. And I suspect it has something to do with those who have helped her along the way.
“By the time I was done with school, I had a few years of public relations experience under my belt and was ready for my big-girl full-time job. Oppy was looking for its first Social Media Coordinator, and my skills aligned with the newly created position,” Kelsey remembers. “I immediately fell under the guidance of Karin Gardner and have been able to flourish and find my true passion through her trust and wisdom.”
"No matter our generation, we can all learn from each other. Is there somebody younger—fresh out of university with new information we didn’t have when I was in school—who could have the answers to what is next for us?”
Kelsey Van Lissum, Marketing Communications Manager, Oppy
Beyond trusting Kelsey to find her way, she recalls how Karin, Oppy’s Executive Director of Marketing, advocated leadership on her behalf to ensure there was plenty of room to grow.
“Karin always was and still is empowering me to pave my own path and do things my own way. It is who she is as a mentor and a manager, wanting to uplift her team and letting people lead themselves with guidance as needed,” Kelsey shares.
If the light of Karin’s teachings is a steady flame for Kelsey. Jason Fung, Vice President of Categories and Strategy, is a bright spark every time she needs a sharp strike of inspiration.
“Jason has such an analytically strategic mind. He’s so great to bounce thoughts off of because he always has a clear vision and a different perspective than I do. At the same time, because Jason was previously a Marketing Manager for Oppy, he also has that marketing mind. He always shows me something I was missing before,” Kelsey points out, laughing as she explains the two styles. “There is a complement and a contrast that really helps bring everything together. I think you need that in your mentors; you don’t want the same perspective or approach.”
This prism of Kelsey’s accumulated experience would not be complete, though, without the particular radiance of Satri Alpine, Vice President of Talent and Culture and Chief People Officer, Oppy.
“Satri, being in Human Resources, is such a people person, and so am I. You can plan for everything and check every box, but people are going to react how they want to react. It’s my favorite aspect of marketing, but also the hardest to pin down,” Kelsey smiles. “So, Satri and I are always in conversation about the good of the people, the best for everybody, and, in being the communications lead, how do we best present information and make people feel good about their experience at Oppy?”
It’s an important piece to any workspace, especially one as wide-reaching and rapidly growing as Oppy—even with its long-established history of nearly 165 years.
"It’s up to us to empower the younger generation to use their voice and share their perspective—something I’ve been made to feel by my passionate, wise, and supportive mentors, because mentorship is a two-way street.”
Oppy Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Managing Partner John Anderson has long-seen this value, establishing the Champions of Change in 2003, which Kelsey has contributed to for five years, bringing several departments together so everyone can shape company strategy.
“With our department changing, the industry advancing, and the world evolving, there’re jobs, growing methods, and technologies we don’t even know exist yet. So, it’s likely the next person to help me evolve as needed is the newest generation to join our business,” Kelsey says, pulling me down the rabbit hole as she goes. “Which is why I would ask a Gen Zer to be a mentor. It’s up to us to empower the younger generation to use their voice and share their perspective—something I’ve been made to feel by my passionate, wise, and supportive mentors, because mentorship is a two-way street.”
So, in this multi-directional collection of knowledge, who is the mentor and who is the mentee? In opening herself up to learning from a newer produce professional, Kelsey shares words of wisdom only a mentor in the making can give.
“Imagine how much more collaborative and synergistic our multi-generational teams could be if we all saw that in each other,” she shares. “We do not have to do things a certain way just because it’s how it’s always been done. That’s what it means to be innovative.”
Though Kelsey sat down with me to discuss those who’ve guided her, I already see in her the light that is guiding others.
Here is what they have to say about Kelsey…
Executive Director of Marketing, Oppy
“Highly focused and solutions-driven at even the most stressful of moments, Kelsey’s technical abilities as a writer, editor, and strategist are eclipsed only by her natural warmth and sincerely caring style. Always people-first, Kelsey has become a fresh produce expert, in part, as a result of the time she spends listening and sharing information with her strong and diverse network of friends and associates—within Oppy and across the industry. Kelsey is trusted for her perspective, valued for her steadfast sense of fairness, and loved for her encouragement of others on their own pathways to success.”
Vice President of Categories
and Strategy, Oppy
“Kelsey has an extremely bright future at Oppy. Her ability to listen, problem solve, and drive consensus creates a strong platform for Kelsey to continue to grow her career. Kelsey’s leadership potential is driven by her thirst for knowledge; her adaptability; and her natural, easy-going, but professional personality. Kelsey’s values are strong and will continue to guide her well into the future.”
Vice President of Talent and Culture and Chief People Officer, Oppy
“I am deeply grateful to have worked with Kelsey Van Lissum over the past six-plus years. Kelsey has established herself at Oppy as a rising leader; her positive yet pragmatic approach has allowed her to build strong internal and external relationships and build her influence and impact. Kelsey is naturally curious, which allows her to learn about and contribute to the business beyond her immediate function. Her willingness to extend her skills into complementary areas enables a deeper understanding and knowledge base. Her natural warmth and interest in contributing on numerous levels will absolutely serve her as a mentor for others in the industry.”