From Farm Kids to Vice Presidents: How FFA Can Make a Lifelong Career Impact

November 3, 2017

Caterpillar has a long history of supporting the National FFA – but did you know that the FFA has a long history of supporting our vice presidents as well? Karl Weiss and Ken Hoefling, two Caterpillar executives, have had a longstanding relationship with the FFA since their days growing up on their family farms. From early childhood and throughout a long career, FFA can provide training and learning opportunities for the next generation of leaders to develop skill sets needed within Caterpillar and our dealers. Read the quick Q&A below from Karl and Ken about their FFA experiences growing up, and how the organization made a long-lasting impact on them. 

Q&A with Karl Weiss, vice president of Material Handling & Underground

What was your involvement in the FFA and agriculture growing up?

I was raised on a farm in Indiana, but I was a member chiefly due to wanting to pursue the leadership development opportunities that the FFA provided. As a high school student, I was heavily involved in the FFA and I became our local chapter president, district president and eventually Indiana state vice president before heading to college.

What is your favorite memory from FFA?

I grew up as the youngest in a large family that was very involved in the FFA. When I finished my first year as Indiana FFA vice president, I was able to give my parents the Honorary State FFA Award in front of an audience of 5,000 people. It was wonderful to be able to recognize them, not only for what they did to support the FFA, but also what they did to support me. 

How has being involved in the FFA influenced your career? 

Through the FFA, I had many opportunities to develop as an individual and as a leader. One of the areas of focus for me was public speaking. I competed at the state and national levels for public speaking, and spoke in front of audiences of thousands of people. While it was indeed nerve-wracking, it was a tremendous help to me as I continue to have opportunities to speak in front of groups at Caterpillar and with our customers and dealers. 

Q&A with Ken Hoefling, vice president of Building Construction Products

How has being involved in the FFA influenced your career? 

Working on the farm and being involved in FFA taught me three key things that have helped me throughout my career no matter what position I’m in: teamwork, hard work and respect for others. I use the skills I learned making the family farm successful every day at Caterpillar.

Why do you personally choose to continue to support FFA?

As I think about my own career and the opportunities I had, I want other kids to have the chance to develop real skills, a strong work ethic and leadership capabilities. FFA is a great organization that promotes professionalism and helps young people be prepared to build a successful career. 

Why do you think Caterpillar supports FFA?

The agriculture industry is important to Caterpillar and to the communities our customers serve. Many of our products and services support the agriculture industry. We also want to help develop the next generation of leaders and Caterpillar employees.  

Vice Presidents Karl Weiss and Ken Hoefling visit the Caterpillar booth at the 2017 National FFA Convention Expo.

Ken Hoefling proudly stands with the Prairie Central FFA Chapter of Illinois, the first-place Agricultural Technology & Mechanical Systems team.

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