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And Then This Happened – 40 Under 40

Posted on June 25, 2016 by under Confessions, Events.    

Last week was a super busy week. The day after the Orpheum’s Celebrity & Chef Cookoff was the 40 Under 40 awards dinner. Yup. No break last week. We had bowling league at the Alley on Monday, Celebrity & Chef Cookoff on Tuesday, 40 Under 40 on Wednesday, I took Nickira to the waterpark on Thursday, and then in-laws arrived in town on Friday.

Before I post pictures from the 40 Under 40 event, I have a confession to make. I actually applied for 40 Under 40 last year and didn’t make the cut. I wouldn’t have been as bummed about it had it not been for the fact that I was the only person nominated from Westar Energy, which meant our company didn’t make the list.

Last year when Don asked me how I felt about the company nominating me for 40 Under 40, I was super excited. I’d always wanted to be part of that group, I just didn’t know how you go about getting nominated for it and getting selected. As an eternal optimist, I’ve always approached everything with that thought that I can do something (anything) until I fail miserably. I thought I would get nominated and then I would get selected and then I’d get invited to the dinner and we will have a ton of fun and that’s that. I had no idea how truly competitive the process is and that you don’t just get selected. It’s not that simple. Maybe for some people it is. I wasn’t so lucky.

After the rejection I was like, “What’s wrong with me? What are others in my age group doing that I’m not doing? What goals can I achieve? How else can I make a difference?” I really had to do some serious reflection.

Earlier this year Don asked me how I felt about being nominated again. I remember the conversation well because it moved me to tears. I said, “It would be an honor to represent Westar Energy in the Wichita Business Journal‘s 40 Under 40 but are we sure we want to do this? I mean, I didn’t get in last year.” There’s a fine line between insanity and perseverance.

You know how when you get rejected for something or there’s something that you think you can’t have, you actually want it even more. I confessed that I really want to be part of the WBJ 40 Under 40 so I’m happy to be nominated. I’ve known some friends, Wichita State and Leadership Wichita classmates who have previously been selected for 40 Under 40. However, at work Don Sherman is the only person I know who has been part of this elite group but he received the honor before joining Westar. I won’t tell you what year because then you’ll know how old he is and he doesn’t look that old.

I digress..back to the conversation. I said, “I am very honored to be nominated again but I’m also a team player. Is this truly the direction we want to go? If there is someone else within the organization (I had a specific person in mind when I said this because I knew she would be a shoe in to get selected) who we think has a better shot at making 40 Under 40, let’s go with that person. I will gladly step aside to ensure we are represented on the list this year.” I’m no fool. I know they are recognizing individuals for their contributions to the community but it’s also about Westar building a presence in the community. Having a Westar employee on that list puts the company’s name out there. It shows we are involved in the community. It helps our brand.

“I’ve talked with Terry and Jeff,” he said. “The leadership team has decided and you are our pick. I just want to make sure that you are okay with it.” He added, “I know you’re not used to getting rejected” or something like that. I was like, “They can reject me all day long. It’s not going to stop me from trying. Rejection doesn’t bother me. I just don’t want to disappoint you guys. As long as you feel good about nominating me, then I will apply for it again and I will do my very best to get in.”

I was overwhelmed with emotion knowing that Don and our leadership team believed in me enough to risk not making the list again. And so began my mission. I had to make 40 Under 40. I could not fail again.

I started the process of securing letters of support right away. My first ask was to Mark Ruelle, our CEO. Although not required, a letter of support from your company’s CEO is highly recommended. But I couldn’t just ask for a letter of support over email because that’s simply not my style. I was asking for a letter so I sent him one.

Here’s what I wrote him:


I don’t think many people appreciate writing and receiving letters as much as I do. I really enjoy writing letters and wish I had more people to write to. LOL.

But letters are pointless if they don’t achieve their purpose. This one actually worked. Shortly after sending the letter through our interoffice mail, I received a phone call from Mark. It’s the first time the CEO had ever called me. I remember thinking, “OMG. OMG. OMG. The CEO is calling me. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid…” And then I answered the phone.

Our conversation was brief. He gave me some words of encouragement and said he would write me a letter of support. I secured a few more letters of support for good measure. All of them were meaningful and special to me. I almost didn’t want to turn them over to WBJ because I wanted to keep the originals forever. I felt so blessed to have all of these people in my corner. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m getting emotional now just thinking about it.

Before we fast-forward to the end of this story, I want to share one more dorky photo.

Someone Has Big Dreams

I’d been spending a lot of time in Topeka because of our CIS implementation project (currently on hold but we were fiercely working on it at the time) so, instead of getting my letter of support from Mark via interoffice mail, I asked his executive assistant Nancy if I could just swing by his office and pick it up. As luck would have it, almost all of the company officers were out of the office for spring break that week so Nancy was able to give me a grand tour. She even took a picture of me at Mark’s desk (above). I was told I’m not the first one to do it. Apparently it’s a thing that happens when he’s gone.

Believe it or not, this was not my idea. I didn’t even have my phone on me. Nancy suggested it and even took the photo with her phone. I just gladly went along. LOL.

Sidetracked again..back to the story. I could not afford to fail my company again so I didn’t want to leave anything to chance this time around. In addition to sending my nominee survey/application by email, I also made a hard copy and hand my very handsome husband hand deliver it. Brian looked so dashing in his suit and tie that Elisha at WBJ thought he was delivering his own application for 40 Under 40. Brian who is now 42 was super flattered naturally. We actually joke that the main reason I made the cut this year is because he hand delivered my submission for me.

Now that you know the backstory, here are some pictures from the event.


Brian with Don’s wife Denise, who has also been instrumental in my professional development. She was on the Leadership Wichita board of trustees the year I went through the program.


My teammate Sunni with Jim Ludwig, retired Westar exec (former VP of Public Affairs and Consumer Services), who mentored me in his final year and who continues to mentor me today (we just don’t see each other as frequently).


Jeff Beasley, VP of Customer Care, with Nykole, Shanda, and Gwen.


They gave us all copies of the paper with our honoree profiles. They totally published how old we are and everything. I was relieved to find out I’m not the oldest honoree. There were a few others older than me.


Here’s the dinner menu for the event.


And, predictably, food pictures will now follow…


This would be the salad.


These are arancini balls.


Our entrée.


There were various desserts. We had mousse. Other tables had carrot cake. I think overall Brian was pretty happy with the dessert we got at our table. He doesn’t like carrot cake. Dinner was actually delicious, as these things go. Considerable thought and planning went into the event and it showed.


Our group photo.


This year’s 40 Under 40 honorees.


And, this is me. Brian picked out my dress to go with my walk up song, “Walking on Sunshine.” My dress is quite yellow, like the sun. It’s apparently so bright that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.


Great picture of Amy Delamaide. I met her through Twitter eight years ago. She’s one of this year’s 40 Under 40 honorees as well.


This is my friend and Leadership Wichita classmate, Dan Lawrence. He picked the Super Mario Bros. video game theme song as his walk up song. How fun!


Landon Plumer is another Leadership Wichita classmate.


Landon is a lot younger than Dan and me. He’s not even 30 yet!


This is Patrick Todd, owner of Oz Endurance. If he looks familiar, it’s because we see him every year at the Labor Run.



There were so many interesting, accomplished people in this group. I felt truly honored to be among them. You can read up on everyone here.

The photo on the right is the picture they used with my writeup, which you can read here. I think my answers were kind of dull compared to everyone else’s answers. They were all so clever and creative. It kind of made me wish that I had put more thought into responding to my honoree profile survey.

You can check out, and purchase, the rest of the honoree picture here. The two days that they scheduled everyone’s photos fell during a week when I was in Topeka all week (probably for the system integrator interviews) so I had to swing by the WBJ office on a completely different day to get my photo taken. I’m super grateful to Kellen being so flexible and accommodating. He also did a fantastic job on all the event photos, which you can view and purchase here.


I found out that I’m also getting a plaque like this one. I’m not really sure where I’m going to hang it yet because I have ginormous whiteboard in my office at work that takes up a lot of room. There’s not really anywhere good to put the new plaque.

I know my limited blog readership pretty much just consists of family so if you’re reading this, and you would like one of these for your home, let me know. The cost is $215 for each plaque so I’m not getting a bunch of them made. I’m only ordering one for you if you really, really, really want one.

I did get an alternative design proposal from Walliez for about the same price. I declined for now because I really don’t know where to put the first plaque let alone a second one but, if anyone wants one, let me know because I’ll be happy to purchase extras of these to give away as Christmas presents. I’m just narcissistic enough to do that. LMAO.

Jokes aside, I’m super thrilled to be among the WBJ’s 40 Under 40 honorees. After reading about everyone, I know I’m in good company. And, it was really tough to get selected so I’m truly honored.

And, for those who weren’t able to join us for the awards dinner, Brian took a video of my 15 seconds (slightly longer because Wichita Business Journal’s Bill Roy had a good ol’ time making fun of me). Enjoy!

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