THE PICTURE: Self-Actualization in Action

Jan 7, 2022 11:20 AM ET

Koch Industries

When Lynn Penny, vice president of human resources with Koch Global Services, started working for Koch more than two decades ago, she never could have anticipated where her career would take her. 

In her position with human resources, a big part of Lynn’s job is helping employees leverage their skills to self-actualize in roles that fulfill them, and that they’re passionate about. It’s a fitting job for someone whose career has transformed considerably through her own continuous journey of self-actualization.

Lynn began her career with Koch as a business systems analyst in the world of information technology. With a background in finance, she was initially hired to implement Koch Carbon’s finance system before transitioning to project management, then an application manager role. 

“I really love understanding technology and how it can be used to improve the business process,” Lynn says. “I found passion in that and enjoyed helping others develop and learn how to use technology. It was just a natural progression.”

By 2004, Lynn had moved into a leadership capacity with Koch Mineral Services as chief information officer, but her career transformation was just beginning. Seeing firsthand how she worked with people, Richard Swan, president with Koch Global Services, approached Lynn about considering a new opportunity leading HR as a capability. 

“I was kind of shocked,” Lynn recalls. “I said, ‘I lead IT groups; I don’t lead HR teams.’”

But Richard recognized in Lynn an ability to help develop the potential in others, telling her, “I think you’re a great Koch leader. I think the way you show up as a leader, your commitment to our principles and how we work as an organization is authentic. So, take a chance because I think you could be really successful.” Lynn took that chance and soon realized leading HR wasn’t just something she enjoyed doing – she was also really good at it. 

“That’s where I find fulfillment in what I do in my role today, is I really help focus on employee development,” she says. “How can we help employees identify their strengths and what they’re good at? Then I help coach them, mentor them, help them see a path of development.”

One employee Lynn has helped along her self-actualization journey is Shayla Darnell, IT director with Koch Ag and Energy Solutions. Lynn hired Shayla as an application manager on the IT team, and she has since become director of IT applications with the company.

“She was focused more on finance accounting systems, and I said, let’s take your skills and capability to build IT talent, and let’s look at more of the manufacturing side, because that’s where we were really growing,” Lynn says. “And she got energized when she started doing that.”

As someone whose career was transformed thanks in part to what Richard saw in her, Lynn is grateful to be able to do the same for others like Shayla. And she encourages employees to take a chance on themselves to explore opportunities that leverage their own strengths and passions.

“A lot of people feel like, ‘Oh, I can’t do that.’ They don’t have that self-confidence in some of their abilities and strengths,” she says, adding, “A lot of times, it’s just having that positive conversation with them to help them gain that confidence that, ‘Yes, I can do this.’”

Learn more about the role self-actualization plays in career fulfillment in this episode of The Picture, a Koch Industries Spotlight Series telling inspirational stories from Koch’s hometown, Wichita, Kansas.