Plunking a first-time teacher from Glendive into one of the roughest high schools in Anchorage, Alaska, could have been a recipe for disaster. But Megan Kongaika has fond memories of her two years as an educator.
“I’m so glad that I was a teacher,” she said. “Everybody should spend time in the classroom. It gave me an inside look into the public education system, and it’s going to equip me for the rest of my life.”
Family matters brought Kongaika back to Montana. But her return also provided an opportunity to follow through on a longtime desire, to complete a master’s degree in public relations from Montana State University Billings.
“I’ve always been really interested in people and their stories, and I’ve always been super comfortable around people. My mom thought I should go into PR,” she said.
Describe how you got where you are in your work today. Nowadays, every day is different. One day I’ll be in an operating room with a camera guy, another day I’m learning about cardiac MRIs, and the next I’ll be driving around Jordin Sparks before the Billings Clinic Classic. I often think to myself, “Who knew studying Shakespeare would land me this gig?” Moral of the story, let your passion dictate your career, not your learned skills.
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? I’m an English major surrounded by people who practice the incredibly complex science of medicine. Part of my job is to translate much of that information to the general public, sometimes in as little as two sentences on Facebook, and always in a way that factors in the human element. That means that on a daily basis I fluctuate from feeling incredibly dumb to fairly competent (and back) in a matter of minutes.
What did you learn from that challenge? I think people look smarter when they have the confidence to openly admit when they don’t understand something. I’m comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone now, and it’s opened up some amazing opportunities.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Always take the high road. People will remember that before they’ll remember whether you were right or wrong. I think about that all the time when I’m having a “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” moment.
Who gave you that advice? LynAnn Henderson, who’s been a mentor of mine for years.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’m a firm believer that in order to improve things, we need to start by looking at what’s working really well before we try to reinvent the wheel. This kind of positive deviance is something that we do here at Billings Clinic, and it would be fun to implement it on a community level with some of the service organizations and other not-for-profits around town.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When I drive home at the end of a work day I want to feel like I’m making a difference. When I left teaching, I told myself that any job I took from then on had to give me that same feeling. To me, that’s the measure of success.
Which living person do you most admire? My 2-year-old son. Before his arrival, my life was full of fun. Now it’s full of joy. He taught me the difference.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Working full time, getting married, getting pregnant, getting my master’s degree and turning the big 30, all in the same year. That was a big year for me. I have a supreme respect for women who do it with kids in tow or without a spouse to help pick up some of the slack.
I’m happiest when I’m… Surrounded by family and friends.