Meet the team members who are helping our customers create a more sustainable food future. Today’s post is about Lana St John, VP of Business Development for AgIntegrated, based outside Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lana considers agriculture to be “in her blood” and shares her career journey and advice for others interested in the industry.
Tell us about yourself.
I live near Charlotte with my husband, twin boys and our four-legged best friend Marvin. While not at work, I love being on the water with the family, walking/exercising and traveling.
What is your role at TELUS Agriculture?
To my sons, I say my job is that I sell bridges to companies – not like the ones that your parents drive over, but ones in the internet world to connect two sides together. As VP of Business Development, my job is to discover new clients, foster ongoing relationships with existing clients and engage strong partnerships for the future. The cool thing about my job is listening and learning how to help new and existing clients to reach their goals in connecting data digitally.
What's a typical work day like for you?
My day is full of digital face-to-face meetings to propel clients to accomplish their visions, whether building apps, empowering data or getting solutions to market faster.
What was your first job in agriculture and food?
Agriculture was a natural calling for me from a young age. I grew up in a small town in a South Dakota farming community where my father was a local sales rep for one of the legacy seed companies that is known today as Syngenta. We knew the growers in town and every day, I saw my dad carting off seed and other farming-related tools to help these farmers feed the world. So when the time came for me to choose a profession after graduating college, agriculture and Syngenta were a natural fit. As a third-generation Syngenta employee, I held a number of different positions in sales, marketing and customer service. This enabled me to experience different facets of the company and customer interactions to gain a more complete understanding of what customers want in this industry and what processes and skillsets are needed. Also, I was part of their leadership program, where I was able to expand my knowledge base to other countries and platforms and work with some of the greatest leaders I have ever known in agriculture.
What has equipped you for your role?
I attended college at Midland University in Nebraska, though the majority of my preparation and training for this position came throughout my career. I've held a number of different positions across the commercial side of the business with Syngenta and WinField United, of which has given me a unique glimpse into each aspect of how and why a customer buys and what drives a customer to come back for more. What’s kept me on a path to success is an intense focus on my customer and their needs and emotions as it pertains to their farm or business; and how to integrate the best of what my company has to offer in a more customized and engaging manner.
What's the best career advice you received?
To always focus on what I can control, while keeping the customer at the center of my focus. I cannot control the behavior of my customer, but what I can control is listening to their needs and to my internal customer's needs, and then marrying them to create a solution that delivers what each party is looking for – ultimately creating a win-win all around.
What career advice would you give to someone interested in your role?
Learn as much as you can about as much as you can, don’t turn down opportunities to get out of your comfort zone and expand your knowledge. Also, always consider how your customer will react to the situation that you're working on and remember at the end of the day, it does not matter how good our products are if we cannot get our customers to buy and use them properly.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get involved in agriculture and food?
To remember that farming is not a simple way of living and that farmers are typically jacks-of-all-trades when it comes to overseeing their entire operation. So whether you are dealing directly with a farmer or not, remember that each piece of the value chain should be providing a farmer with the tools for success in planning and managing their crops. If those tools are not making it easier and allowing them to make more insightful decisions, then the farmer will not have any interest in how fancy the tool looks or how slick it functions.
What’s a common misconception about agriculture and food?
For people outside of the industry, it’s that this work is simple and doesn't require a great deal of knowledge, insights and tools to get the job done. The fact is that it is anything but plant, harvest, wash and repeat. There is more pressure than ever on the existing farmlands and industry to produce more with less, but while doing so in a manner that is more sustainable for future generations.
What's a fun fact people don't know about you?
I have donated my hair four times, with many more donations planned to come.
What's your favorite food or recipe?
My specialty is crusted filet mignon.