Life Down Under offers a world of opportunities
15 Mar 2019
American-born Alyx Selsmeyer was working for Case IH at the brand's US headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, two-and-a-half years ago when a job opportunity on the other side of the world was too good to refuse.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate had always had Australia on her destination wish list, so when a product manager role with the brand's Australia/New Zealand division came up, Alyx didn't need any convincing the time was right to follow that dream.
She started as the Product Manager for Sprayers and High Horsepower Case IH ANZ, in January of 2017 and after overcoming some of the initial 'cultural' hurdles, has embraced the role and the opportunities it provides to see Australia's vast regions.
"I was going through everything associated with taking on a new job – absorbing huge amounts of information, getting to know my new colleagues and a new workplace – as well as all that goes with moving to a new country. I felt like I was re-learning everything," Alyx laughs. "And then there was the driving. The first time I had to drive on the other side of the road in Sydney rush hour traffic was a bit overwhelming, I have to say."
She's certainly got the hang of Aussie ways now though, and indeed a lot of Alyx's time is spent on the road, meeting customers and visiting dealerships to get a feel for their businesses and machinery requirements. She's also come to appreciate the differences in agricultural practices between Australia and the US.
"Obviously the weather's a lot more temperate here for the most part; people are farming all year round here whereas back home there are very small planting and harvesting windows because of our very cold winters," Alyx said.
"Australian farmers are putting a lot more hours on equipment compared with back home where someone would buy something and trade it in regularly but only be putting a limited number of hours on it each year. In the Midwestern US, the harvesting and planting windows are so short and you're farming a lot less land because the yields are so high. Here, relatively, yields are lower per hectare and you're farming a lot more land.
"It's been so interesting to get out into the different farming regions in Australia. Where I'm from, it's some of the most fertile land in the world - black soil, lots of organic matter, a farmer's dream. And then you go to somewhere like Western Australia and they're practically farming in beach sand. It really changes your perspective and gives you so much respect for the different practices and skills of farmers around the world.
"It also gives you a great respect for the machinery Case IH produces, which must respond to a wide variety of conditions, and can be relied on by farmers to maximise the efficiency and profitability of their business. We take the expectations of our customers very seriously and they're reflected in the machines we design, manufacture and sell around the world."
"I love the variety and getting out in the field and meeting end users, which is the most important and most valuable part of my job. We need to create a product to support farmers in the best way we can" - Alyx Selsmeyer, Case IH ANZ
Alyx has also come to appreciate how the likes of government subsidies and crop insurance schemes in the US change the landscape for farmers and appreciates how most Australian farmers are successful with so much less assistance.
"It makes them really efficient operators and better decision-makers because they simply have to be. There is no safety net," she said.
Her role's a demanding one but she wouldn't have it any other way, and she particularly values the part she plays in developing the products best suited to Case IH customers' needs.
"I love the variety and getting out in the field and meeting end users, which is the most important and most valuable part of my job. We need to create a product to support farmers in the best way we can," Alyx said.
"For anything related to my products, there's a whole team I work with for advice or feedback. I get to talk to everyone involved from when the product's created to when it's sold to the customer, so that's really valuable and a real privilege."
Alyx, who has three degrees in biological systems engineering, agricultural business and economics, admits her role is still a bit of an unusual one for a woman, but she sees things changing and says for the most part her gender has never been an issue.
"My whole life's been like that really. I was into sailing growing up where there wasn't a lot of other females, and then went onto study engineering which was quite male-dominated. In my job you may come across someone who's more comfortable talking to your male counterpart, but it's rare," she said. "There are more women coming into the industry – it's slow but it's happening and I think it's a very good thing because every industry needs a range of approaches and perspectives. There's a greater balance and it hopefully leads to improvements in every part of a business."
For Alyx the past two years in Australia have been life-changing, from the people she's met to the experiences she's had that have encouraged both personal and professional growth.
"The travel I get to do has been amazing – there's so much this country has to offer outside its big cities. Each time you go to a different town you spend time with the customers and dealers who tell you what's unique about their town so you're always learning new things about the country and its culture. People are different wherever you go and it's really interesting to experience all of that," she said.
"It's completely changed my perspective on so many things and I think something like this is an advantage no matter what industry you're in - it gives you a greater understanding and respect regardless of where you're travelling. I wouldn't change it for the world and I'm so glad I took the leap."
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