With her Scottish accent and firm foothold in Australian agriculture, precision agriculture specialist Siobhan Lynch holds the ‘Choose to Challenge’ theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, on 8 March, close to her heart.
Although Cervus Equipment‘s first female Integrated Solutions Manager may have grown up in suburban Dunfermline in Scotland, travelling around Australia as a backpacker from 2011 to 2012 gave Siobhan a taste of farming which she turned into an exciting career in agriculture. She said:
“The farm work opened up a whole new world for me as I had no experience whatsoever in agriculture previously.”
“It granted me an understanding of farming and gave me hands-on experience operating machines.”
After finishing off her rural visa requirements, Siobhan was working in a country pub when she was approached by a John Deere dealership manager who said she would be the right fit for a precision agriculture role. She recalls:
“I joked at the time I had met many farmers working behind the bar, so I probably knew more about what they wanted in their schooners than what equipment was in their sheds.”
But with her formal qualifications in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – from her geography degree – the offer piqued her interest and she grasped the opportunity.
She rapidly climbed the ranks of the heavy machinery sector, from starting out at a John Deere dealership in the wheat belt of Western Australia to now overseeing 16 Cervus Equipment branches across Australia and New Zealand from her Melbourne base. Siobhan said:
“I think there is a misconception the people who work in agriculture are mostly men living in rural or remote areas, but I am living proof the industry operates from right across the country and into metropolitan areas.”
“There is a diverse range of jobs available in agriculture and women are thriving in them.”
Passion for precision
Siobhan’s robust knowledge of current and emerging John Deere technology is vital for her role supporting the branches to smoothly implement precision agriculture tech across their vast customer base. She said:
“Precision agriculture is constantly evolving, its innovative and has endless opportunities.”
“It’s rewarding for me to see this technology adopted by farmers working across a range of agricultural commodities as it creates instant value for their business.”
“The benefit can be simply saving farmers time – for example through a system called Connected Support which means we can fix an issue without having to travel out to their farm – or it can be saving them money as technology can maximise the use of inputs.”
Reflecting on her career path in the male-dominated machinery and agriculture sector, Siobhan noted there had only been one instance when her gender was questioned. Ms Lynch said:
“I was once asked why a woman would be working in machinery sales, and my response was ‘well, why not?”
Ms Lynch believes the number of women entering the machinery sector will inevitably expand. She said:
“I really feel careers in agriculture are not promoted well enough for young people leaving school and there are misconceptions deterring people from entering the industry.”
She’s keen to overturn these misconceptions about her chosen industry.
“For instance, we will soon have an apprenticeship recruitment drive and when people think of a dealership technician, they are picturing a diesel fitter, doing dirty and heavy work under a big machine.”
“But in reality, our technicians have so much technology at their fingertips and often the first step of repair is completed behind the screen of a computer.”