Heading up high-horsepower

Industry Profile: Case IH sprayer and high horsepower manager

Machinery
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Industry Profile: Case IH sprayer and high horsepower manager

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With three degrees in biological systems engineering, agricultural business and economics, Case IH, Australia and New Zealand product manager for sprayers and high horsepower, Alyx Selsmeyer is an excellent example of the modern agricultural professional, the fact that she has moved to Australia from the US also showcases the trend of businesses to globalise their workforce, providing opportunities for people of talent. 

Born in America, Ms Selsmeyer said she was working for Case IH at the brand's US headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, when her current role in Australia was advertised. Successful in gaining the position, she moved to Australia in 2017, and began the challenging task of building a home on the other side of the world. 

"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," she said. 

It makes them really efficient operators and better decision-makers because they simply have to be. There is no safety net - Alyx Selsmeyer

However, Ms Selsmeyer said the job was worth it, particularly her role in the development of new products. 

"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," she 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."

Ms Selsmeyer said there are significant differences in agricultural practices between Australia and the US, which makes her role all the more interesting.

"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," she 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.

There are more women coming into the industry, it's slow but it's happening and I think it's a very good thing - Alyx Selsmeyer

"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."

Ms Selsmeyer said government subsidies and crop insurance schemes in the US change the landscape for farmers and she 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.

Ms Selsmeyer said while people may feel her role is unusual for a woman, she believes things are changing and 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," she said. 

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 - Alyx Selsmeyer

"In my job you may come across someone who's more comfortable talking to your male counterpart, but it's rare.

"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."

Ms Selsmeyer said one of the things she particularly loves about her role is the amount of travel. 

"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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