Benjamin Zelle

Feature Story
Benjamin Zelle
Agricultural Business
Year Graduated: 

Hometown: Waverly, IA

Current employment/job title: John Deere, Waterloo, IA, Marketing Representative

Describe your position with John Deere. The Marketing Rep Development Program (MRDP) is an 18 month rotational development program that allows for exposure to a broad scope of John Deere’s business. My position is on the Customer Product Support path focused around jobs that provide support for the end-user whether directly or indirectly, and it has a focus on development of employees for future positions.

In my first rotation with John Deere, I worked at World Headquarters (Moline, IL) in the Machine Knowledge Center (MKC) as a data analyst primarily with Telematics Data (machine information transmitted from the field through JDLink). This area falls under the industry buzzword of ‘Big Data’ analytics and each day a new adventure with how to better understand the ‘Voice of the Machine’.

After completing a 6 month stint at the MKC, I spent 4 months in Florida as an equipment Instructor for Seeding Equipment. As an Instructor, I worked with dealers daily training them on new product theory, operation, and sales.

Currently, I am working in Waterloo, IA, on a special Enterprise cross-division project enabling the movement of Tier 4 regulated equipment to non-regulated countries products ranging from Agricultural Machines such as Tractors, Sprayers, and Harvesters to Construction and Forestry Equipment. This position is very different from analytics or training as I work with teams around the world coordinating the development of Sulfur Compatibility Solutions. Each day is a new challenge working with a variety of disciplines from engineering to customer support to developing training and marketing for these new solutions.

After just 1 year with the company, I am primarily managing a project which involves many moving pieces across divisions and functional areas. It is exciting to see where the future may lead.

What do you like about your job? Each day is a new challenge and the many opportunities available. An international company offers many opportunities and attracts a broad array of personality types, cultures, and experiences of individuals who may or may not have an agricultural background. Each day I have the chance to work on projects that are ultimately serving those individuals linked to the land.

How did you choose to work this job? While I could give the typical cliché reasons of the "Company Values" (which they do!) and being an "Agricultural Leader" (which they are!), it really came down to two things for me: Variety and opportunities. When deciding on the first career position, the Marketing Representative Development Program (MRDP) offered variety of experience similar to back-to-back internships within a company which was appealing as I had yet to decide exactly what I was looking for. At first, I was hesitant to work for large, international company as my internships were with mostly smaller companies (10-100 people), yet I’ve found that it is easy to network and, much like Iowa State University, the company has a small-town feel.

How did the Ag Business major prepare you for your position? My adventure at Iowa State provided many opportunities to develop a plethora of skills from presentation to teamwork and people skills to industry experience and business savvy. The Ag Business Major is designed to provide broad baseline experiences in agriculture while also allowing for customized focus in areas of interest with the remaining elective credits; my additional focuses were in Agricultural Technology (AST minor) and Business Management/Information Systems (MIS) as I felt they helped to round out my experiences and interest in Agriculture, Business, and Technology. The classroom experiences coupled with internships and extra-curricular including Agricultural Business Club, Alpha Gamma Rho, FFA, Student Alumni Leadership Council, and VEISHEA created opportunities to develop a broad array of skills which have propelled me in my current career.

What advice would you give to students looking for work in a similar position? Diversify your adventure at Iowa State. From taking classes outside your comfort zone to involvement in student organizations and diverse internship experiences, this will propel you into a future career in the agricultural field. College is an awesome time to try many different things in a controlled atmosphere that promotes learning and development, so pursue those opportunities by excelling in the classroom, holding positions in student organizations, and making the most of every summer for internships.

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