Ioana is the global marketing head for Syngenta Crop Protection. Her team has a broad remit working with other departments within Syngenta to prepare for new product launches, steer the company’s chemistry pipeline investment, and ensure that the right quantities of products are available year after year.
Why do you love your job?
My day-to-day role is very intense and diverse, spanning from long term strategic topics to operational challenges that require immediate intervention. Working for a global company I have the opportunity to interact with customers in over 90 countries. My team also provides strategic direction to shape areas of focus for the future, including digital agriculture and broad partnerships and alliances with other companies in the sector.
I continue to be fascinated by agriculture and I feel so lucky to be able to work in this sector – I think is one of the best industries in the world! On the one hand, it is very much a relationship-based business with strong traditions. On the other, it is a sector where change is happening quickly, with fundamental transformations underway.
I was fortunate to experience the impact of biotechnology adoption in the USA in late 1990s. I witnessed the massive change biotechnology brought to cotton, soybeans, corn, sugar beet and other crops.
In agriculture, we can experience transformational change, while making our contribution towards feeding the world and taking care of our planet.
How did you get here?
I started my career 21 years ago with Zeneca, one of Syngenta’s precursors. So far, I have had a very exciting and broad career with roles in crop protection, seed treatment, seeds, and biotechnology in both the USA and Switzerland.
What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?
Never be shy to follow your passion and always seek to have fun in your career. This will give you energy and motivation to learn and have lasting impact in your role.
I’ve continued to learn throughout my various roles in Syngenta, and each time I’ve changed position, I took the challenge to step into something quite different. What helped was having strong mentors around me from whom I learned and copied best practices.
The other critical success factor is balancing work and family life; a strong and supportive family environment will always give you the strength to conquer more and more challenges at work. I feel very lucky to have had the benefit of strong support from my husband and children throughout my career.
How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?
Agriculture needs to continue to adapt to respond to ever increasing demands of consumers, who are less and less connected to farming and agriculture. Sometimes the demands put upon the agricultural value chain seem unrealistic. By reaching out and establishing dialogues with a broad range of stakeholders, we can find common ground.
Food safety and security will continue to be high-priority themes and somewhere where the agriculture sector plays a very important role. Now we are seeing a major wave of technology transformation, triggered by digital, which will continue to have a significant impact in agriculture.
What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?
There are still too many meetings and interactions where I am the only woman in the room. The average rate of women working in agribusiness is 30%. While this is a much higher proportion than when I started in my first job, there is still significant scope to increase women’s participation in agriculture.
This needs to start with strong encouragement for women to join agriculture schools and universities. However, the challenge of diversity in our workforce, feels rather small in comparison to the month-long working experience I had through Syngenta with smallholder famers in Bangladesh. I learned that female farmers face significant challenges: they can’t own land and have difficulties opening a bank account or securing financing. Their difficult situation inspired our team of volunteers to initiate additional support projects to create lasting impact and change to empower these farmers.
Ioana is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.