It was during an interview for a graduate traineeship that Ali Bosher realized just how competitive a career in agriculture could be. Down to the final two for a position at a major agronomy company, a conversation with a fellow applicant left her determined to show her future employers that she was the right person for the job.
“I’ll never forget the conversation,” she says. “We’d had two days of testing and it came down to the final dinner, when the guy turned to me and said: ‘You know you’ll never get this job, don’t you? You’re a woman, and they don’t last in this business.’ It was like throwing down the gauntlet to me: I was going to prove I could be better.”
Ali’s ambitious approach worked, taking her from a university graduate with degrees in environmental studies and crop protection, to a sales trainee job. From there she became a key account manager, before she changed direction of her career by training in marketing, where she now works in developing technical stories and campaigns to talk to farmers and agronomists about Adama products.
“When I first started, it was an interesting time because there weren’t many women in the business,” she says. “Often when I got out of the car you could see that farmers were surprised, but I soon realized if you know your stuff and talk sense, then it doesn’t matter who you are. Thankfully there are now more women in the industry, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be tough. You can’t rest on your laurels and you have to be ready to go that extra step.”
For Ali, many of the skills she used to drive her career came through experience, but she says there are lots of ways young people can make themselves appeal to employers from the outset. “Obviously, a good grounding in agronomy is essential, but it’s not good enough to just know the science,” she says. “The industry is very much based on people and I don’t think that will ever change, so you have to be prepared to go out and about, build relationships and have those social skills. Sometimes I feel that people come into the industry fresh-faced – they might know the science, but that people element is missing. It’s about having the confidence to go out and talk to everyone, from farmers to board members, you need to make yourself known.”
Getting as much work experience as possible – and in different areas of the industry – will also help you and your CV stand out. “For the first ten years of my career I was very focused on manufacturing, and in hindsight it would have been great to get work experience at different points,” says Ali. “It gives you a good insight into the business and what drives it.”
Making an effort to be informed about what’s happening in the sector and keeping up-to-date with technological developments is also important. “The level of innovation and technology coming into the industry is changing rapidly, which means we need people that have traditional skills, but with an eye on the future. It’s a dynamic and innovative business, so if you can bring those digital skills from everyday life while understanding the importance of traditional practices, that would be great.
“More than anything, working in the sector is really good fun,” she adds “This is a caring business and I can definitely say the ride has been great.”