Job Title: Product Manager, Service Now
When Johanna Acevedo was growing up working in her parents’ company office in Chicago, she had no idea who or what John Deere was.
But that all changed for Acevedo, whose parents immigrated to the United States in their youth from Colombia, when as a Management Information Systems major at the University of Illinois, she got the opportunity to become a John Deere summer intern. She began learning exactly who John Deere was and what it is today.
“Not only was I not familiar with John Deere, but I certainly didn’t affiliate it with IT,” said Acevedo.
Her parents owned a fiberoptics communications company in Chicago and Acevedo helped her mother with accounting work while her father, an electrician by trade, ran the fiberoptics side of the business. This opportunity gave Acevedo the chance to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and was encouraged to learn more about information management systems. An opportunity she may not have had in another family.
After college, Acevedo was hired into the Employee Development Program (EDP) in Global IT at Deere and has taken advantage of the many learning opportunities offered to her. When she began her first rotation as an infrastructure support analyst for the dealer channel, she wasn’t familiar with hardware at all. So, she completed some additional networking and Cisco classes at the local community college; an experience that inspired her to continue her learning journey.
Saying HOLA to her colleagues and community
Getting involved at Deere also gave her plenty of opportunities to learn, grow, and lead. She became involved with HOLA, an employee resource group (ERG) at Deere that helps recruit and retain Hispanic/Latino employees, offers community outreach programs, leads employee development programs, and advocates for diversity and inclusion. And, she has been the chair of this ERG for three years.
“There is a need for Hispanic employees to see other Hispanic employees,” she said. “As a community, we need that sense of family, especially if employees have relocated or moved away from their family to work at Deere - a sense of community at work is extremely important for Hispanics.”
As the chair of HOLA, Acevedo works with the Hispanic/Latino Council (HLLC) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) to execute a framework of personal and professional development, mentorship, community involvement, networking, engagement, and volunteerism. And it’s not just for Hispanic employees; anyone can participate in the programs.
“When I came to Deere, there where women in IT, but not any Hispanics, not even any Hispanic men, and it was hard to not see a role model who looked like me,” she said. “Once I started getting involved, my network expanded, and I was able to see people succeed in other parts of the business. My network now is not just people in IT, but across the business.”
Giving back is the path forward
Over the last five years, Acevedo has been involved in recruiting for Deere and has been very active in the SHPE National Convention, where she has recruited interns and eventual Deere employees.
Additionally, Acevedo feels very strongly about growing talent in her own backyard, and as a resident of the Quad Cities, has gotten involved with Mercado, a Hispanic-based community partner, to help promote school programs and recruit for software engineering, welding, and production apprenticeship programs.
Acevedo and her colleagues from HOLA have also partnered with Mercado to host recruiting events at their weekly Hispanic-themed festival which attracts local recruits and their families. Children can also participate in fun STEM-related activities while their parents can speak with Deere recruiters, and in Spanish if needed.
“This is a great way for us to partner together and gives us an opportunity to go where the recruits are. They don’t have to come to us; we go to them.”
The student becomes the teacher
Today, as the product manager for Service Now, Acevedo acknowledges that she is known as a Hispanic leader at Deere, and in her community.
“That lightbulb has recently come on, and I don’t take that lightly,” she said. “There are other people who look up to me and now I can give back because I know what they will go through and I can help them along their journey.”
As for a career in IT, Acevedo recognizes the challenges, especially for Hispanic women, as they are rare in the discipline. But she doesn’t let that stop her from guiding other women who want a career in IT, whether they are Hispanic or not.
“There are not a lot of women in our field, but don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and have confidence. Demand a seat at the table instead of waiting to be invited,” she said. “As a Hispanic, I always coach employees that when you engage others, have an open mind. Always assume the other person has the best intent - the last thing you should do is be offended.”
And from her track record, Acevedo is as open as they come.