When Biljana Dewsbury started her career in the legal department at John Deere, working in one of the company's factories was the furthest thing from her mind.
But after a few peer networking sessions, she became open to the idea of switching functional areas.
"Because of somewhat limited career opportunities, I started evaluating my long-term career goals," Dewsbury recalled. During the networking session, "I was asked, 'would you like to visit one of our factories and see what it means to be in Operations?'"
Dewsbury visited John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois, to get a feel for what it would be like to work in Operations. Most of the people she met were men, although the supervisor she job shadowed was a female. That one day of job shadowing gave her an opportunity to see what it takes to lead a team of production employees.
Building combines that farmers use every day to harvest the world's crops and feed an ever-growing population was the hook for Dewsbury.
"I really enjoy being a part of a team that is striving to improve the safety of our employees, further develop the quality and functionality of our products, all while increasing the efficiency of our operations. That's what keeps me going," she said. "I decided to make a change six years ago and I would never go back or change anything."
Dewsbury is now an OFP (Order Fulfillment Process) project manager at John Deere Commercial Products in Grovetown, Georgia, just outside Augusta, Georgia, where Compact Utility and Utility tractors are being produced.
Since arriving she has been committed to continuously improving safety, quality, and efficiency, as well as inspiring other women to join her in operations. Dewsbury started a Women in Operations ("WiO") employee resource group at the Grovetown facility in 2019.
Because of her efforts, Dewsbury recently received the Manufacturing Institute's 2021 STEP Ahead Award, which goes to emerging female leaders from around the country.
"Manufacturing offers a front row seat to see the magic happen, every single day," Dewsbury said. "When you see the finished product in the field, you take pride in knowing you played your part in making sure that machine exceeds our customer's expectations."