Journey of an ag grad: Hannah Thomas
From grappling with challenging stock sudokus to tasting watermelons for a living, working in agriculture has a myriad of career options. In this series, we catch up with three agricultural graduates who have taken their degree in three very different directions. In part two we chat to Hannah Thomas, Melon & Watermelon Sales Specialist.
When Hannah Thomas tells people she has the ‘very sweet’ job of being a Melon & Watermelon Sales Specialist, they often assume she works in retail selling seeds to gardening enthusiasts. In reality, a typical day for Hannah involves travelling to farms, assessing crops, eating watermelons and having discussions with growers. “My goal is to help my growers achieve a successful season by helping them plan, troubleshoot and trial new material,” Hannah explains. “A large part of my role is connecting with people and I love that every day I get to spend time talking to my growers and listening to their stories and experiences. I get to learn about the industry from people who are super passionate about it themselves.”
Growing up in suburban Melbourne, Hannah says choosing to study a degree in agriculture was perhaps not the most obvious choice but it was always an area she was interested in. “Trying to explain to anyone why I was studying agriculture was always interesting. I think there is a misconception that farming is just one guy in an Akubra working out in a field when the reality is that farms are complex businesses that invest in consultants, agronomists, technology, research, marketing etc,” Hannah explains. “I think a really important part of being in the ag industry is helping to advocate and educate people on where their food comes from in order to clear up these misconceptions.”
After graduating from a Bachelor in Agriculture majoring in Animal Health and Crop Protection, Hannah says she knew she wanted to work in sales but had to be creative with her job hunting approach. “After being overlooked for multiple sales roles I remember I was given some great advice: pick a company that you want to work for and be open to any opportunities that may come up. That’s actually how I came to work at BASF. I saw an advertisement for a customer service position in their agriculture department and decided that this was my opportunity to join the company and prove myself.”
Hannah says joining the customer service team was a fantastic introduction to working in the industry and gave her invaluable insights in both to agriculture’s business and customers. “Customer service taught me so much about how our business functions day-to-day and gave me the opportunity to network with a lot of different people both within our company and externally. It also provided opportunities to upskill myself further by working on projects with different teams. I was also very fortunate to be given a mentor quite early on and I am very grateful for the advice and knowledge they shared with me.”
Now working as a sales specialist for BASF Vegetable seeds, Hannah says she’s excited about the endless opportunities in the industry. “So much excites me about the future of ag, I love that there are more and more women entering the industry and that we are seeing women in leadership positions within the industry. I’m also really excited to see how we as an industry tackle the challenge of feeding our growing population and how we help growers manage change within their operations to integrate the innovative technologies that are emerging.”
When it comes to giving advice to agriculture graduates, Hannah suggests keeping an open mind. “Keep yourself open to opportunities and use your time at uni to explore the different segments within the Ag industry. When I first started studying ag I was pretty sure I’d eventually be working in the Animal Health sector, now I’m working in Horticulture and absolutely loving it.”