Journey of an ag grad: Toby Erkkila
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 three we catch up with Toby Erkkila, Agency Reconciliations & Customer Service officer.
They say the best ideas come to you when you least expect them - a sentiment that proved to be true when it came time for Toby Erkkila to choose a career. “Throughout school I was always interested in geography, sciences and economics but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do once school finished,” Toby explains. “It was while attending a high-school program working on a dairy farm that I discovered agriculture to be perfect intersection between these interests and studies. Having family and friends involved in the industry, I always envied the lifestyle and mindset of providing such an essential service to the greater community and decided this is what I wanted to do.”
Following the completion of both a Bachelors and Masters in Agriculture, Toby says he was seeking a job that “fell in line with [his] values and work ethos”, when he applied, and was successful, in joining BASF's Agricultural Solutions team as an Agency Reconciliations & Customer Service officer. In this role Toby is responsible for sales reports, stock inventory and customer service support. “I start my morning running our daily sales report, so it’s always a motivating start to the day to be able to convey to the wider organisation and team the sales figures and how we are tracking to budget. It’s a nice feeling being able to start the morning on a positive note, with something the team appreciates,” Toby explains.
“Next it's checking the inbox, then on to reconciliations, which is essentially comparing stock movement between store reporting and inventory - I often explain this as a ‘stock sudoku puzzle’ in Excel. The afternoons lately have been spent a lot in Salesforce, preparing training materials, upskilling, and returning responses to any team questions as well as maintaining and planning further Salesforce data changes.”
Toby says working in customer service is a fantastic opportunity to build on the knowledge and skills he learnt in his studies. “In my role you really can see the value you are adding. A few months in to the job I recognised that I was building on some things that I had been practicing over many years at university, such as the ways to convey data, reporting, time management, communication, software and data interpretation and extrapolation. In general, I feel very fortunate to work in an industry that is very easy to feel proud of, one that provides such an essential service and is so reliable in hard times.”
Looking to the future, Toby says he is optimistic and open to many different roles in the industry. “I can’t wait to see where agriculture goes in the coming decades, as peoples’ diets change globally - some having access to foods previously unavailable whilst others changing diet towards sustainability-produced or lowering red meat intake. I continue to be excited for the wide array of possibilities with a career in ag, because I think the potential of technology, data and IT in agriculture is something we are only starting to see the early phases of now.”
As for advice for young people who, like himself, may be overwhelmed by career options, Toby suggests keeping an open mind. “For me the classes where I wasn’t counting down the time until lunch and the footy oval, signified a real passion, natural talent or interest. For current ag students, I suggest you don’t just peruse the conventional roles, don’t be afraid to take on something slightly outside your ideals, play to your natural talents.”