15 Minutes With… Stephanie Jensen, BASF
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (September 28, 2021)
As director of Professional & Specialty Solutions North America division for BASF, Stephanie Jensen has her hands and mind fully into the agricultural sector, but if you told this finance guru 20 years ago that she would be in this sector, she would have not believed it.
Managing solutions across turf, ornamentals, urban pest control, poultry and livestock, and professional vegetation brought to market by BASF – which creates chemistry for a sustainable future through its 122,000 employees that serve customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world – has been a journey since she started with the company in 2002 as a business analysis manager.
“As a young woman with a finance background and minimal previous experience in the field, it seemed unlikely that I’d find many opportunities in a space largely dominated by people with lifelong backgrounds in farming and agriculture,” said Jensen. “Several great mentors helped me realize my potential and ability to advance in my career at BASF, and now being a mentor myself, especially to women in the field, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”
WIA Today talked with Jensen to get more information about her role and her trip up the BASF ladder.
1). Could you please tell us more about your current role with BASF?
I lead our North American Professional & Specialty Solutions team. Our primary markets are pest control, the turf industry (both golf and lawn care), the greenhouse and nursery segment, forestry and vegetation management. We also have a segment of our business that sells to third parties that usually go into the consumer home and garden segment.
2). You have worked your way up through five positions while with BASF. What kept you seeking new and more challenging positions, and where do you go from here?
I have been with BASF nearly 20 years through several financial and data and channel management positions, and while at first being in the agriculture sector seemed to be a stretch, as I’ve grown through my career and found work that I’m passionate about, I’ve seen the value in including people with different perspectives and backgrounds. In my non-traditional career journey, especially as I transitioned into the commercial part of my career at BASF, there were times that I wondered if I’d ever feel qualified for an agriculture-based career as I didn’t grow up with a connection to a farm, like many others in agribusiness. I also was often one of few or the only woman in the room.
Fortunately however, the industry has become increasingly diverse since the start of my career—both in terms of including more women and in including more people with a variety of different work experiences and backgrounds. Now, there are many female leaders, both at BASF offices and in the field, and it’s not so unusual anymore for people to work in agriculture who don’t have roots there. I would tell anyone out there questioning a move to a maybe non-linear career path to take the risk and go for it – if you are strong in your skills and find your passion, you can learn what you need on the job.
And why keep reaching? For me, it is about the people – our team, our customers and our partners. A large part of my job satisfaction comes from watching people succeed. It is easy to keep striving to be better when you see the impact – a great customer experience, a team member taking the next step in their career, watching the culture of the team grow. As far as where I go from here, I focus on two key areas when looking at opportunities – my development needs and where I can add value. I tend to focus more on building experiences, which means I always see the opportunity to develop more in my current role. I have found that to be especially true in my current role where I have the great benefit of serving a large variety of customers so there is always more to learn and do.
3). Roles in most companies have changed over the last 15 months as the world realizes a “new normal”. How have things changed for BASF and for your position?
I think BASF is similar to so many companies in this industry – essential business keeps moving! I think what we have learned is that we are far more agile and can be more flexible than we may have imagined before the pandemic. We also recognize that our employees want to sustain this flexibility and so we are looking to build out a work environment for the future that considers these learnings. For my role personally, I have spent more time on videoconferences dodging barking dogs and kids arguing about lunch than I could have ever imagined! While I missed tremendously being in person for meetings and events, and being out with our BASF team last year, I have learned so much that will help us better adapt for the future.
4). Please tell us more about your participation in Women in Agribusiness. How does it fit with your career goals and the mission of BASF?
I was one of the first women from BASF to attend the Women in Agribusiness (WIA) Summit, and I’ve been thrilled to see how much it’s grown as the demographics of the industry have changed. In conferences like this one, it’s powerful to hear women speaking openly about their inspiring career paths and what they hope to change about the workplace in the future. The industry has transformed significantly, and hopefully more diverse perspectives will continue to be embraced in the years to come. Hearing of these varied options has given me food for thought and helped shape the way I’ve grown in my position.
At BASF, as we recruit and retain more people with different backgrounds and have more open conversations – like with the attendees at WIA – we can make decisions that better reflect the communities we live in and serve. Through the years, our participation and sponsorship in the WIA Summit has provided a venue where our female leaders and staff alike can gain valuable business knowledge, connect with like-minded individuals in the sector, and build lasting relationships through networking that benefit both personal and business goals. Additionally, the recognition gained at the Summit in support of different viewpoints, and the encouragement of the power that each of of us has to positively shape the industry, are invaluable tools of change.
ABOUT STEPHANIE JENSEN
Stephanie Jensen is director of BASF’s Agricultural Solutions Professional & Specialty Solutions North America division. With more than 20 years of experience, her non-traditional path has led to roles of increasing responsibility within the agriculture industry and at BASF, specifically. Learn more about careers at BASF here.