Today's CEO Leader in STEM: Sam Allen of John Deere
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on July 16, 2013
The 100 CEO Leaders in STEM Blog Series features a new CEO Monday-Friday and the exemplary work his or her company is doing to support 21st Century STEM learning and workforce development. To learn more and download the whole copy, head to stemconnector.org/100ceos. Today's featured CEO Leader is Sam Allen of John Deere.
Sam Allen is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Deere & Company, a position he’s held since February 2010. Previously, he served as President, Worldwide Construction & Forestry Division and was responsible for the global operations of John Deere Power Systems. He was also responsible for Deere's intelligent mobile equipment technologies and for Deere's advanced technology and engineering. He has served as a senior officer of the company since 2001, with additional responsibilities in human resources, industrial relations, and John Deere Credit's global operations.
Since joining John Deere in 1975, Allen had worked in positions of increasing responsibility in the Consumer Products Division, Worldwide Construction & Forestry Division, John Deere Power Systems, and the Worldwide Agricultural Division including managing operations in Latin America, China & East Asia, and Australia.
In addition, Allen also serves as Chairman of the Council on Competitiveness as of January 2010. He was appointed to Whirlpool Corporation’s board of directors in June 2010.
He is a 1975 graduate of Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management. He is a native of Sumter, South Carolina.
Q&A with Sam Allen:
Why do you believe STEM Education/workforce developments are critical to our nation's future?
Economic growth, development, and competitiveness in an interconnected, technology and innovation-driven global economy are increasingly dependent on having a high quality, diverse workforce with strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills. At John Deere, approximately 40% of our global salaried employees work in a STEM-related job supporting innovation, which is one of John Deere’s core values. We believe that STEM literacy is increasingly important for all students regardless of career choice to support 21st century learning and jobs.
We launched our own STEM initiative called John Deere Inspire in December 2011 to help ensure our company and our nation have a strong STEM-anchored workforce going forward. Underway at our U.S. Midwest units, John Deere Inspire is designed to engage the next generation of innovators through hands-on, real world experiences that inspire more of them to pursue a STEM education. We plan to expand the initiative worldwide in the future.
How do we encourage students to continue their study of STEM subjects, particularly women and underrepresented minorities?
Increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM is a key outcome of John Deere Inspire. More diversity in the talent pool leads to more diversity of thought, improved creativity in solving problems, greater innovation in our products, and better business results. Overall, this creates an environment where all employees enjoy working together to address the challenges that lead to personal growth and opportunity.
Key to encouraging more students including women and underrepresented minorities to continue STEM studies is much earlier exposure (ages 9-14) to STEM activities, including relevant real world experiences supported by mentors and role models. Some examples include:
- Supporting nine “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” events where 505 eighth grade girls in four states learned about engineering and science careers. Some 135 John Deere employees volunteered their time at these events. Many volunteers were female engineers from our WomenREACH resource group and the Society of Women Engineers organization. Post-event surveys showed the events increased the girls’ interests in engineering by 39%
- Supporting 127+ FIRST robotic teams through grants and mentors for K-12 students. This included being the largest, global supporter of Junior FIRST LEGO League, aimed at students ages 6-9, and supporting the Global Innovation Award for FIRST LEGO League.
Educating parents, including addressing common misconceptions is also key to encouraging students’ STEM studies. We supported “Moms Night Out” for STEM in Iowa (25 locations) and partnered with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for several Noche de Ciencias/Family Science Night events.
How can we can we do a better job to strategically coordinate all those engaged in STEM across the company? (Across different departments)
For John Deere, the key has been developing an overall, company-wide STEM strategy aligned with our business strategy. This included selecting two strategic partners, FIRST and “Project Lead the Way,” which many employees were already supporting. To help manage and coordinate STEM across our company, we have a full time program director who works with an internal support group including a new Executive STEM Council, and 27 Site Coordinators. Also key to our success is the company’s new global volunteerism initiative which has helped encourage and enable our employees and retirees to volunteer in the communities in which they live and work. Through the initiative, employees record their volunteerism activities and hours.
What STEM initiative that your company has supported are you most proud?
Since introducing John Deere Inspire, I’m most proud of our employees’ support through volunteerism. In the first year of John Deere Inspire, more than 300 employees volunteered more than 15,000 hours to STEM-related activities. In spite of busy work and family lives, our employees have provided extraordinary assistance from all levels of the company. Examples include:
- 130 mentors for FIRST robotic teams mainly in the Midwest, but including a team in Pune, India, that collaborated with a Deere-supported team in Davenport, Iowa.
- Ten John Deere volunteers who supported the FIRST LEGO League Open European Championship in Mannheim, Germany, in June 2012.
- Ninety volunteers who supported the annual STEM Day at John Deere Engine Works in Waterloo, Iowa, that attracted 157 eighth graders.
What is your advice on using private-public partnerships to tackle our most pressing education challenges in STEM?
Our experience has shown that private-public partnerships can enable the biggest, most sustainable results. This requires time for the various stakeholders to develop strong, working relationships. Businesses need to help educators understand their needs for future employees by providing real world experiences. For example, last summer John Deere sponsored six-week externship assignments at Deere facilities for nine Iowa teachers, and supported 100 teachers from Illinois with job shadows and tours. It's important to emphasize that Deere's commitment is far more precious than mere financial support of STEM, but also includes human resource support through empowering our employees to give back by volunteering as coaches, judges, guest speakers, mentors, and more.
Check out John Deere's STEMconnector Profile here: John Deere.