Monsanto’s Brett Begemann teaches CAFNR students to change, grow and develop

According to Brett Begemann, president and chief operating officer of the Monsanto Company, the key to personal and professional success is to, “change, grow and develop.” Begemann shared this message during a roundtable discussion and lunch with CAFNR students on March 6, 2018.

Students were able to ask questions about the Bayer-Monsanto merger, agriculture’s impact on climate change and job security in the agricultural industry.  Begemann also shared knowledge that he learned from his 35-year career with Monsanto.

While some saw the Bayer-Monsanto merger as having a negative impact on the industry, Begemann saw it as a necessary step to improving innovation and reducing costs.

“I would rather disrupt ourselves than to have someone else disrupt us,” Begemann said.

He also assured students there were still plenty of job opportunities in the agricultural industry, and they should not rule out smaller firms and start-ups in favor of the industry giants when deciding on a future career.

In terms of how he manages his leadership position, Begemann was quick to give credit to his team.

“I cannot do it all,” Begemann said.

Begemann encouraged students to surround themselves with people who are better than themselves and people they can trust. He said he did not need to understand or know everything about Monsanto or the agricultural industry, because he surrounds himself with a team of people who do. He trusts them to give him the correct information when necessary.

Begemann also encouraged students to step outside their comfort zone when advocating for agriculture and to be present where conversations about agriculture are happening, such as the discussion on climate change.

“You’ve got to get at the table,” Begemann said. “Who is going to represent agriculture if agriculture does not represent itself?”

Twenty-six CAFNR students attended the roundtable.

“The roundtable was very beneficial for students entering the work force,” said Carlee Johnson, a senior agribusiness management major.

Johnson is graduating in May 2018 and plans to pursue a career as a crop insurance agent after graduate school. Johnson said the part that influenced her the most was when Begemann discussed how he selected his team.

“I liked how he talked about surrounding yourself with good people and finding people who were better than you, so you had multiple strengths,” Johnson said.