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John Deere’s IT operations leader encourages youth to pursue STEM careers

Johanna Acevedo is making her mark in the Information Technology profession at the age of 37, not just as a Latina but also as a leader in a male-dominated field.

Acevedo, who began her career with John Deere as an intern in the Quad Cities after graduating from the University of Illinois, stated, “When I initially joined the company, it was difficult for me to envision what my career path may look like.”

Now, sixteen years later, Acevedo oversees I.T. operations at John Deere’s new Chicago offices.

“At home, it was always represented for me that having two parents working in the technology area, in STEM occupations, was normal… Growing up, there was never any doubt that it was a possibility for me, said Acevedo.

Early in September, John Deere opened its new offices in the Fulton Market District. According to Acevedo, it is an IT office with a concentration on software development. The goal, according to her, is to hire approximately 150 individuals in the next months; thus far, they have hired approximately 60.

“In terms of skill, this is a new market for us,” added Acevedo. “Many people do not recognize John Deere as a technological company; they associate the company with green tractors and manufacturing. This is true at our heart, but we are also a very inventive, technology-driven organization.”

By strengthening its collaboration with the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences in Mt. Greenwood, the corporation is communicating this message not only to future employees, but also to young Chicagoans.

“Now that they are local, it has completely changed the game,” stated William Hook, principal of CHSAS. “They entered the door… came to provide $25,000 exclusively for student aid.”

In addition, mentoring has come into play. Acevedo and other John Deere employees, like Orlando Meraz, are volunteering with the school’s children. They wish to encourage students to follow in their footsteps.

Meraz, the son of Mexican immigrants who was born and reared in Chicago and now works for John Deere, stated, “I wish for them to see things from a new perspective.” “Having this school here in the city, on the last working farm in the city, is very unusual and also a terrific experience for kids,” the author writes.

“It is the most humbling experience of my life when a pupil tells me they’re so proud to see someone who looks like them, speaks their language, and that they can envision a future because they’ve met me,” Acevedo said.

Connecting with the students, some of whom are also the children of immigrants as she is, is also important to Acevedo.

My grandparents transported my parents from Colombia to the United States for a better life. “They made so many sacrifices to begin a new life in the United States, and I often reflect on that at work,” said Acevedo. Due to the fact that many immigrant families have similar histories, I am able to connect with students.

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