Brittany Ullrich: A Mentor for Females in Ag Tech
Editor’s note: WinField United’s Brittany Ullrich is one of the recipients of the 2019 PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence. Here she shares how she got started in precision, what she finds most rewarding, and her thoughts on being female in a male-dominated industry.
Brittany Ullrich leads by example, one retailer and farmer at a time.
“She encourages people to bring the right team to the table and use the data to create their own success stories that they can share with other retailers and farmers,” says her nominator, Amanda Neely.
As digital technical lead for WinField United, Ullrich works with retailers and farmers to successfully incorporate technology into their businesses and operations. She does everything from developing digital strategies for farmers to helping retailers create online stores. She started her career with WinField United as an R7® Tool Specialist and has been an integral to the satellite imagery tool’s continuing evolution.
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Neely says, “She thrives on expanding a conversation about sales to one about yield variability and drilling down from the field level to what’s happening on an individual acre. She works hard to present the data in ways that are easily digestible for both sellers and farmers.”
Brittany has been “in the trenches” from day one, advancing WinField United technology tools every year, Neely adds. “Beyond her job description, she has also done a lot of mentoring with other females on the team.” She is co-chair for LINC, which stands for leadership, inspiration, networking and confidence. LINC brings together women who work in the field to learn, grow and support each other. She has also extended her role with LINC to serve as a liaison to Land O’Lakes female leaders.
ON STARTING OUT: “I went to school for crop and weed science at North Dakota State University. I was really fortunate to have a great internship with Triangle Ag. My boss that first summer was very advanced when it came to precision ag. He instilled in me a lot of my desire to learn more about ag tech and precision ag and how it’s going to affect and shape the future of farming. He was instrumental in gearing me towards a career that was focused on ag tech vs. agronomy. All the things I did with precision ag back then was a lot more complicated than it is now, due to things that used to take us hours, and now only take us a minute or seconds. It’s been cool to watch that transform.”
ON HER ROOTS: “I did not grow up on a farm, but my dad and grandpa worked at John Deere. My dad is closing in on working 45 years for John Deere. That was the basis, watching my dad and grandpa and their love and passion for agriculture throughout my whole life.”
ON THE FLOOD OF DATA: “Sometimes, I think it’s overwhelming when you look at all the ag tech tools that are at your fingertips, but really, it’s figuring out which tools make the most sense for your operation and then capitalizing on all that tool has to offer, vs. trying to continuing to add different pieces.
“Unless you have somebody on that operation looking at all the data across the entire farm with a fine-tooth comb, the data part is overwhelming. What I will say is, I have seen a huge increase in growers capturing the data. I don’t know if all of them are doing everything they possibly could, whether it’s through their agronomist or crop consulting service. But I do know that there are a lot more growers that are paying attention to the data that they have and that they could potentially collect vs. even two or three years ago.”
ON AG TECH THAT’S CAUGHT HER EYE: “We’re on the cusp of having self-driving combines and autonomous tractors. It’s going to be interesting to see if it takes off or if it still needs more research and time. Trying to find good people to run equipment is a challenge with any industry right now. I think that’s one thing that’s not out yet but could really change the landscape.”
WHAT SHE FINDS MOST REWARDING: “Being out in the field with the grower, talking about technology and how it can impact his personal farm – that’s still, to this day, my favorite day. It’s not so much structured conversations, but about being able to think about what the future holds.”
ON MENTORING WOMEN IN AG: “I definitely see more females coming into the agriculture industry, which is really exciting for me, and also, having the opportunity to mentor young females starting out in their career is one of the things I take most pride in. it’s not technically part of my day job, but it’s one of the great things about working with a company like Land O’Lakes and getting to work across different divisions and meeting other women that are in the field.”
ON BEING FEMALE IN A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY: “I definitely see an increase in the number of women coming into the field. I also see challenges for women that are working in the field that have families and are traveling and the long hours that it takes, whether it’s a female who works on a farm or is a sales agronomist or things like that. It’s a lot of hours, and it’s a lot of time away from home, and that’s not the norm, but it’s getting to be a lot more prevalent. It’s been great to see the increase in females in the field.
“One of the reasons we created LINC is to have a network of women out supporting one another, being a sounding board, and just knowing that there are other people facing similar struggles, or similar good days and bad days, and that you’ve got people you can talk to you and can relate to at different levels of your career. Of course, we also try to expand on that and look at things like how to promote leadership and growth opportunities in a male-dominated industry, and how we can better position ourselves to be leaders within, whether it’s a meeting, a plot day, or even just in your day-to-day career – to capitalize on your leadership skills, and really own being a female in a male dominated industry. It’s really an amazing thing.”