Dr. Jacqueline Applegate Bayer Group Interview
Senior Bayer Representative, Bayer Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, Bayer CropScience Pty Ltd
Dr. Applegate joined Bayer Crop Protection, in 1992, as a Chemist in Process Development at the Kansas City facility. During her five years in Product Supply, she held different technical and managerial positions in Process Development. She moved to Bayer AG's Agriculture Group in Monheim, Germany, in 1998, to assume the position of Global Project Manager.
Following the formation of Bayer CropScience AG in 2002, she was appointed the Head of Global Project Management. In 2005, Dr. Applegate joined Bayer Environmental Science as Head of Global Portfolio Management located in Lyon, France, responsible for the Professional and Consumer markets. She returned to the USA in 2007 and assumed the position, President of Bayer Advanced Consumer Lawn & Garden. In 2010, Dr. Applegate was named the President of Bayer Environmental Science North America responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of the professional and consumer businesses.
Whilst in the USA, she was active in the industry and in the community.
Dr. Applegate has a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Iowa State University with a focus on agricultural and pharmaceutical chemistry. She also earned a Master of Business Administration from Rockhurst College, Executive Fellows Program, Kansas City, MO.
She resides in Melbourne with her husband and son.
Question: Bayer has recently had its 150th anniversary – can you talk us through some of the major achievements of the company in the past?
Dr. Jacqueline Applegate: From the perspective of 150 years with a corporation this was a significant year for us. The Bayer mission is Science for a Better Life and innovation is key for us as an organisation; it is about ground breaking innovation that creates a better life for people, plants and animals.
Significantly if you look back in the history of our organisation it was two friends who started a business and from a basic chemical company we have evolved into a full-fledged lifestyle science company.
Today, we have our Health Care, Crops Science and Material Science businesses. The businesses are all quite significant to us but at the same time the life science business is the area where we have grown in depth which is significant to our organisations growth fundamentally at a global level and also at a local level.
Last year was quite significant for us here in Australia and New Zealand as were one of the countries selected to host the two major global events for the 150 years, which our employee base was very proud of. When I first arrived we hosted our Airship, in Sydney, which was a global Bayer Airship that travelled throughout the world to icon countries that have significance in the overall business. We were able to do many events with our customer base, community and with school students. In November, 2013 we had our Science For A Better Life exhibit which was hosted at the Hordern Pavilion, in Sydney which was focused on education and science. Our major focus was Science Technology Engineering Mathematics; we invited students to be exposed to what Bayer does from a global perspective and how they touch people's lives with live, work and play. Our 150 years was a very significant year for us from all perspectives.
What was fantastic, for us, as a corporation was in our year of celebration we significantly grew as a company and had 40.2 billion euros in sales globally for the organisation which was a 5.1% year growth. The global result was very reflective of our overall business here in Australia where we grew 11.6%. Australia is a developed market for us which is why this growth was a significant achievement for our organisation.
Question: How has Bayer offered women, such as you, career opportunities to grow and develop?
Dr. Jacqueline Applegate: I joined Bayer in 1992 and it's very interesting from the perspective that I go back and reflect; I have a PhD in Organic Chemistry and looking at the ratio of female to male at that time in Science (especially in Organic Chemistry) it was quite male dominated. When I think about Bayer and recruiting, what's amazing me is 22 years ago Bayer was consciously recruiting females for more senior roles; the company was progressed in its thoughts knowing they needed to attract women. I was hired into the organisation with two other women to begin in the area of production which was male dominated because it was shift work. The company evolution of hiring women in managerial roles began even at the same time that I was being hired for entry management level positions.
Bayer understands the important of diversity and inclusion, not just about gender but culture, geography and educational background. Today when we talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, it's not a gender base, it's more than that and what we see in successful corporations and Bayer is one of them, is the value of valuing differences, that richness of culture, diversified education and living in different parts of the world. The different type of thinking of those around the table creates a better solution in the end.
What I have found with Bayer is that as a company it is full of opportunities. I always say that Bayer is a company that no matter what your study or skill-set there are many opportunities; many people think because Bayer is a science company our employees need to have a science background however that is untrue. If you have a passion in communications that is relevant because we internally and externally communicate the power of science, what we're doing at Bayer and how we are interacting with the community. Large corporations have many roles and you can always find a fit for your passion. If you have a passion, Bayer is a corporation with many possibilities of how you can be a successful part of our organisation.
Bayer has always supported me with training and opportunities as I went back to school and got my MBA early in my career which was supported 100%. Bayer has very good educational programs to support employees and their education.
Question: You've moved around and lived in various countries, for your work – what other challenging decisions have you had to make, to achieve career success?
Dr. Jacqueline Applegate: I have lived in many countries and I've had a diverse background as I started in Bayer in Production and went to Production Management in Germany. What has been key is find the right balance in my professional and personal life. When you look at successful people and you see those with interesting careers they have always been able to get the right support at home; I have been very blessed that I've had that support at home. I am a successful woman in business; I'm married and have a son, Matthew.
I have always had to find the balance, I'm not going to lie, and it's not always easy and there are often sacrifices one has to make it could be that a very important meeting meant you missed a birthday but that means you make up for it.
In terms of challenging decisions it's been about finding a balance and perusing my passion (I have a passion for what I do, I love what I do). Often we are juggling a lot of roles in the air and those roles are not in balanced as you are living a life off-balance with purpose and you may have to do that to reach a deadline when something happens at home. Having good support at home and having an understanding family is what I have been blessed with especially when I was young, I've always had a stable family environment growing up. I am very lucky.
You have to find the right balance and it's not always perfect as you do have to make clear choices. One thing I always say is -one of the keys I've found from my success is being present'. When I'm at work and I'm in a meeting, I'm present in that meeting; I'm prepared and extremely effective. When I'm at home at night, I'm present at home. Being present is something that I've learnt in my career as it's very important to remain present at what you're doing to be most effective, efficient and collaborative at that time.
In my career building strong relationships has been helpful as they are based on collaborative experience and respect. The relationships I've developed throughout my career have made me a better professional and you never know who's path you will cross again…
Question: Can you talk about the direction you hope to take Bayer over the coming years?
Dr. Jacqueline Applegate: As a corporation I have been here in Australia and New Zealand for fourteen months; I came into the corporation and the overall essential is about the culture of the organisation. Culture and why we do what we do – why is about the greater purpose of why we do business and for Bayer that's about science for a better life. I truly believe that in organisation it's about being clear with people about why we get out of bed, every day – why do we do what we do – where is our passion.
As an organisation Bayer has been working on our overall greater purpose of science for a better life, it's about creating a culture with three big goals which reference becoming an employer of choice in Australia and New Zealand and being a recognised innovation leader that makes a difference in the industries we serve. We want to build collaborative relationships with our customers so people want to do business with us. As well as bring unique innovation that differentiates us and changes people's lives that then we will achieve our third objective to become a growing company, earning over $1 billion in sales.
For me how and why we do business is instrumental; if we get those things right the -what' is the result. We've been on a journey called Ambition 2015 and we've created five communities and these communities focus on People (peeps), Innovation (talk about innovation in the true sense of challenging the status quo and everything we do), Branding (how we brand ourselves at a corporate and business level), Customer (building the best practices around the customer) and Business Excellence (driving operational excellence across our corporation).
These five communities support the three big goals and bring the people together; it's about self-nominating themselves (the communities are made up of champions, leaders and sub-groups) to fundamentally bring the population of the organisation together to make a difference. We've been doing this for about twelve months and we've seen an evolution in the organisation. The positive results include empowerment, enhanced performance feedback developing and challenging of the status quo.
Each one of the communities has clear goals. The People community identified that we all feel time poor as there is just not enough time and even though we have gadgets that make us more efficient, they sometimes stress us out, too. The People community created -Me Days' to combat this; everybody gets a vacation but if staff were able to keep their service leave at a certain level it's about allowing people to gain extra personal days called -Me Days' to use the day for how they see fit which adds to their normal vacation. This has been very well received.
I believe if you have the right people strategy you will always trump financial strategy because if you get the people strategy right all the financial aspects will come into play as you have an engaged and motivated workforce.
I want to lead a high performance culture at Bayer where people feel empowered to make a difference and challenge the status quo to become a positive contributor to the overall success of the company.
Question: How have you seen success in implementing these methods?
Dr. Jacqueline Applegate: I have seen success; very interestingly fourteen months after this was rolled out we had a very successful year where we hit a $1 billion and we were selected BRW as one of the Top 50 Innovative Companies in Australia and New Zealand.
It has been very rewarding to reach milestones and I have enjoyed my first fourteen months here, I also see there is so much more to do.
You never know how you stack up but BRW is another measure above our success in the market; I was very excited for our organisation but we are not going to rest on our morals. We hope to raise the bar and in doing that raise our standing in the BRW Top 50; we were 41 this year and we are shooting to be below 35. We want to continue to grow our business, overall, year on year.
Interview by Brooke Hunter