Jennifer Yocum: Syngenta Tech Specialist Answers Tough Questions

Growing up on a university research station gave this Syngenta specialist a unique perspective on the technical side of ag.
Jennifer Yocum
Most people grow up in homes built within their parents’ or grandparents’ lifetimes. For Jennifer Yocum, Ph.D., a technical support specialist at Syngenta, she spent her childhood in a farmhouse built in the 1700s on a Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) branch research station in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“My father was an agronomist for Penn State,” she says. “The house was part of the deal. The faculty would come down and do trials there.”

At an early age, Yocum learned about research trials and plots from her father and the visiting Penn State faculty. In high school, she worked with a faculty member on field trials related to Colorado potato beetles, which were troublesome in the area at the time.

“The experience got me involved in the agriculture industry,” she says. “It was really great because I was helping out growers.”

A Valued Skillset

Yocum followed in her father’s footsteps and enrolled at Penn State for her undergraduate education, eventually earning her master's degree from the University of Delaware and her doctorate from the University of Georgia. She worked in plant pathology for five years at a Syngenta legacy company research station in New York before moving to Greensboro, North Carolina.

With the exception of a few years as a technical brand manager, Yocum has primarily worked in the Syngenta Technical Services Department. She and her team assist sales representatives and customers with questions about product quality, plant diseases, fungicides and even product packaging.

Yocum is proud to apply her background in plant pathology to her everyday work at Syngenta. “You don’t see many folks going into plant pathology as a discipline,” she says. “That’s a really important part of Syngenta as a company, so it’s nice to introduce folks to that, and hopefully they’ll have a greater appreciation for disease control.”

Confident About Women in Ag

“I get a lot of satisfaction from helping the reps and growers when they call in. I like trying to figure out solutions to their issues, whether it be a plant disease or the product that's best for them.”

Jennifer Yocum
When Yocum began her career in agriculture, she admits there weren’t many women in the industry. However, she is optimistic about the present and future of women’s contributions to ag.

“I really enjoy seeing women in agriculture, and now you see more and more,” she says. “A lot of the reps I deal with are female, and they’re on top of everything. They’re fantastic.”

Yocum credits Syngenta and the industry as a whole for providing her and other women with ample opportunities for advancement. “I think there’s a good opportunity for women because there are a lot of jobs out there, whether you’re looking for a research-type job or a sales rep position,” she says. “The ag industry is always looking for people who have experience working in the field and dealing with growers.”

A Passion for Helping Others

Although she has been in the same department for nearly 25 years, Yocum’s work responsibilities have shifted over time. Her team was much smaller when she first started, so she and other team members were responsible for receiving and answering all incoming calls to the Technical Services Department. Now a triage team handles incoming calls, allowing Yocum to help sales representatives and customers with issues related to her specialty areas.

“I don’t answer every question under the sun anymore—I’m specifically focused on fungicides and plant diseases,” she says. “I’m also responsible for training new developmental sales reps on fungicides and plant diseases.”

Whether training new employees or answering customer questions, helping others is at the core of Yocum’s work at Syngenta. “I get a lot of satisfaction from helping the reps and growers when they call in,” she says. “I like trying to figure out solutions to their issues, whether it be a plant disease or the product that’s best for them. It gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’m helping somebody.”