At 37, Johanna Acevedo is making her mark in the world of information technology, not only as a Latina but also as a leader in a male-dominated industry.
“When I came to the company, it was hard for me to see what my career path might look like,” said Acevedo, who started his career at John Deere as an intern in the Quad Cities, after graduated from the University of Illinois. .
Today, 16 years later, Acevedo leads IT operations for John Deere’s new offices in Chicago.
“At home, I was always shown that it wasn’t weird to have two parents working in tech, in STEM careers…it was never a question when I was growing up that it was was a possibility for me,” Acevedo said.
John Deere opened its new offices in the Fulton Market District in early September. It is an IT office focused on software development, according to Acevedo. She says the goal is to hire about 150 people in the next few months, and so far they’ve hired about 60.
“It’s a new market for us in terms of talent,” Acevedo said. “A lot of people don’t know John Deere as a technology company…they think of green tractors and John Deere as a manufacturing company. That’s true at our core, but we’re also a very innovative and at the cutting edge of technology.”
The company is bringing this message not only to future employees, but also to Chicago’s youth, by strengthening its partnership with Chicago High School Agricultural Sciences at Mt. Greenwood.
“Now that they’re local, it’s been a game-changer,” said CHSAS director William Hook. “They walked through the door…came in to donate $25,000 strictly for scholarships.”
Mentoring also came into play. Acevedo and other John Deere employees, like Orlando Meraz, volunteer with students at the school. They hope to inspire students to follow in their footsteps.
“I hope they see a different perspective,” said Meraz, a son of Mexican immigrants who was born and raised in Chicago and now works for John Deere. “Having this school here in the city, the last working farm in the city, is really unique and a great experience for them as well.”
“It’s so rewarding when you have a student who can tell you that they’re so proud to see someone who looks like them, who speaks the same language as them, that they can see a future because they met me… it’s the most humbling experience ever, Acevedo added.
For Acevedo, it is also about creating links with students, some of whom are also children of immigrants, like her.
“My parents were born in Colombia and my grandparents brought them here for a better life. They sacrificed so much to start a new life here in the United States and I often think about it at work,” Acevedo said. “A lot of immigrant families share a similar story and I can connect with students through that.”