Coffee in the Barn

7. Cultural Diversity in the Global Industry with Edward Yang

March 24, 2022 The Sunswine Group Season 1 Episode 7
Coffee in the Barn
7. Cultural Diversity in the Global Industry with Edward Yang
Show Notes Transcript

If you've been reading anything out there in the business world, diversity has been one of the key topics of discussion. Whether involves inclusiveness, company culture, how do we get more minorities into positions of power, it's a broad topic! But if you want to be successful in animal science, the diversity within that industry is huge on its own. Go check out this new episode where we discuss Cultural Diversity in the Ag Industry, plus some interesting insights from our friend Edward Shang.


About our Founder:

Casey Bradley Ph.D. is an Experienced Animal Scientist and Nutritionist that has worked with swine, poultry, ruminants, and pets. Specialties include product development, technical writing, and presentations, research, technical sales, mentoring, and networking. Academic training includes nutrition, immunology, and animal wellbeing. She has presented at large conferences in USA, Canada, Greece, and Denmark. Work experience includes farm management, research management, technical service and sales, regulatory, project management, and employee management.
 

About the Guest:


Mr. Zhaohui “Edward” Yang grew up in Guangzhou, China. He received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.S. from the University of Minnesota and is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota with Drs. Gerald Shurson and Pedro Urriola. Edward was highly involved in extracurricular activities, serving as the president of Graduate Club and student representative in the Graduate Study Committee at the University of Minnesota Department of Animal Science and numerous industry career development programs. In addition, he is actively bridging the connections between the US and China feed and pork industry.


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Casey

Hi everyone, this is Dr. Casey Bradley stepping in for Marissa LaRosae as your host for today's episode of Coffee in the barn. If you've been reading anything out there, in the business world diversity has been one of the key topics of discussion. Whether involves inclusiveness, company culture, how do we get more minorities into positions of power, it's a broad topic. But if you want to be successful in animal science, we have a very diverse industry, from the type of livestock that we feed to the type of production systems we have, to the type of companies we have from small feed companies, large producers, small genetic companies, heritage breeds, commercial lines, when you think of Animal Science, the diversity within that industry is huge on its own. And then we look at agriculture across the world, and we come into contact with all types of cultures and people within our industry. But when it comes to being successful as an animal scientist, diversity, and including others is really key to this. It doesn't matter if you're a CEO running a company or a new student starting out., being able to work across the gamut of different cultures around the world will be essential to your success as either an individual or an organization. So today, we're going to take a clip from one of our webinars on diversity, with Dr. Victor Perez, Dr. Elizabeth Krunshinskie, and Dr. Joshua Jendza, where they're going to be talking about different diversity things. I also caught up with one of my students that serves on our Coffee and Careers in Animal Science Committee, Edward Yang here. He's a graduate student finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. He's originally from China, and he studied in the US for the last few years. We're gonna talk about his experiences and his point of view regarding diversity in the farming or agriculture industry.

 
Casey

The question is, how does the Role of Women in Ag industry vary around the world? Since you've worked around the world and then how can we stand out then to that? How have you balanced raising your daughters and thriving professionally?

 

Elizabeth

Those are two really good questions. I think the first one kind of span almost a 30-year history of being in the poultry industry in the United States. I first started with a vaccine company was very young, I didn't know much about portfolio about the industry. I had better reception being a female poultry veterinarian if I went to Latin America, or Asia than I did if I went to the south. During that two and a half years I worked for Solvay, I never went to Georgia and never went to Alabama. Now this is back in the 90s, things have changed dramatically since then. But it was definitely perception that they'd be more cooperative working with developing world countries sorry, Mexico, but at that time, it was pretty much Venezuela, Puerto Rico, etc. But I think that's changed a lot now. I think that there are so many more women that are in both in veterinary medicine and poultry medicine in the food animal industry. I don't think you'll face those same sorts of biases today. I think it's really improved dramatically. I think the international what helps with that is that you're viewed more or less as a female or person of color than you are from the US and expert because of the gravitas of the US knowledge based in the size of  US industries. So I've never had any issues.

I'd say probably the hardest uphill battle I had was I spent two weeks in Moscow one time teaching some coursework on USDA Food Safety Inspection Service Regulations, to regulators in Moscow, with another colleague of mine. In the first day, they all sat in the audience to look very glum and serious. And by the end of it, they were standing up and yelling in Russian and pointing fingers at us, but three days into what we were all drinking vodka together and everything's fine and about six months later, they came to the US and I hosted them for a tour around facilities and through Washington, DC. A lot of it's just a fear of the unknown. And I think once you break through that barrier and become personalized with someone have a personal relationship, it really changes that dynamic.

Well having a family and having a career, especially one that has a lot of travel even going to professional meetings, of course, is challenging, and you have to cultivate a support network to be able to make that work. I think if you asked my daughters today, did they enjoy their childhood with my travel? They would say no, but as they're 23 and 32 as adult young women now making their way of thinking, it was a good role model for them about how you can juggle both a personal home life family life and work life. Sometimes they clash sometimes it was hard I missed a lot of things but you need supportive people that can help you kind of carry on, keeping the home fires lit while you're off doing your thing. The advantages, you provided a good money for a good standard of living and education for both of them. So I think they fully appreciate that now that they're a little bit older.

Casey

I would just echo your comments, Beth, I think I struggled more. I've been in the industry now for over 20 years in production and worked my way up as well, similar to Victor. It was much more challenging to be respected as a female I guess, in the US than it's ever been for me across the country-world I guess you know, and more education I got I don't know if it's because I was seeing differently and an expert that helped change it. But I would say today, even the US things are much different than it ever used to be. I would like to hopefully say some of those barriers are changing.

 

Elizabeyh

I think with agriculture in general. It's been a good old boy network and very, very male-dominated. But I think a lot of that's changed over the years because so many more women have come through the PhD programs, come through professional schools and have worked in production, and worked in meaningful roles in production. So I think it's a whole new generation that you're going to face. Some of the old school, old guys can be a little bit of a challenge, gaining their respect and having them actually respect your skills. But I think the younger generations are much better. I think a lot of the people that are in their 50s 40s 30s had mothers that worked and maybe have professional parents so that makes a big difference for them to or have spouses that are professional and that makes a huge difference In their perspective.

 

Victor

They would like to either comment regarding the balance racing family and growing professionally, you know, as a divorced parent raising my daughter, I can totally relate to that as well in a big challenge and being in positions that require quite a bit of traveling as well. I absolutely see the value on developing and keeping that network support. It's fundamental. I also will say from my experience, that there are companies that are a lot more friendly or more sensitive toward family than others, finding that environment where family may come first I think also makes a difference. At least it has been making a difference for myself

 

Joshua

I can relate to the dresses of that although personally my arrangement with my wife is very traditional and that she's the stay-at-home mom at least until the kids are all school, all old enough to be in school full time. But to the point about some employers being more supportive of family time and other demands. One of the neatest things I found when I joined BASF is that they have a program as part of their base benefits package where they will they have a service that they contract with that will I believe it's up to 80 hours a year. They will pay to have a sitter come and watch your children when you're traveling. So, it's kind of a feeling to enable you to go do the do that travel if your normal babysitter is not available or something else like that. And it's a really neat service because it will also help you find a sitter so when I joined BASF, I moved from Minnesota to New Jersey I didn't know anybody didn't have a social network yet built up of friends and family and connections to schools and things like that. And it was really, really helpful because when I had to travel and my wife had to schedule doctor's appointments or other things, we could lean on this service to have somebody come and watch the younger ones for four hours while she goes into the doctor and the older ones are in school and that's been super helpful. We don't use it as much now obviously COVID, but even last couple of years we've not needed it as much as our network has developed but it was a godsend the first probably two or three years with BASF. It's a national program. It's the kind of thing that you can ask for, or ask about when you're doing the interview processes is something that the company offers because that's super valuable, in my opinion.

 

Casey

That's great. I wish I would have had that back in the day. I was gonna say I will be leading a group and the Sunswine Group may become a nonprofit, if all goes well, but through ASAS to kind of start that way we are looking at a group of companies based on this symposium that will be offered in the spring for Women in Ag, but not just for women. But we are going to try to create a program that we will offer childcare at the meetings for working parents that need that and we hope to branch that out more than just ASAS by formula nonprofit. But there will be in that diversity foundation ASAS has supposedly, hopefully that project initiative will take what kind of go into that group was what I was told that they're hoping to position that but I have a DuPont Evonik a lot of other Cape Fear, different organizations really come in with me, Lando Lakes, about how we can what Josh talks about in help support working parents. You know, I understand that point. I don't have a network either. So I've had to pay people. We have luckily have found friends with high school daughters or through care.com and things to have. My husband and I, specifically his work schedule, he's a police officer, so he works at nights. We don't really like that. But when he works nights and I travel it makes it easiest for us to pay somebody to come to spend the night with Arthur and we're not having to find somebody to pick him up from daycare and feed him while my husband's still working during the day because their 12 hour shifts and then also find somebody to come at 4:30 in the morning as my husband gets ready to go to work, for instance. So, it's having that trade off and in conversations and partners and single parents have it worse, so I feel for you Victor on that. Just finding that balance. And you know, I had a boss tell me my first job that I should not have kids in your first two years of your career. I'm telling you when I say when I went to find European based companies much more agreeable to families, women, there's still those challenges, but it's finding the right partner and working through that. But it can be possible. I've had to change my career, I'm not traveling the world but I think that's probably better for me to and healthier for my family. So you do have tradeoffs in but as you said be open minded.

 

Elizabeth

I think those are points. I was single, most of the child rearing window. That is a challenge to hire people that would come. I had a woman who was retired and was trying to earn extra money she was putting her daughter through two is quite retired. She's still working but she was older than her daughter through college. And so she was happy to come to stay with my six-year-old overnight all week while I was gone. And then she'd pack up. When I came home. She was ready to head out the door and I was home for the weekend. It was a great arrangement for both of us, but it does take flexibility and it takes really kind of doing some digging to find the right match. That's not at an exorbitant rate, you know, not an au pair or something like that, that you're really kind of don't have the resources for necessarily.

 

Casey

Well, I did the au pair two and that didn't work very well. So don’t recommended (laughs)

 

Elizabeth

I have a friend who did it, it was a mixed bag. It is hard it's definitely something that women I think shoulder more than men although there are men like you Vic that have that problem have situation. It just adds an extra layer of complexity. At this point in my life my girls are grown but I'm also purposely don't have any pets and I don't have any plants which people could die if they need to, because I went through so many years of trying to juggle having everything kept alive at home while I was Eastern Europe for three weeks in a row or something. So, it is you're just gonna pick your path. See what works for you in your particular situation at the time.

 

Casey

And I think this goes into Vic's comment a little bit too about being exposed to diversity. So, it's really funny. My husband does a lot of the sharing of that. I travel and you know who's the hardest on him at work and gives them the most crap? It's a female police officer.

 

Elizabeth

Oh, really?

 

Casey

It's the women that are harassing a lot and not as supportive. So, I find that really odd the feedback he's gotten and it's a tough environment because you got to be really kind of masculine in that job. And it's just been blessed to have people and colleagues that are supportive of me, in our company, or across companies that understand it and are supportive, and where my husband doesn't have that support network. So you know, our industry is blessed. It's a very family-oriented agriculture. And I think that help

 

Victor

You know, as we wait for more questions here, I would like to echo comment from that when it comes to precisely trying diversity or exposing yourself to a more diverse environment. One of the things that I see is there's always some resistance to not make a fool of yourself in a situation. We certainly want to stand up but not in a ridiculous way but I would say just be brave and roll over and at some point, we are going to make that ridiculous. We are going to do something where that just move ahead, enjoy the ride and have the ability to laugh about yourself. I think that's part of the emotional IQ. And I will share an experience as well. Traveling to Brazil. We were visiting customers and we were given only an hour for meeting with these customers. And in one case there was a 45-minute meeting and to me was a little bit frustrating because I have a lot to share and actually, you know flying all the way from us to Brazil. Getting there you know, the jet lag and whatever and then having just a short time but anyway, however, they were very, very friendly. So, the first thing after greeting was taking us to the keychain to drink coffee and coffee was a strong and hot. And I didn't drink really hot beverage in general. You know I was taking my time and at some point, I thought well I actually gonna keep it save it for the time for the discussion, I will be doing more of the talking so I could be you know drinking my coffee over the discussion but it's more chat just kept going and going and going to nowhere and the you know eventually I ended my coffee and ended up with a very short time to do you know, the business discussion. The second time happened exactly the same way and I actually grew quite a bit frustrated and told the local guy he can manage to travel with me about my frustration and he was very kind. He says ‘’you know, if you don't drink coffee, maybe next time you can try the water and skip the social chat because they are waiting for you to finish your coffee’’. (laughs) They were also frustrated with me for that, but anyway, at some point is going to happen if you're exposed to that kind of diversity. Nothing happens. Make fun of it. That's it.

 

Elizabeth

It's like diversity of customs right? There's such a change and if you ever go to Eastern Europe, for females, you can opt out of the vodka and drink wine. Massive meal in the middle of the day with toast. You know everyone's drinking vodka and doing shots. And by the end of it if you don't pace yourself, you're done for the day and they go back to work. I don't know how they're used to it somehow. There are some ways to ask your host, like your account manager, whatever. How do I get around this without imbibing half a bottle of vodka at lunchtime?

 

Casey

That is a very good point about diversity and trauma in culture and drinking and I had the very same problem. You can insult them by turning it down. And I'm a lightweight so a few times of working with my AB Vista guys and the amount that they can drink compared to what I can drink and still function, like you said by talking to the local person to say hey, and the Chinese are especially that way they will enter really drink and get drunk and it's a tough road to have that balance of not insulting people and culture and you know respecting yourself too. Regardless and that's a culture there I think.

 

Elizabeth

Yeah. Now I'd say a warning, kind of a cautionary tale. On the other side. We have some dietary patterns here that aren't that well accepted internationally, particularly veganism and the gluten free. You will struggle finding foods to eat and also people will think that there's that you're a little bit on the odd side. If you insist on these different foods when you're over in these other, especially Asian culture, but even I went to Spain not too long ago, and they just don't have gluten-free their culture of eating crusty bread and lots of meat, dishes and fish dishes. And to find those kinds of diets in those cultures, especially if you're in a rural area, you can expect to have a real challenge with that food for thought figure out how you're going to work around it if it's a critical feature

 

Casey

I carry food with me just in case I can't eat some of the food.

 

Elizabeth

Yeah, I carry food to Russia. Crackers, cookies, toilet paper (laughs) that was a long time ago.

 

Casey

Josh, do you have any crazy stories out there?

 

Joshua

Yeah, I do not necessarily at the level of Vic's. One of the best pieces of advice I got before I started doing international travel was to ask whoever is bringing you in, what the norms are, where the landmines are before you go so that way, you're prepared for things like you have to finish your coffee before you have the technical discussion or worked with some customers in Latin America where a meeting time is a suggestion. It's so for the start time and the duration it's not necessarily a guarantee. So, if you have a meeting at one o'clock don't be surprised if they're still somewhere else and you're just waiting for them to show up at two and then where the meeting will change two or three times of the day because they're bouncing around. And so, flexibility I think is a big part of being accepting that something might change. Something might not fit your initial expectation and you just kind of have to roll with the punches a little bit. I've been relatively lucky in not having too many uncomfortable situations, but the other thing that I genuinely liked, particularly working in the northern part of South America is that what's ability on timeline can work in your favor. If you're coming in and having a conversation with somebody in your book for 30 minutes and you capture their interest. You can keep their attention for longer than the 30 minutes you were originally scheduled for without too much difficulty and then you can get more impact from your visit. And a big part of preparing, I think when you're leaving your home market, is doing a little bit of research on the market. You're going to who the big players are how does production there differ from what you're used to diet types, management practices, are barns electrified? do they have electricity to control the lighting or not? Or is it based purely on ambient lighting? Do they have air conditioning or environmental controls in many countries, poultry houses are not air conditioned at all?. If it's 100 degrees and 90% Humidity those birds are just going to suffer and how to manage those birds differently. So, you have to do a little bit of research if you want to avoid being caught by surprise but you do need to be willing to laugh at yourself when you do get caught flat-footed, because everybody how you handle that will tell whoever you're working with a lot about your character and you can roll with the punches. People are gonna invite you back.

 

Casey

Edward, we're gonna pick you to start this conversation on diversity. You've took a big leap of leaving your home country China, coming to the US. You've adapted well it's been very successful. How to talk about diversity and what was hard for you in that journey?

 

Edward

So let me start with the story. My grandma asked me like when we're facing a fake timing yesterday. She asked me ‘’Oh, it's cold outside. You're only wearing one shirt. Are you sure you're not cold?’’ But because my grandma lived a poor life her whole life. She has never seen a heater. She doesn't even know heaters exist. Even though I explained many times that while we have heaters inside so it's warm. She still doesn't know what that is because she has never seen one and that's probably where I want to start with diversity. When you go out to meet different cultures and seeing different people and seeing new things, you realize there's not only one way of living or not on the one way of being a person there's so many different options or possibilities. And then you started open up your whole world it seemed different and be able to accept different facts instead of staying in your little own little world so and that's the reason why I came to the US because I can stay home forever, never leave my home country never leave my home state. But that comes into a different country seeing how different political systems, education systems, everything. You realize, wow. A different way to do things and then allow you to think differently. And then when you apply those things, to your own areas study you kind of, I think to encourage more creative thinking critical thinking, and that's very important. If we go to a company, you'll have only one type of person, probably is not going to be as innovative as other companies because, especially when we're going to the future of agriculture, right? You don't just want to animal scientists, you want a data scientist, you want the modeling people you want the IT people, you're going to work together with all these people to create a better future. But if you only accept those facts in your own area, you will probably reject what other people say. And I think that's going to be a problem.

 

Casey

No, I love that story and reflecting on my life and some of the things and talking about Marissa and I were just talking about this the other day. Neither one of us really want to go back and live in our hometowns per se, because I noticed that when I go back is the people who have stayed their mindsets are just so different. I'm more open to more ideas because I've met people all over the world and I've always been curious, so meeting new people and meeting new cultures and being around different people. That like different things as part of my thirst of knowledge in learning in that continuous learning. Most people think you have to go to school to learn or learn out of a book. Well, now I have learned a lot more from people and experiences and so I guess I've always been different in understanding that but I also see back to the people who have never left their state or hometown, that we also have to be considered of that a little bit because they don't know differently. They don't know why things are different. And I think you know, it's not just in the US this tension of race and diversity and even in society, men versus women and I tell everybody, I am not a feminist. I still want to be a woman. But I want to be successful in my own way. And I think a lot of times, you know when we talk about diversity for a lot of times that conversation gets into promoting women have over men, for instance, or having the quality or different races having equality we get in that conversation and diversity. And I think I want everybody to be who they want to be. And they're good at what they want to be in there have no limitations. And Edward flipped that coin just a minute ago. I think you're really important to say when we're trying to solve problems because we're feeding the world and we constantly have a lot of problems in animal ag I loved your thought process. It's not even just about diversity and where we came from in the world, or our gender or whatever else label you want to put on it. But hey, we need people with different strengths. I thought that was really cool. And I think a lot of times when we talk about diversity, I think even a lot of companies miss that point that they talk about it from the standpoint of bringing women up to equality or a different race or minority up to that and no, I want everybody to be successful. And I love that part. What are your thoughts on diversity?

 

Marissa

Kind of going off, Of what you said leaving my hometown living 12 hours away from home for my education. It's kind of open my way of thinking and just like how people live and the difference between that and then attending a school where there's a lot of diversity in our department. That's really opened my eyes to a lot of things and I love talking to people about their cultures are just having different conversations and kind of having an open mindset kind of just like learning about the different cultures, I think is a really integral part of like, you know, kind of exploring within my means. I would hope one day that I get the opportunity to kind of explore internationally and kind of be immersed in different cultures in that way. But since I haven't had the opportunity yet, it's been a great experience kind of being able to experience culture in a small setting of just being in a university with a lot of diversity.

 

Casey

I was also gonna say though, when we go internationally and I think Edward you have a really respect what you've done here in the US I see a lot of international students. They tend to migrate to other students from their country speak that language they don't really try to learn and dive into that. culture. So that is one positive thing I see that you do with your career that you've really embraced coming here to get that exposure as much as you can. But I can say when you go to other countries about diversity, you still need to be respectful of their way of life. And I get a lot of times that I get really upset about it. It really kind of hurts when they say this ‘’just because you do it that way in America doesn't mean it's going to work here’’. They automatically put me in this box of the arrogant American and thinking my ways the only the best way and then then I get to know me and they're like Oh, I hope they're I don't I've never asked him. I'm like, Did you realize that I wasn't that arrogant again, I'm American.


Edward

Yeah, I completely understand because before I came to the US, a lot of the news media says well, Americans are racist. But when I go to rural America, a lot of people treat me like one of them, which warms my heart and it's different than what the media says right? You know, when you go there and meet different people, you know what, that's the truth. Americans are nice, right? Most people are very nice, just like anybody else in the world. And for me, when I first came to this country a lot to have labels on Chinese people. ‘’You guys are shy and not talkative. You tend not to be leaders’’. But I think throughout these 10 years, I've proven people I can be very confident. I can be very talkative, and I can be a leader. You know, I want to change some of the labels, because once you start labeling people, you kind of see through a tunnel. But in fact, we're all the same. We just have to have different appearances.

 

Casey

I think that by that's where that bias comes in, through and I don't know, I hate the word racism. I think it's more biased I think it's ignorance, people don't know. And I got to see this very early on, even at college. We'll just go back to MSU. There he seemed foo is a leading researcher now and I think he works down at UC not UC Davis but the Texas Baylor system. I think he works in a similar lab, or department as Teresa Davis does. That's why I'm getting mixed up but I just remember the farm staff there would just chew him out right and left and talk so mean to him, because his English wasn't that good. And that same farm staff person would talk to us women like that because we were girls. I got exposed to the very negative stuff and then I go commercially. And I see it with the immigrant labor that because they don't speak English and then you really get to start talking to them like I met this one girl and I don't remember her name unfortunately. In Wyoming and here she's got a bachelor's degree in botany or something like that. You know, plants, right? Can't remember what she called it. But I said, ‘’Well, why are you working on a pig farm?’’ ‘’This is the only job I could get my English isn't that good’’. And I'm like, some of those moments really, really defined how I was going to be and I'm like, I'm going to use these opportunities. People are incredible. And everywhere I've gone as you said in the world, people are really nice. Sometimes they're not nice, and they just be like, whatever, and its funny people talk about personalities and a Dutch versus a German versus over there. And I'm just like, ‘’yeah, so you know, I grew up in a dirt German Dutch area. I think I you know; I get along with them. I get it’’. And it's just so funny people what they think and then I have found in my career people are people, everybody's their own individual. And the minute we stopped putting labels on and that bias, that unconscious bias that we talked about, you know, I probably still have some unconscious bias and I try to be the most open and but it's still there and it's just something we have to be aware of. But yeah, it goes back to I said in a different episode, I want to hire the person for who they are and not for what boxes they can check, I hope someday society get to that to where we hire the person for their strengths and their skill and stop checking boxes.

 

Edward

Going back to diversity, right? Everybody has something special. We're not talking about race, gender or anything. It's just individual, every individual it's we are more diverse than when you have a company or have a group, then you want to do things differently. Maybe that person, that different person you brought in has something special that you are not involved doing, but they are. So, I think that's also what diversity means when you have a group find talents that you may not happen to and they can contribute to.

 

Casey

Today's globalization obligates organizations to evaluate the impact on its people, process, and profit of international and ethnic cultural differences. But realizing how diverse and full of different cultures the animal science industry is I've had the chance to get to know people from all over the world working in the same or different areas. And this only proves that we all share a common goal, to learn and to improve every day as humans as far as business and where are you listening us from?