Germination presents a series of stories on the 20 most influential people in the seed sector in 2018. Want to nominate someone for 2019? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Top 20 nomination”!
Trevor Heck has some big shoes to fill — but given his background in helping people develop themselves and their businesses into success stories, he’s the perfect person to fill them.
Heck has taken over for the recently-retired Jay Bradshaw as president of Syngenta Canada and is ready to hit the ground running and continue the important work his predecessor began in helping the company move forward after its recent acquisition by ChemChina.
“When I found out I was going to take over for Jay, it was a combination of being very excited and thinking about what a challenge lay ahead of me. It was a bit surreal. For the longest time, being president was a dream of mine, but I put it in the background for quite a few years because so much was happening,” says the Calgary-based Heck, 49.
“In my previous role as head of marketing, I worked closely with Jay and have huge respect for him. When he told me it was going to happen, Jay gave me some great advice and said, ‘Do it your way — keep doing what you’re doing and make the role your own.’ It really set me at ease.”
But for Heck, the process of self-discovery is nothing new. As a certified executive coach (a designation he attained through B.C.’s Royal Roads University), he’s become adept at recognizing his strengths and knowing where he might need to improve in an effort to be the best leader he can be and help others develop personally and professionally.
“The Royal Roads program was all about being comfortable with yourself as a leader and developing your empathy and recognizing your own vulnerability, which is important when it comes to good leadership,” he says.
“Becoming a certified coach helped me understand other leaders’ challenges, be it other executives, managers or employees. It helped me be more comfortable with the challenges we have in our industry and understand there are common leadership challenges and other people are going through similar things.”
Those industry challenges include adapting to the speed of change. For Heck, success means matching investment to opportunities and recognizing the potential for crops like soybeans in Western Canada.
“That was something that started several years ago in Eastern Canada and shows you what can be accomplished through innovation with the right approach. Syngenta has a great brand to encourage investment in what we call ‘technified’ crops like soybeans, corn and canola. On the other hand, there are staples like wheat that aren’t moving at the same speed and need innovation on the technical side, but also need attention on the value proposition side to remain relevant.”
As someone who grew up surrounded by agriculture (he describes his dad’s office as “a revolving door of farmers coming in to talk about buying grain”), Heck’s approach to his work is one of constant change and never getting too comfortable with his surroundings. After all, he started his career with a Syngenta legacy company and has been with the organization ever since through its many incarnations. The ChemChina acquisition is just the latest in a long process of evolution.
“Syngenta has given me the chance to see agriculture in many countries around the world and understand how we are innovating in different markets,” he adds.
“That really is a big feather in the cap for our business going forward, but also for the Canadian industry — looking at how we can continue to attract the global investment that has made us so successful.”
(Hear Trevor speak about how he got bit by the agriculture bug in his youth.)