Leslie Vangeison, Controller – WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients – Americas at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) uses math skills and agriculture knowledge every day to help an agricultural company make business decisions.
Her work over 17 years with the company to prepare monthly results, reporting, and internal controls for grain elevators and the transportation network (truck, rail, barge, and ocean-going vessels), helped the company remain profitable and make important decisions – decisions like acquiring new business ventures of which Leslie is now Controller!
Lindsay: What was your path or journey to this career?
Leslie: I grew up on a farm, and was active in 4-H and FFA growing up. This background knowledge of the ag industry was very valuable as I became an adult and started working as an accountant for a major agribusiness.
I started with ADM in an internship position during my Junior year of college at Millikin University in Decatur.
The first 14 years of my 17 years with the company was in the Ag Services segment. This segment includes grain elevators owned by ADM that purchase grain from farmers and the transportation network that we use to move the grain all over the world to the end buyers. During my time in the Ag Services segment, I also had the opportunity to work from our office in Hamburg, Germany for about 5 months to lead the Global Ocean Freight accounting team when it began.
The past 2 years I have been a Controller in the newly formed WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients segment. This new segment was formed in January 2015 after ADM completed its largest acquisition to date, WILD Flavors. Since then there have been other acquisitions of food ingredient companies which have become a part of this segment. This segment also includes several food ingredient businesses that ADM has been operating for several years.
Lindsay: What is the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of your job?
Leslie: The most rewarding part of my job is working for a company that actively seeks to provide new and innovative food options for an ever-growing global population. Also in my current role I have the opportunity to work on acquisitions. As each one comes together a little differently that work is both rewarding and challenging. Another challenging aspect is that frequently we are presented with something we haven’t encountered before. Accounting standards change and business needs change so there is really a lot to stay on top of.
Lindsay: I like that you seem passionate about using your math and accounting skills to feed the world. That isn’t a combination that most people would think of.
Leslie: I guess not!
Lindsay: What skills/education do you believe have helped you to be successful?
Leslie: Hard work, determination, ability to manage multiple priorities, and willingness to do more than what is expected are all key factors for success. A Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting is required for Accounting positions at ADM.
Lindsay: Describe a “day in the life” at your office.
Leslie: My role is very different from an accounting role that someone would come into out of college and for their first several years of their career. As I manage roughly 30 people in multiple offices, a lot of my day depends on what issues or questions others have and consists of providing guidance to ensure that we are meeting our overall objectives.
Depending on the day, I usually have several meetings to attend or join online with colleagues in the U.S. or around the world. I am based out of the North America Headquarters in Decatur, IL where we have almost 2 floors of accountants. Something I have really enjoyed in my career is the opportunity to work with the business whether it’s those that manage the facilities, those that are focused on buying and selling products, or those that have overall responsibility for results of a business. So I frequently get requests and questions from other areas.
Lindsay: Do you have advice for someone that might want a career like yours?
Leslie: It is important to work in an industry that interests you. While as an accountant, the day-to-day tasks are finance related, you have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different things. It really will make a difference in how you feel about coming to work every day if you’re working in an area that you enjoy, and I definitely have a heart for agriculture and providing food to the world.
Lindsay: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today!
Leslie: No problem.