Q & A with the ISF Secretariat
Meet the many faces working behind the scenes at the International Seed Federation. They put their expertise to work to further the seed industry’s mission and bring people together around a common cause.
Michael Keller, Secretary General
What are you reading? Just finished Jonathan Frantzen “Purity” — it’s superbly readable, but I’m always looking in my favorite books written by the philosopher Karl Popper.
Languages you speak? French (family language), German (born in Southern Germany) and English (working language).
What concerns you most about the global seed industry? Our industry faces many different challenges. We need to think positive and turn these challenges into opportunities.
Top three priorities for ISF? Engage. Be proactive. Innovate.
What are you most excited about for this year’s Congress? Being in South America in these challenging times to show our support to the seed industry in this region and move forward together.
How do you bring people together? Have a common objective!
What are you working on now? I am in my office preparing a short speech for the pledging Conference of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. My goal is to show the commitment of the industry to the trust.
Best advice you’ve received? Be yourself.
Radha Ranganathan, Director of Technical Affairs
Years with ISF? Since May 2002.
Areas you’re responsible for? Everything related to phytosanitary matters.
Your No. 1 priority? At work, getting everything on my list done!
Favorite hobby? Reading about history and politics.
Favorite accomplishment? Being able to weave.
Favorite city to visit? Rome. I’ve gone to Rome every year since 1998 and never tire of being there.
Biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? It’s hard to say. Every challenge feels like a big one when you have to overcome it, but in hindsight, it doesn’t seem big anymore.
What you want others to know about the seed industry? The passion behind the hard work.
What keeps you going day after day? Doing the right thing.
How would you like to be remembered? As a professional.
Szabolcs Ruthner, Regulatory Affairs Executive
Favorite hobby? All kinds of outdoor sports: long-distance running, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, etc.
Where do you call home? Hungary, but I like living in Switzerland with my family.
What are your responsibilities within ISF? I’m assisting our Vegetable and Ornamental Section board and its various working groups. I’m gradually take over the responsibilities of the Field Crops Section from my colleague Piero. I’m also in charge of furthering our relationships with international organizations, such as UPOV, OECD and ISTA on technical matters.
What are your biggest concerns? Seed industry: overregulation, lack of consistent policies and the decreasing weight of science-based facts in the decision-making process. In general: the security and sustainability of the current global economic, political and climatic environment.
Top 3 goals for the year ahead? Deepen my knowledge and experience in my new responsibilities, activate the freshly created working groups, and improve my French.
Beer, wine or spirits? Definitely beer.
Marie Tahmazian, Accountant
Years with ISF? 2.5 years.
Favorite food? Very difficult for me to reply — I love eating almost everything!
What are you reading? “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee.“
Favorite charity? Les Restaurants du Coeur (French charity).
Best lesson learned? Life can be terribly cruel; therefore, we need to enjoy it as much as possible!
What do you enjoy most about ISF? The international component of ISF and the opportunity to interact with people from all
over the world.
Camilla Perret-Gentil, Events Manager
Number of events coordinated? Around 35: They range from big congresses to small meetings across industries, such as medical, sport and scientific events.
How often do you travel? At least once a month or every two months.
Your worst business mistake? I mistakenly sent a big contract intended for one company to its competitor, because the big bosses in both companies had the same name.
Favorite app? Pinterest.
Best city to host an event in? Why? Vienna. Austria is like Switzerland (well organized, clean and nice) but bigger and less expensive.
What do you never leave home without? My iPhone; I’m completely addicted to it.
Beer, wine or spirits? The three of them … but I must admit that a glass of Mojito is always good!
Motto you live by? I have two: “Keep Calm & Carry On” and “know that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
Mariette Perey, Administrative Assistant
Years with ISF? 15 years.
Favorite app? The World Seed Congress.
Advice to help others stay organized? I don’t have any advice to give others. My advice for myself is to do checklists.
Tool you can’t live without? Though it is not sustainable, I cannot live without a microwave oven.
Favorite piece of advice? No need to run, one has to leave on time (‘Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à temps’ by Jean de la Fontaine).
Helene Guillot, International Agricultural Manager
Country that has taken you by surprise? India definitely!
What are your responsibilities within ISF? At the moment, I’m responsible for the topics related to intellectual property and the international treaties related to access and benefit sharing of genetic resources. More topics will come after I get comfortable with these, as I joined ISF in January.
Favorite city to visit? Paris — on foot or by bike.
Where do you call home? My parents’ house where I grew up, lost in the Burgundy countryside.
Why the seed industry? By chance: I applied to a lawyer position in the French seed association after finishing my master’s in agricultural law, and I was chosen.
Top 3 priorities for the year? Get comfortable in my new position. Make ISF more visible in international organizations. Improve my English.
Favorite philanthropy? MicroEdu, an NGO providing micro loans to access education in Pakistan.
What do you never leave home without? My shoes.
Jennifer Clowes, Communications Manager
What do you never travel without? My ear plugs and iPod.
What are reading now? I usually have a few books on the go. I’ve just started “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, and I’m in the middle of “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve got “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” waiting on my bookshelf — that’s no reflection of life at ISF!
What does success look like to you? For me, it’s about being fulfilled.
3 tips for communicating the issues?
• Do the groundwork: ensure you fully understand the issue and the target audience.
• Nail the objective: be clear about what you want your audience to think, feel or do.
• Master the message: consider the relevance and appeal of your message to your audience. When we are constantly bombarded by messages, it’s crucial to ensure that your message cuts through the clutter. That’s where I come in.
Biggest obstacles that must be overcome? Synthesizing complex information into messages that people can understand the first time round. And helping this industry to recognize the value of clear communication.
What are you most proud of to date? At ISF, it has to be the redevelopment of the ISF website unveiled in January 2016.
What drives you? Simplicity. Why complicate things?
Piero Sismondo, Director Seed Technology & Trade
Years with ISF? Close to 8.
Favorite city? Buenos Aires and Chicago.
What are your responsibilities within ISF? Everything related to the production and trade of seed.
Biggest accomplishment? In ISF: the adoption of the new text of ISF Rules for Trade together with the adoption of the position paper on LLP. Before ISF: building a seed processing plant.
What do you want others to know about the seed industry? Younger generations, especially children born in the iPad and smartphone era, should know that food is not manufactured in the back shop of the supermarket but grown in a field through the hard work of farmers, and that seed is at the heart of it.
What do you most look forward to at the World Seed Congress? Meeting delegates from all over the world, seeing them with happy faces for what they have found and making positive comments about the work of ISF.
Future plans? Continue having fun at work and making more time for my hobbies (sailing, winter skiing and walking).
Favorite philanthropy? For me, it is not giving money and displaying what you have done. Philanthropy comes from the Greek word “philos” meaning friend and “anthropos” meaning man, so a friendly or helpful attitude. My way is to assist with either substantial acts or small gestures, and the person on the receiving end notices and appreciates; however, it may not be apparent to outsiders. Helping people with the little things can be a big thing.