Shawn Duster Larry Fisher

Sometimes Shawn Duster needs a break from working long hours as the human resources manager for a Deere & Co. facility in India.

The St. Ambrose University graduate hops into a two-seater taxi and tells the driver, “Take me somewhere and drop me off.”

He ends up in a rural village, where homes are constructed of tin roofs and thatch. Most of the people are farmers. It’s poverty, certainly by American standards. 

Then Duster sees something he never expected. A satellite dish hangs off a tin roof. And it seems like everyone is carrying cell phones. Children run up to Duster and say, “Hi, Hollywood.” Duster’s from Dubuque, Iowa. Hollywood is all the children know about America.

Everyone appears to be smiling.

The 37-year-old seeks out these kinds of eye-opening experiences, for himself and for his company. In addition to advancing his career, he’s helping to educate Deere on how to become a more global corporation.

He’s even got the Indian head bob down. It’s a form of inaudible communication widely used in the country of more than a billion people. Duster is trying to convince his corporate leaders to stop doing phone meetings with India and start doing more video conferences, just because of the head bobbing.

“When I come home, I’ll be a huge 

advocate for India,” Duster said.

He received his doctorate in business administration from St. Ambrose on Saturday. And on Monday, he’ll fly back to India to complete a contract with Deere to lead the human resources department at its captive technical/engineering center in Pune. He’s got 1,500 employees to look after.

He’s been with Deere for the past 15 years, not including a three-year internship.

He credits faculty at St. Ambrose, particularly Monica Forret, director of the DBA program, for being flexible with him while overseas. He’s been in India since November. “That’s where home is for me,” he said. 

Leaving India will be hard. He’s made so many friends. He hopes Deere will give him another international assignment. 

His eyes are on Vietnam, which he called “the next India” for global-expanding American companies.