When 12-year-old Heather Hammack first sat on a John Deere 4455 tractor with her older brother on her family’s farm, she had no idea that one day she would come full circle as a pioneer in the ag industry. Now a well-respected 16-year produce veteran and recently appointed President of Famous Software, Heather continues to honor her roots in the ag industry using the knowledge she learned driving that tractor every summer from adolescence through college.
Of course, working at Famous Software is an entirely different breed of ag work. Before Apple and Microsoft came Famous Software, a company that has been constantly innovating for the past 40 years. Known for being an industry that’s slow to adapt to change, it may come as a surprise that the ag industry has been so embracing toward Famous. The company offers top tier technology with their Oracle-based solutions which allow Famous to offer its wide range of customers the accounting packages, business management tools, and more that apply uniquely to each specific company.
“These accomplishments can be credited to many people that came before me and the unbelievable team we have today, but I’d like to think I had some impact." - Heather Hammack
Since Heather began her career at Famous Software in 1999, the company has more than doubled in employees and revenue. When I ask Heather what it is that has made this possible, she answers simply—her team at Famous.
“These accomplishments can be credited to many people that came before me and the unbelievable team we have today, but I’d like to think I had some impact,” Heather adds. “I love what I do and I love this industry. This organization makes an impact on people’s lives and businesses every day, so it doesn't feel like a job. Enjoying what I do makes it really simple.”
With the company's wide array of customers now spanning over 1,400 uniquely different fresh produce and agriculture enterprises, Heather speaks fondly of her start with Famous. “When I started in Sales, I was only working within Fresno and Madera County, and as I evolved, both my footprint and responsibilities began to grow,” says Heather, with a hint of pride. “I went from Sales Manager in 2004, to Director of Sales and Marketing in 2011—it all just felt very natural to me.”
Now President of the innovative software company, when Heather speaks, you can tell the promotions haven’t gone to her head. Her humility is something that she mentions has been an asset in her career at Famous.
“I am who I am, and I’m genuine. I’m never trying to be something that I'm not,” she tells me. “My mother told me to be the best you, that you can be. The title may get you in the door, but it’s up to you to build your credibility.”
What makes Heather’s story particularly interesting is that while she has clearly found her niche with Famous, a job at an agricultural software firm is not at all what she anticipated for her career. After graduating high school in 1995, Heather headed off to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, for Agribusiness and a minor in Plant Protection. Her goal was to get a pest protection license and go into chemical sales, but as we know now, that’s not exactly how her future played out.
In fact, the very first Monday after graduating from Cal Poly, Heather got an unexpected opportunity from the company that she now heads today.
“When I graduated, my brother had suggested I line up some ‘practice’ interviews so I would be prepared when the real thing came along. My very first practice interview ended up being with Kirk Parrish, the CEO of Famous Software,” she says.
Combining her love of both ag and tech, Heather’s leap of faith into Famous Software promised her a career that has challenged her and has made her feel not a day over 25.
A big part of what Heather loves about her job is working with Kirk, who started with the company in 1986 when it was only five employees strong. Since then, Kirk became both a partner and President of the company, as well as an avid farmer out of Madera County.
“Heather embodies two of our key core values at Famous Software: humility and competence." - Kirk Parrish
“Kirk thoroughly understands and appreciates the challenges of the fresh produce and ag industries,” Heather says. “He has given me a tremendous opportunity at Famous because he’s allowed me to do what I do. He works so well in a mentorship capacity and I am very, very lucky.”
When asked what makes Heather special, Kirk echoed this respect and admiration.
“Heather embodies two of our key core values at Famous Software: humility and competence. As a leader at Famous Software, she is respected by her peers because of her talent and her willingness to always lend a helping hand–Heather is truly a service based leader,” he says. “She possesses an uncanny ability to assess difficult situations, and is capable of developing balanced solutions. At her core, Heather is a problem solver. She is very thoughtful when working with our customers and equally at home when developing software solutions with our staff at Famous Software. Heather is a talented business professional that is able identify the details while not losing sight of the big picture.”
“This isn’t the place for people who are looking to check off a list,” Heather, adds. “The demands of our customers are always transitioning. Our current system is serving our customers well, but of course they’re always going to need more.”
This mentor/mentee relationship has been an integral part of building the future of Famous Software. Heather currently manages Famous’ Company Strategic Planning Team, and participates on the Version 6 ERP Product Team, Famous Mobile Product Team, and the Famous Business Intelligence Product Team. With additions to both the company’s Business Intelligence programs and Mobile Product programs in the works, Heather says they are very busy back at the office.
After over ten years as a Famous customer, Church Brothers Produce CEO Steve Church has this to tell me about the new Famous President. “Over the last decade, we have done a lot of custom work on our Famous platform, with Heather as the lead. She has worked extremely well with us on large projects that have both improved our efficiencies and made Church Brothers better able to provide excellent service for our customers. When we first met Heather, she was a project manager, and as Famous has grown so has Heather. She’s a terrific leader for great software—we rely on both," he says.
Heather says her job is never truly done at Famous. “This isn’t the place for people who are looking to check off a list,” she adds. “The demands of our customers are always transitioning. Our current system is serving our customers well, but of course they’re always going to need more.”
Another loyal customer, Chris Puentes, President of Interfresh, added, “Interfresh has been a long-time customer of Famous Software, and we consider them a technology partner of ours. Heather has been an instrumental part of our success with Famous, and we deeply value our relationship with her. Over the years, we’ve come to know Heather both personally and professionally, and find her a delight to work with. I am pleased to call her a friend, and we look forward to working with Heather for many years to come.”
Despite the intense focus Heather puts in to her work, her life truly revolves around her family. From the father and brother that instilled her love of agriculture, to Heather’s husband Marc, and children, 7-year-old Ava and 4-year-old Brayden, family is both her number one priority and her biggest challenge, she says.
“It’s easy for me to make an impact at work, but at home it’s the complete opposite. Nobody listens to what I say!” Heather laughs. “When I’m traveling, the kids will give me things to take with me, like Hot Wheels cars or My Little Pony. I take pictures of them in all the different places I travel. I have a whole portfolio with pictures of the car with pilots!”
It’s the little things like these that, to me, embody Heather’s passion as both a professional and a parent. And after learning more about the produce powerhouse, one thing is certainly clear—the authenticity she prides herself on is only just beginning to pay off.