Skip to content

Leading by Example: Johanna’s Journey to Citizenship

Immigrants are oftentimes the backbone of many successful American corporations. Tyson Foods, one of the leading producers of chicken, beef and pork in the United States, illustrates that the United States can be a beacon of opportunity. 

The company’s workforce is a shining example of the merits of diversity. Johanna Söderström, originally from Finland, is part of a large group of international employees. She is Tyson’s Vice President & Chief People Officer (CPO). 


Among more than 137,000 employees nationwide. “Tyson [has] team members here in the U.S. from 160 different countries, and they speak over 60 languages,” Johanna said.

The United States is a country where 73% of farmworkers are immigrants; where 46% of high-tech companies on the Fortune 500 list have been established by first- or second-generation immigrants, and where 28% of high skilled healthcare professionals are foreign born, one thing is clear: diversity is our strength. 

Due to the acute labor shortage in the United States, companies are working hard to recruit and retain their workforces. Johanna says “Our mission [at Tyson is] that we want to be the most sought-after place to work. And when you say that you actually have to do things differently to make sure you differentiate yourself.” In an effort to invest in their workforce over the last few years Tyson has invested in its immigrant workforce by providing a range of legal services as well as partnering with the National Immigration Forum’s New American Workforce (NAW) and Immigrant Connection to offer citizenship services across plants to their employees. 

In 2022, Johanna got the opportunity to benefit from the New American Workforce program her company was offering to their employees. Johanna and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Europe at the beginning of 2011 through her work at DOW Chemical. When she became their Chief Human Resource Officer her family adjusted their status and obtained green cards. Once she joined Tyson Foods as their VP & CPO she realized she and her family were here to stay.  

“We realized that this this is probably where we were going to be since my son is more fluent in English than he is in Finnish or Swedish,” Johanna said.

As time progressed Johanna and her husband began to realize that they missed the opportunity to give back to their society by being civically engaged. “We had lived here now for 11 years, and every time there was an election, we both felt like we were missing out on something because everyone was talking about the opportunity to make your voice heard. I always voted in Finland, because I felt it was my duty and my privilege to do so,” she noted.

The choice became obvious to them. It was time to take the next step and become citizens in the country that had become their home. Working at a company that values their employees, as CPO, Johanna was excited that she would get to be one of the first employees to experience this new accessible resource offered to Tyson team members. 

“I thought here I am sitting on this wonderful opportunity to actually experience and be a part of something that so many of our team members go through and I get to take advantage of the program so that I know what I am talking about when I talk to our team member about it. This is a win for everyone, “she said.

After embarking on the rigorous journey, Johanna was grateful to have the support facilitated by the NAW program and Immigrant Connection legal review which walked her through the steps of the process and the cumbersome part of collecting documents. 

Johanna and her husband were able to naturalize this past September during a very special and timely Citizenship & Constitution Week. During the naturalization ceremony she got to stand side by side with other Tyson employees who had participated in the citizenship program with her and take the naturalization oath of allegiance together. She tells us of the momentous occasion, “It was a beautiful ceremony. I think we were 98 people who took the oath that day with this beautiful setting in the museum with all these programs to beautiful songs. I still get goosebumps just thinking about that day.”

Johanna and the diverse workforce at Tyson are a prime example of the beauty and strength that immigrants offer to not just our economy, but also our communities. 

Related Topics

Integration Naturalization Skills and Workforce Development

Learn More

Read more about Forum to Partner with Amazon on Citizenship Services

Press Release

Forum to Partner with Amazon on Citizenship Services

Read more about Corporate Roundtable for the New American Workforce


Corporate Roundtable for the New American Workforce

Read more about Eliminating the Naturalization Backlog


Eliminating the Naturalization Backlog