Bronco Spotlight: Katherine Stickels

Bachelor of Science in paper engineering, 2014

Current Job Title:

Lean Implementation Leader/Process Engineer 

Current Employer:

Neenah, Inc. 

Describe your current job:

As the Lean Implementation Leader, I am responsible for rolling out the Toyota Production System through a model machine and expanding to the rest of the facility. This means implementing new tools, creating management systems, and building a team of problem solvers. 

What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?

My real title could read “Problem Solver” or “Problem Solving Trainer.” Every day my goal is to solve problems on the machine and for the crews. Part of that includes helping others become problem solvers. Helping to create a culture where everyone is actively solving problems and working towards improvement leaves me feeling accomplished at the end of each day. The environment I work in is fast-paced and ever-changing. I am constantly having to learn new things and challenge my way of thinking. Having to constantly adapt and learn is challenging, but also extremely rewarding and why I enjoy what I do. 

Which of your skills had the biggest impact on your success? 

Teamwork is essential in almost any work environment. Throughout your career, you'll have many roles on a team and hopefully you'll have an opportunity to be a leader. The critical piece to being a good team member, is to be able to listen to others and pull ideas together. You won't always have the best idea in the room, but if you can recognize the best idea and put your energy behind it, you win, even if it wasn't your idea! This is crucial whether you are new to the team or are the lead on a project. Holding different roles in school projects and leadership positions in student organizations helped me strengthen my teamwork skills for my current role. 

What advice do you have for students looking for their career after college? 

We all want to be happy and fulfilled. Everyone's path to get there will look completely different, so don't compare yourself to your friends, colleagues, or family members. Forge your own path. Be a hard worker and surround yourself with people that will build you up, teach you, and encourage you. 

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