May 16, 2018  
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Spotlight on Young Professionals

Workforce development issues are always top-of-mind for pulp and papermakers. In the face of the "silver tsunami" of retiring workers—especially in the manufacturing sector—attracting and hiring the best and brightest will be critical to our industry's future.

That's where TAPPI's Young Professionals Division comes in. The division provides a host of services and opportunities for graduate students, recent college graduates, and professionals who are beginning their careers in the pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and related forest products industries. (Learn more by viewing the new YP Division video.)

Ahead of the Curve visited TAPPI's Member Spotlight page to gain more insight from three of these future industry leaders (see their full Spotlight profiles, and others, here.) Questions about the young professional experience are answered below by:

Sarah Garchinsky
Scientist II, Solenis
YP Division Director of Division Relations

Holly Holmes-Smith
Lamination and Finishing Process Engineer,
Bryce Corporation

Sudip Neupane
Technical Sales and Service Representative, WestRock
YP Division Chair

What is it like being a young professional in this field?

Garchinsky: I really like being able to help influence the culture within my organization (better work life balance, accommodating a changing workforce).

Holmes-Smith: Growing up as a homeschooler, I was never surrounded by people solely my age. This gave me the opportunity, earlier than most, to learn social etiquette when speaking to different ages.
As a young professional in the workplace, I feel like it is more of an advantage than anything else. People get excited when young people come willing to learn, and they enjoy sharing everything they know. Perhaps one disadvantage is that now at 20 years old, I still feel like I have so much to learn in respect to the unspoken social etiquette of the professional environment. Luckily, I have awesome mentors that care about my social development just as much as my engineering advancements.

Neupane: It's like being in a movie, but as a child actor. You learn each step of the way. I've tried to make the best and the most of being a young professional in the field by networking and learning from the people around me.

Who is your mentor? What's a lesson they've taught you that you'd want to pass on to others?

Garchinsky: We have a family friend who I have always thought of as a mentor. At a young age, she instilled in me how important it is to always be able to provide for yourself. She taught me that no matter how happily married you are, you should always drive yourself to be able to independently support yourself. My husband and I both live by this philosophy. I know this might not be possible for everyone depending on the situation, but I find this as my driver to keep myself from becoming complacent in my career and working to always strive for more (this philosophy is one of the main reasons that drove me to continue my education).

Holmes-Smith: I have a lot of really wonderful mentors. One in particular was the father of my best friend. I spent a lot of time at their kitchen table talking about life. From our conversations, I learned one very important lesson: "We forget… that we are already world changers. One person's world at a time." For many young adults starting in the workforce, we desperately need to feel like we're changing the world. Yet we quickly get frustrated when we cannot see the change immediately. While we may not be able to change the entire world today, we have the potential to change someone's world every day, better or worse.

Neupane: My parents taught me that honesty, integrity, and hard work are the keys to success. They also taught me to earn respect when you are alive, and earn people to go to your funeral when you die. At work, my mentor has helped show me what it means to be part of a team. You are successful because your team is successful.

What are your career aspirations? What motivates you at work?

Garchinsky: I try to avoid being super specific here because things always change, but some of my goals are 1.) Experience different parts of the industry (not just stay in the same job function forever) 2.) Learn how to manage people and become a leader 3.) I would like to eventually publish a book or resource article where I talk about challenges of young women in science and how I handled them and use the profits to set up a scholarship fund for women in STEM.
At work, I love being given an objective and then the independence to pursue under little supervision. This is how I work best.

Holmes-Smith: I'd really like to work toward being an executive and managing people. If that doesn't work, I'll just become the President! Look out world!
At work, I'm in a position where I can do a lot of good for the people I work with, especially the operators on the manufacturing floor. We run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so whether our operators are working on the machines at three o'clock in the morning or any time of day, a well-designed process and clear instructions really makes a difference for them. Also, I'm having fun, so it doesn't really feel like work to me.

Neupane: In the near term, I'd like to be more technically sound at what I'm doing now. I aspire to be a great Technical Sales and Service Representative and be someone people can look up to. In the longer term, I have great interest in strategic and business aspects of the industry. I'm thinking about ways to learn, share, and grow my network.
My work is very dynamic, with new projects and challenges, which is very motivating for me. I would say that people are the biggest motivator for me at work because I never feel alone tackling the problem in front of me.

What advice would you give other young professionals in our industry?

Garchinsky: Ask questions and ask for help. Many times, I was out in the field working on trials and instead of sitting around just watching the trial run, I asked questions and learned more about the process (people are always willing to share what they do and show you around).

Holmes-Smith: Your grades do not reflect your worth. In school, you're told that your grades are the key to getting the job you want. But experience is important too, so try to get that if you can.

Neupane: Don't be shy; express your ideas and yourself. At the same time, be open to other people's ideas. Network with other YPs. Find a mentor. Join groups like TAPPI Young Professionals (YP) Division where you can meet other people in the same boat as you. At the end of the day, all that matters are things you did, efforts you led, punches you took—so show initiative, be humble, and find ways to enjoy what you do.

What is your proudest accomplishment to date?

Garchinsky: Currently, I am most proud that I have decided to continue my education by pursing my Master's degree from North Carolina State University in Paper Science and Engineering, while working full time and growing my family.

Holmes-Smith: In 2012, I started volunteering with the Civil Air Patrol, which is a volunteer organization of the Air Force. They focus on leadership, aerospace education, and search and rescue for anyone age 12 and up. I noticed that other squadrons of the organization had Color Guard teams, but my local area did not. I expressed interest in starting a team, but the local leadership said I couldn't because there was no adult supervision (I was 15) and no one to teach us how to properly represent the US and state flag at formal ceremonies. I ended up finding a supervisor, taught myself, and organized and taught a team to perform. After six months of training, our team represented the colors all over northwest Arkansas. We overcame the impossible. I would encourage others "Do the impossible once in your life. Twice if you are an overachiever."

Neupane: Two proudest moments come to mind. The first is when I received my undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech. I knew how much it meant to my parents and my younger brother, and seeing them so happy made me very proud. The second is when I was awarded TAPPI's Young Professionals Top 20 Under 30 Award in 2015. It felt incredible to be one of the recipients and it became a big deal back home in Nepal, making the national news (and I had no clue). My parents even flew in to the US to be there when I accepted the award. I had to warn them it was not an Oscar and I wouldn't be giving a speech or anything.


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