SPOTLIGHT: Marshelle Slayton
Raised by two engineer parents, and close to her engineer aunt, TAPPI Young Professional (YP) and outdoor enthusiast Marshelle Slayton says she came to her P&P career quite naturally. “Engineering is in my blood.”
But her route to employer Sonoco Products Company was not so direct. “I knew I wanted to study engineering when I looked at the University of Washington,” said the Camas, Washington native. “They have a great Paper Science and Engineering program, a terrific support network, a huge scholarship program funded by local paper mills, and 100% job placement. It met all my needs.”
Ironically, during Marshelle’s studies Sonoco offered her two potential internships. However, she declined those and opted for opportunities with two other companies; one in Germany and the other in her hometown. It was from those experiences that Marshelle decided her career would be dedicated to paper. Upon graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Bioresource Science and Engineering (previously Paper Science and Engineering), she made a beeline for Sonoco where she went to work as a Process Engineer at their mill near Appleton, Wisconsin.
Never one to sit still, Marshelle passed her Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam in 2013, and then the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt in 2015. As a Process Engineer, she says she uses her educational background every day. She is responsible for efficient manufacturing system operations including water systems, raw material handling, stock preparation, product quality, and people management. She also completed productivity and loss reduction projects to reduce variation and costs at her mill, and served as a Lean Manufacturing Pillar leader responsible for managing the continuous improvement team.
Like her many sports activities outside the office, Marshelle approaches her work responsibilities with unbridled enthusiasm and a keen desire to succeed. There isn’t anything about her career that she doesn’t find interesting, stimulating, and fulfilling. “This is a fun field to be in. People are so creative. They are always asking, ‘What can we come up with now.’” She credits her membership in TAPPI as her channel to connect with many of those fellow professionals. “You can’t know everything. You need to build relationships and TAPPI is the place to do that.”
Growth appears to be a key factor in Marshelle’s career with Sonoco, too. She was recently promoted to Process Improvement Leader and is already enjoying her new responsibilities supporting productivity and process improvement initiatives on a regional level inside Sonoco’s paper division.
Q. Why Did You Decide To Join TAPPI?
A. I joined the Student section of TAPPI my freshman year at the University of Washington. It was very beneficial for learning about the industry, and for networking with other students and potential employers. The student chapter was very welcoming. It was also involved in ensuring that all students knew how to interview well, prepare their resumes, and understand the many options the industry has to offer. I officially joined TAPPI before attending my first PaperCon in 2011.
Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI over the years.
A. I served as Treasurer and Public Relations Officer during undergrad at the University of Washington. After attending my first PaperCon, I started volunteering with the Fun Run Committee and am still an active member of this committee. I also recently joined the new Woman’s Committee and look forward to participating more in pursuing equality for all employees.
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?
A. While I was a student, it helped me develop a professional resume to use both for internships and my initial job applications after college. It was also great for practicing interview techniques and building a solid professional network. TAPPI student members are a tightknit group. Engineering is hard so it was good to be able to relax and socialize. In fact, that part of TAPPI involvement helped me build my network on and off campus. There is always someone you can ask; the social aspect lets you take advantage of networking with industry professionals.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.
A. I have played soccer since age three and continue to play a minimum of two days a week. I played competitive youth soccer and was captain of UW’s Woman’s Club Soccer Team my junior year. Besides soccer, I have always loved running, hiking, and exploring nature. When I moved to Wisconsin (and found a need for indoor activities during the frigid winters, brrrr!) I started playing indoor sand volleyball weekly. I enjoy reading and knitting whenever I find time to myself. I also love traveling, exploring new places, and trying new food! I look forward to volunteering as a coach for a youth soccer team, and helping tutor middle school students in math and science once traveling for work settles down.
Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?
A. I started road biking and triathlons after moving to Wisconsin. I competed in three different triathlons and even placed for my age group in two races. Additionally, I completed a 100 mile (Century) bike ride this summer!
Q. TAPPI celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015. Would you provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry? Also, what is your favorite paper or packaging product?
A. One of the neatest things about our industry in my opinion is that we are physically able to make things; that we are still manufacturing them in the U.S. So much of our country’s manufacturing has moved offshore, but not in our industry. This means many people who may not have pursued additional education after high school can still get make a good living. In addition, what other industry gives you the opportunity to make things that are biodegradable, compostable, and that you have a use for later on? Everything on the paper side of our industry is 100% recyclable. We are taking all those products and repurposing them. My favorite product is the core. What child doesn’t remember making crafts out of toilet paper and paper towel rolls?
Q. Closing sentiments?
A. TAPPI is such a great resource for learning. I attended a PEERS conference and the folks on the panel were very helpful. Sharing knowledge without the fear of competition is one of the greatest things TAPPI does. Competition drives improvement and creativity, and allows us to stay alive as an industry. There are so many different types of professionals active in TAPPI, with varied experiences and technical backgrounds to learn from. By getting involved you know where to go. Through that you unlock a myriad of possibilities. I love what I do and would like to see more people get involved.