Ann L.’s only regret about her Co-Op experience at Kimberly-Clark is that she didn’t do it sooner. The Penn State chemical engineering major picked up useful new skills along with an education about herself and the industry. Initially nervous about leaving familiar territory for a seven-month stretch in Wisconsin, Ann wound up leading activities for her Kimberly-Clark peers. Here’s her experience.
1. What was your first role with Kimberly-Clark as part of our college recruiting program?
My first role at Kimberly-Clark was on the Personal Care Materials team. I was a Material Development co-op.
2. What did you do in your internship or Co-op role?
In my first internship, I worked closely with my mentor to improve Huggies® diapers. Specifically, I worked to improve the materials we used in our diaper. I created test methods and gathered data to better understand our materials and provide recommendations for future changes.
3. What was most challenging about the role?
What surprised me about my first co-op was how much freedom I was given to tackle my objectives. In school, the problems you are given often have one correct answer and one way to reach that answer. It was a challenge to start developing new test methods and gathering data in a field that was completely new to me but also very exciting!
4. What personal characteristics do you possess that helped you to manage through those challenges and how did you manage through the challenges?
In order to overcome the challenging parts of my co-op, I relied on my ability to think positively, ask for help, and pivot when necessary. When my testing methods didn’t work as planned, I would reach out to my mentor and ask for his help. Together, we could create a plan for next steps and keep pushing forward rather than giving up on the objective.
5. What support did you have in your role through your internship or Co-Op?
I had so much support from my mentor, my manager, and my peers during my co-op. My mentor was so helpful as I completed my day-to-day work at Kimberly-Clark. My manager helped me better understand the company and make new professional connections. My peers in the Co-op and Intern Network (COIN) were such great friends who encouraged me to keep trying and moving forward at work.
6. What surprised you when you joined the organization?
I was surprised by the objectives my mentor assigned to me when I arrived at Kimberly-Clark. He provided me with engaging work that was clearly tied to the business’s overall goals. I was grateful that he made a detailed plan of the work I could complete and that he trusted me with these important objectives.
Additionally, I was surprised at how welcomed I felt. I grew up in Pennsylvania and I was understandably nervous to travel to Wisconsin and live there for seven months. All that worry fell away when I met my coworkers. They are some of the kindest people I know, and they always made me feel like I was a part of the team, even as a Co-op.
7. What did you feel most prepared for when you joined us?
Throughout my term my manager would always say, “You don’t take Diaper 101 in college, but they do teach you how to learn.” Obtaining my chemical engineering degree has taught me how to pick up new skills and approach things open-mindedly, which was incredibly beneficial when I started.
8. What would you tell college students considering an internship or Co-Op opportunity with Kimberly-Clark?
I highly recommend taking a Co-op with Kimberly-Clark; my Co-op was the best decision of my college career. Having seven months to learn about the company and work on your objectives helps you learn so much about the industry and about yourself. Then, after your Co-op you can take all the skills you have developed and apply them to your schoolwork. Personally, I found that my experience caused me to have even more appreciation for my degree because I can see how our course work applies to my future career. In addition to all the skills you learn, a Co-op is the perfect time to grow personally. Being able to work for 40 hours and have the rest of the week to yourself allows you to meet new people, try new things, and go new places, which is a ton of fun!
9. What was the most valuable thing you took away from your experience?
My Co-op definitely improved my creativity and my soft skills. Having to develop new test methods from scratch was challenging but I learned so much about design and creative thinking from doing it. Additionally, I was able to practice my soft skills like writing emails, setting up meetings, and presenting throughout my term, which will be beneficial for my future career.
10. How did you “own your experience”?
I took ownership of my co-op by putting as much effort into my work as I could as well as getting involved in COIN! I was an Activities Chair and a Fundraising Lead during my first Co-op and then I was the Digital Media Chair during my second Co-op. Being involved in the COIN community gave me the space to get to know my peers as well as practice my leadership skills.
11. What would you have changed about your experience knowing what you know now?
Honestly, I absolutely loved my Co-op experience and I only wish that I had done it earlier in my college career! I highly recommend that every student that can take a Co-op opportunity from Kimberly-Clark does, because it will truly impact you professionally and personally.