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You joined Donaldson in 2019. What do you most enjoy about your work and the Donaldson culture?
"As a Principal Investigator (PI) on various projects, my role is to develop new technologies that ensure Donaldson maintains our competitive edge and identify solutions to address customers’ challenges. I derive immense satisfaction and fulfillment knowing my efforts address real-world needs. The ability to learn something new almost every day while being able to apply prior knowledge and skills is extremely gratifying!"
"There is an incredible sense of 'oneness' as a company – the workplace is highly collaborative, and I regularly work on projects with global colleagues, such as Belgium and India. There is a sense of trust from leadership in that the contributions of individuals are valued, and there are ample opportunities to be recognized (and rewarded) for excellent contributions. The company also invests in personal and professional growth through Individual Development Plans, courses, and programs meant to enhance knowledge and skills."
Many cite STEM activities for helping prepare students to become tomorrow’s innovators. You developed your interest as early as fourth grade, and you went on to receive a BS in chemistry. What would you tell others who share – or don’t share – this interest?
"I would like to encourage all students that being curious is essential to any endeavor. In my experience, performance and intellectual affinity for STEM are not the only, and most certainly not the most important factors for predicting success in STEM. Rather, it’s the determination and grit that is instilled when experiments fail and you keep trying alternative approaches."
You started at Donaldson as an intern in 2008. How have your responsibilities changed and what are you most excited about?
"I started as an intern in the Exhaust and Emissions group and I am currently Director of Engineering for Off-road Air Applications. When I started out as an Engineer, I was excited about the products I was a part of releasing into production; vehicles – buses, helicopters, tanks, excavators, etc. – I got to work on; and the problems I got to solve. As my career progressed and I began leading people, I became proud of the success of my team and their development. Today, coaching my team and seeing them grow and achieve their goals has become what drives me."
In your role you work closely with manufacturing facilities, labs, quality teams, development teams and your global counterparts. Is there anything unique to this collaborative environment that sets Donaldson apart?
"People at Donaldson are often open to criticism/feedback and always work towards a common goal. In any room, at any time, it doesn’t matter where the idea comes from as long as it is the best one to deal with the problem at hand. I enjoy being able to have a different position than those around me and still be able to proceed in a positive manner that either teaches me why I may be incorrect or reinforces the actions that are about to be taken. It’s a culture that promotes diverse ideas and the space to speak freely."
The Donaldson Foundation awards $1.2 million annually to nonprofits in the communities where employees live and work. Employee-led volunteer efforts are also a big part of the company culture. Do you participate in any of the company’s philanthropic initiatives?
"I have volunteered with and led the MS150 Ride to raise funds for people dealing with MS as well as the Full Cycle events that support unhoused youth. I have also participated in our JA Bowl-a-thon and have been an ambassador for United Way, which we support through a week-long annual fundraising event. Many of my friends and co-workers participate and everyone is encouraged and welcomed to help. Philanthropy is a large part of Donaldson’s culture and really helps our communities and connect people outside of daily work activities."
– Sheila Kramer, Vice President, Human Resources
What can you share about your career and experience at Donaldson?
"When I joined Donaldson, it was my first experience working in the Information Technology Division of the manufacturing industry. It was a completely different experience to be a part of a company that encourages research and innovation. I joined as a Sr. Technical Analyst in the Business Intelligence group, that is responsible for providing data and tools to the leadership community to make informed decisions."
"Donaldson also encourages employees to participate in training to keep up with new and upcoming technologies. I was provided with many opportunities to work on challenging projects and stretch beyond my comfort zone to acquire knowledge and build new skills."
What is the best thing about working at Donaldson?
"People at Donaldson are very friendly and instantly make you feel like a part of a close-knit family. Everyone is very passionate about their job and very knowledgeable in their field. They are always ready to help each other succeed. I also appreciate the flexibility Donaldson provides so employees can manage work-life balance. Being a working mother, I have been able to fully enjoy my work without feeling stressed or guilty because I was always there when my family needed me."
"The leadership team at Donaldson is closely connected with all the employees and provide their invaluable guidance to help them succeed. Their ability to make decisions for the better future of the company and their long-term vision gives me a sense of security."
You spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as a Senior Airman. What did the military teach you that has been helpful in your career at Donaldson?
"When I enlisted, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was placed in Logistics; I didn’t know what it was, but I ended up liking it. I learned how to drive a forklift, load trucks and buses, and move people between bases. It was never boring. There were always fires to put out or problems to fix. The military taught me discipline – I had a job to do, with deadlines and responsibilities. And as one of only 30 women in my group, I also learned how to work in a predominantly male environment and excel."
Similarly, manufacturing has historically been male-dominated. Fortunately, companies like Donaldson are changing this landscape (for example, we were recently recognized for having 20% or more gender diversity in our executive ranks). How do you view your role as a woman and leader in the company?
"I don’t ever look at myself as being a “woman” leader – I’m just a leader. I believe that gender shouldn’t play a role in how you act and how you can perform. At Donaldson, I’ve been encouraged to stretch and learn by my managers and offered great opportunities to advance. My advice to others: “Just be yourself, be proud of what you accomplish, and promote your strengths. This is a place where your hard work and aspirations are considered and rewarded."
You joined Donaldson in 2005. Now you are a Plant Manager and oversee a team of over 30 employees. What accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
"I love having a team that feels comfortable in asking for advice with their own careers. My goal is to help my employees grow and strengthen their skills. Sometimes that means I lose them to other teams and career paths in the company, but I’m ok with that and it’s satisfying to watch them succeed!"