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You recently spoke about diversity and inclusion in the workforce, stressing that agility and an ability to push out of one’s comfort zone is key to personal and career growth. Does Donaldson offer these opportunities to advance and if so, how has this impacted your career?
"After finishing my doctoral degree, I received two job offers. One was directly in line with my field of study. The other, from Donaldson, involved a steep learning curve and I didn’t think I was as qualified for the role. I was, however, very interested in the challenge and appreciated being offered the opportunity. Fast forward five years, and I now have skills and knowledge in two very different fields and have acquired the ability to run experiments from lab to production scale. If I had not been agile in making the decision to join Donaldson, I would have limited myself to that one field, and I would not have exposure to pilot and manufacture scale trials."
"I appreciate that the company makes an effort to understand an individual’s strengths and interests and provides opportunities to achieve that person’s goals. I am still early in my career and hope I will continue to take on new challenges and step out of my comfort zone to continue growing in my career and as a person."
Donaldson wants everyone to see opportunities in STEM. How do they support and introduce the possibilities of STEM at work or in the community?
"I think encouraging young talent into STEM fields is essential for a better future. I became interested in a STEM career after visiting my uncle's plant where they made plastic commodity products and I was introduced to polymer engineering. Donaldson sponsors several events, such as internship programs, Scouting Days, and the Minnesota Science Museum Science Fusion event to promote STEM in the community. And personally, I enjoy the opportunity to mentor colleagues and young students, and volunteer at Donaldson-sponsored events."
How would you describe the Donaldson culture?
"I look forward to coming to work every day. Everyone here is welcoming and approachable. I work with very talented and accomplished engineers and scientists; many are patent holders and industry thought leaders. If I need assistance or an answer to a particular problem, I consult my team or other global colleagues. People want you – and your work – to be successful. I think this collaborative approach makes a very healthy and happy environment to work in."
What does your typical day at work involve?
"My work at Donaldson involves leading R&D projects and regularly updating the stakeholders and decision-makers. The typical day is a blend of conducting experiments with pilot and production scale pieces of equipment, analyzing data using statistical tools and tracking budget and timeline, and assessing risks using project management tools."
"Trials at the pilot and production scale help establish scientific correlations and interdependencies between raw materials, finished membranes, and these membranes' performance in filtration applications. Currently, I am developing the correlations, understanding the capability of a new technology, and comparing it to traditional technology. Understanding the capabilities of our newest technology will help us create differentiated products to advance and grow our business."
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 joined the Air Force, 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, which is a good thing. I learned how to drive a forklift, load buses and move people. It was never boring. There were always fires to put out or problems to fix. It was like a puzzle."
"The military also taught me discipline. I had a job to do, with deadlines and responsibilities. It also taught me respect for my superiors. I was one of 30 women in my particular military group, so I learned how to work in a predominantly male environment."
When you think about the employee culture at Donaldson, what stands out?
"Donaldson is like a little town with very friendly people. There is a lot of cross-functional work. People are interested in how their jobs affect others. There also is a lot of social interaction, which is refreshing."
In your current role, you manage virtual plants. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
"I am most proud of helping my employees move up in the company and seeing them succeed. One thing I try to teach them is to get out of their offices and meet with people in person whenever possible. The more people you know, the more you learn."
Tell us about your role at Donaldson Company.
"I work in the Computer Aided Engineering group within Corporate Technology, which is responsible for developing our predictive analysis capabilities and the computing infrastructure necessary to support them. Our goal is to connect technologies with application needs throughout the company using predictive modeling software."
"Developing products with these software packages can help our application teams get a new product to market faster because designs can be tested virtually before a physical part ever exists. We can quickly run through design iterations and optimize performance before we go to the trouble of making prototypes and conducting lab tests. Because these types of analysis are very hungry for computing power, my group also provides a globally accessible high performance computing (HPC) infrastructure to make this work possible."
You work with some amazing technology. What is the most fascinating part of your job today?
"I enjoy building simulations of products and conditions we see in the real world with our analysis software. Whenever possible, we follow this with an analysis validation where the same test is conducted in one of our labs. This helps us learn how accurate our analysis was and develops our analysis skills. We also learn more about the loads or challenges that our products actually see, rather than something that just looks good on a computer screen. This validation step and skill building is a very important part of our work and the most fascinating part of my job. We can generate all kinds of beautiful pictures that appear to show stress levels or fluid streamlines, but if they are inaccurate and only mislead those making product design decisions, then they do not hold any value."
Where do you think the next breakthroughs will be in liquid filtration?
"I believe that our next innovations will come from seemingly simple repurposing of old or existing technologies in non-obvious ways. I believe the next big thing in filtration is right under our noses, and I want Donaldson to be the first to find it."
What would it surprise others to know about you?
"Five things come to mind:
– Sheila Kramer, Vice President, Human Resources
What path led you to Donaldson Company?
"While in school, I interned at Donaldson for two summers and one full school year. This was an incredible experience. As an intern, I was exposed to three departments within the finance area: credit and collections, cost accounting and financial reporting. My managers let me rotate through the departments to gain valuable experience and help to define my career path. After school, I was hired as a full-time employee in internal audit."
What is the best thing about working at Donaldson?
"That’s easy. It’s the people and the relationships. On my first day as an intern, I remember walking down the hall, amazed at how many people said, “Hi,” to me – people I’d never met before. They all had happy faces. It was an awesome experience. Donaldson’s culture supports these relationships. The company is community-oriented and very good at reaching out to others. I feel well respected and valued here. In just a short time, I have learned a ton about Donaldson and have built life-long relationships."