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An Engineer’s Journey from Pulp and Paper to Personal Care

Categories: Giving Back
Jacob Vrooman

Jacob Vrooman has taken a professional journey that looks a lot like our company’s path in recent years. Turning his experience in pulp and paper production to innovation in absorbent hygiene products, Vrooman has crossed both our business divisions and the Atlantic Ocean as he contributes to Domtar’s success.

As an engineering student in 2009, Vrooman interned at Domtar’s Ashdown Mill in Arkansas. Less than a decade later, he’s a product commercialization manager in Madrid, who holds a patent for his contributions to absorbent hygiene technology in our Personal Care business.

The Internship That Launched a Career

Curiosity brought Jacob Vrooman to where he is today. As a high school student in Virginia, he planned to study chemical engineering in college. Unexpectedly, he was invited to compete for a scholarship in the highly specialized Paper Science & Engineering program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The uniqueness of the program — along with the program’s smaller class sizes and nearly 100 percent job placement — appealed to him, and the scholarship sealed the deal.

Domtar actively recruits students and new graduates for internships and full-time positions from this program. After just one semester, Vrooman began a five-month placement in quality assurance at the Ashdown Mill.

“I hadn’t taken any classes yet in paper science,” he says, “but I received helpful on-the-job training and dedicated supervision. The investment enabled me to complete meaningful projects.”

During his final semester in college, Vrooman was looking for an opportunity to expand his horizons. He landed a part-time job in the lab at Domtar’s newly opened Personal Care headquarters in Raleigh.

Senior scientist Harry Chmielewski noticed right away that Jacob Vrooman “had the curiosity that good technical people always have.”

“From day one, he had the creativity to make meaningful contributions to R&D initiatives,” Chmielewski says.

Working alongside industry experts, Vrooman contributed to research that eventually led to a material patent. The innovation gives Domtar a high-performing absorbent core that can be used in multiple applications.

As soon as he graduated, Vrooman jumped at the chance to take a full-time position at the company’s manufacturing plant in Greenville, North Carolina, about 90 miles east of Raleigh.

“Because the absorbent hygiene market is evolving quite rapidly, there’s a high demand for new and more effective product solutions. Domtar Personal Care’s dedication to meeting this challenge aligned perfectly with my desire to solve problems,” Vrooman says.

At Greenville, Vrooman managed the maintenance and new product development for absorbent underpads, which are widely used in acute- and extended-care facilities. He was soon promoted to product development engineer, and he expanded his skillset to include other absorbent hygiene products, raw materials and technologies.