Award Winner’s Manufacturing Career Advice: Embrace the Work

If you ask Kerry Brown for her best manufacturing career advice, it’s simple: “Don’t wish away the work.” This attitude — and the work she has done — have propelled Brown up the career ladder. Now she’s Ashdown Mill’s A1 fluff pulp machine superintendent and recent winner of the Paper Industry Management Association’s (PIMA’s) Superintendent of the Year award.

“Spend time at each job learning all you can and mastering it before worrying about what your next job might be,” she advises young people considering a manufacturing career. “If you’re worried about what you’ll be doing next, you’re not going to be focused on the task at hand. If you try to progress too fast, you won’t have strong experience to fall back on in the future.”

Brown is making the most of her time at Domtar. In 1997, she graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a bachelor’s degree in pulp and paper engineering and joined Ashdown Mill as an entry-level engineer. Since then, she has worked across the mill’s four paper and pulp machines serving in roles ranging from technical assistant to shift supervisor to machine superintendent. She also has taken part in numerous mill improvement initiatives, including the mill’s 2016 fluff pulp conversion.

Brown is a great role model for women in manufacturing. “I’ve always looked at each job I’ve had wanting to learn and contribute everything I could,” she says. “I’ve found if you do that, your next job will come, and you won’t have to angle for it.”

Her time working as a shift supervisor has been the most beneficial to her professional development, Brown says. She encourages others embarking on a manufacturing career to make the most of every moment they have. “Your time on the floor is irreplaceable,” she says. “You can’t get that experience anywhere else, and you need it to be successful as you take on more responsibility.”

That advice has served Brown well in her manufacturing career. Today, she is the 2019 recipient of PIMA’s prestigious Brookshire Moore Superintendent of the Year award for “high personal standards and management qualities that make those around her better.”

“It was an extreme honor,” Brown says. “I always focus on doing my work and doing everything I can to help the mill and my team be successful. It was a complete surprise to learn I had been selected.”

Ashdown Mill Manager Allan Bohn says he wasn’t surprised when he heard she was chosen.

“I was extremely happy for her, but not surprised,” he says. “She’s a hard worker and an excellent leader with a great talent for aligning and motivating teams. Everything she has done in her manufacturing career has positioned her well for the award. We’re glad to have her on our team.”

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