At 3M, it’s inspiring to have 91,000 employees whose work is devoted to improving lives all over the world. We recently sat down with Senior Manufacturing Engineer Madison Bennett, a 3Mer for three years, and Global Manufacturing Director Tracinda Yaw, a 3Mer for 23 years, to chat about why they chose careers in STEM-related fields and how they see innovation in their day-to-day work.
Tracinda: I grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska, and I didn’t want to be a farmer or a farmer’s wife. I always loved math and science but didn’t know what career options there were. In high school, my chemistry teacher suggested engineering. Truth be told, I thought being an engineer was being the person who drove a train. That’s how little exposure I had! With my teacher’s encouragement, I studied Chemical Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. I loved it because it was truly the first time in my life I was around people who thought like me.
Madison: I have a very similar story. I’m from a small town in the rural area of southern Illinois. I loved math and science and was good at it. My AP Physics teacher said, “I think you would like engineering – look into it,” and pitched Purdue because they have a first-year overall engineering program. I fell in love with Chemical Engineering, and that was that.
Tracinda: It’s one of the few companies where you can have whatever career you want in whatever industry you want, but you don’t have to change companies. An engineer can become a marketer or go into sales or lead a business. You can work in healthcare, industrial, or electronics. This was extremely attractive to me. I’ve had 12 roles in my 23 years at 3M, all starting with the Optimized Operations (O2) program.
Madison: When I was interviewing, it was a huge deal that there were a bunch of people who had been with the company for 30 years - that’s rare. I knew that it was somewhere where people felt taken care of and would stay for a career, and that’s what I was looking for.
I started in the O2 program as well and am in my second role. I love manufacturing and loved working in the plants, so I don’t want to get too far away from that.
Tracinda: The company slogan “3M Science. Applied to Life.” truly represents 3M. I can instantly make the connection from my work to people’s lives. For me, two things come to mind right away.
First, 3M plants are major employers in small towns in the U.S. As a plant manager, I was able to help employ 10-15 percent of the entire community I was working in, so the livelihood of that town depended on my leadership. That was the reality. That incredible responsibility made me feel like what I was doing really mattered.
Second, the day where I saw my work truly impact lives was on Sept. 11, 2001. I was working in personal safety in a plant that made respirators and that day our operations started running 24/7. We were sending trucks from Nebraska to Ground Zero.
Madison: My answer isn’t quite as touching, but similarly, I feel responsible for the seven jobs of the technicians that I work with that depend on items in the pipeline.
Also, I love that we focus on reducing waste. I’ve always felt inspired and empowered to continually improve.
Tracinda: I was fortunate as an O2 engineer, because two of the plants I worked in had female plant managers. I was able to watch from afar as they both advanced their careers and became Division Vice Presidents. That was my first look at 3M, and as I progressed in my career, I realized this was uncommon. However, I’ve always felt supported. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities because I’ve worked hard, delivered results, and people began noticing.
Madison: I’ve also always felt supported by 3M. At the plant that I started in, I was one of the only women, but now the last three O2s that were hired have been women. The community is growing.
Also, 3M has always helped to connect me to opportunities like the Women’s Leadership Forum. Through this Employee Resource Network, I’ve met women in all sorts of technical and management leadership roles. I’ve appreciated that because sometimes it’s easy to go through your day without having talked to other women.
Tracinda: I understand these are not adjectives, but they do describe my career at 3M. I would say continuous learning, flexibility, and growth. Every new job I’ve had consists of learning new business processes, technology, people and products, and has challenged me to expand my thinking.
Madison: My work has broadened my horizons, so I would say eye-opening, technically challenging, and communal. I have really felt a sense of being an integral part of 3M’s community since I’ve started.
Share and start your 3M experience.
Madison and Tracinda’s stories are truly inspiring and at 3M, we want to make sure all our employees’ voices are heard. Whether you’re a candidate who has interviewed with 3M or a current employee, we’d love for you to anonymously share your experiences with us on our Glassdoor page.