by Susan Reed on Jun 21, 2019
This is the time of year when a fresh group of college students begin their internships here at a Rogers Corporation. Two such former interns, Kevin Ripston, Director of Supply Chain Planning at EMS, and Justin Chretien, Product Manager for the EMS PORON® Industrial line, share some thoughts and impressions from their early days at Rogers, and weigh in on how their internships helped shape their current careers.
The Passage From Intern to Long-Term Career
Justin Chretien, Product Manager – PORON® Industrial
Interviewer: How long did you intern with Rogers before you were hired full-time?
Kevin: I interned at Rogers’ Woodstock facility as a process engineering intern during the summer before my senior year of college. I was actually made a job offer while going into my senior year. I accepted and was an intern again over winter break. I started full-time in June way back in 2006.
Justin: I interned for two summers, one internship in the Quality group and another one in the Engineering group, both at the Woodstock Connecticut location. That would’ve been back in the summers of 2008 and 2009. It was around eight to twelve weeks each time. I worked full-time, forty hours a week, but just from May to August.
Interviewer: Why did you first begin interning with Rogers?
Kevin: I was looking for an internship during the summer between my sophomore and junior year and I actually applied to Rogers and they turned me down. I can now see the humor in that! I started interning for them the following year. I ended up starting as a process engineer because they came to UMass Amherst where I went for my undergrad in chemical engineering and they were a part of the recruitment process. When I was going to school I was looking for some experience. I didn’t have much on my resume other than an undergrad research project so I really wanted to get into the industry and a summer internship program. Rogers was kind enough to make me an offer and the rest is history.
Kevin Ripston, Director of Supply Chain Planning
Justin: I ended up finding Rogers at a career fair at my college, Worcester Polytechnic Institute. They hold a career fair every year for people to find full-time jobs as well as an internship fair for companies just looking for summer work. Rogers had a booth there and I was talking to some of the people and it seemed pretty interesting. I interviewed and I guess it went well because they offered me a job the first time around and then they offered me a second one for the next year. I decided to take that as well to try and see the same company from different perspectives.
Interviewer: What aspects did you enjoy as an intern? Did you have any interesting projects you worked on?
Kevin: I thought the practical application of material science and engineering was pretty cool. I had never been in a manufacturing facility before and I didn’t really know what process engineering was all about. Coming into Rogers, I was kind of a blank slate, not knowing what to expect. I was able to work with chemical engineers and process engineers who were very knowledgeable about material science and how things were done and how things were made. It was a very beneficial experience to get to know what we do at Rogers and to get exposed to manufacturing in general, especially when I was young and fresh out of school.
Justin: There were two really big things that stuck out to me about my internship and were actually a big part of the reason why I came back a second year and why I eventually signed on full-time. One was the level of responsibility that I was given with project work. I was given work that was clearly very important to the company and if I hadn’t done those projects, someone else in the company would’ve had to. I knew that the work that I was doing had a real, direct value and I was using my time productively during the summer. It gave me a sense of validation and importance. I remember talking to my friends who worked at some pretty big, reputable chemical engineering companies and a lot of them told me that they just goofed off all summer and didn’t actually do any meaningful work. I felt like I came out of my internships with a more valuable experience and something that would actually help me more when I graduated. The second thing is the people. I think Rogers has some really great people throughout the organization and I was able to work, not only with people in my department but in other departments as well as different geographical locations. I remember I had communications with our Asian facility when I was doing my first-year internship and I thought that it was really cool to be working on certain things with people from across the globe. It really opened my eyes to that global experience as well.
Interviewer: What aspects do you enjoy in your job now? Is there anything you learned as an intern that you use now?
Kevin: I am a director of supply chain planning in Rogers’ EMS division. It’s a totally different field than what I started as an intern. I was introduced to the principles of problem-solving from the Shainin Perspective and the Shainin tools, which I firmly believe in to this day. I was also exposed to general process engineering, problem-solving, and decision making. There’s a set of tools and principles that I used on a daily basis even though it kind of applied to a different area of the business. What is true today was true back then in terms of working with some of the best caliber people that I’ve ever experienced. Rogers is a company of engineers, people are very nice, willing to help you, and willing to work with you. The people are definitely one of the greatest aspects and assets that Rogers has.
Justin: My role is product manager for PORON® Industrial products. My main responsibilities are the general management of the product line, which includes many different things. But basically, anything that touches the P&L I have a hand in. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work on getting new products ready to launch. Those were based off some Voice of Customer exercises and meetings that had been conducted. The goal of these was to figure out where market trends are going, what the gaps are in the product portfolio, and what we need to do internally to fill those gaps and create growth. One of the other cool things I’ve worked on is the acquisition of the Griswold business, and the integration of Griswold products into my product line. I’m involved with the strategy of what to do with the customers, what to do with the products, and what to do with those products when there’s an overlap. That’s just a cool, unique thing that I hadn’t really got to do before. Other than that, it’s looking for areas of growth, internally managing the current products that I have, creating new business processes to make things run more efficiently, and just a little bit of everything. This all definitely makes it interesting and keeps every day a little bit different than the last one.