3M’s O2 Program Helps Kickstart Fulfilling Careers for Two Women in STEM
At 3M, we encourage employees to search for solutions to challenging problems and always strive for personal growth, and our Optimized Operations (O2) experience is a perfect example of how that mission comes to life.
We asked one former and one current member of the O2 program to sit down with us and chat about the experiences they’ve had in the program and how it has been valuable to them. Hang Loi, Manufacturing Manager, started out in the O2 program and has been a 3Mer for 29 years, and Ellen Restyanszki, O2 Engineer, is six months into the O2 program.
Thanks for sharing your stories. For those who don’t know about the O2 program, can you tell us what it is?
Hang: I best describe it as a manufacturing and supply chain development program that provides recent Engineering, Supply Chain, Environmental, Health and Safety graduates the opportunity to jump-start their careers.
Ellen: It’s definitely helped introduce me to what I want to do in my career. Employees in the program work on challenging assignments and have rotational experiences geared toward inspiring them to be improvement-driven, socially cognizant and globally aware professionals.
Before we get into your time at 3M, tell us more about what sparked your interest in a STEM career.
Hang: I always enjoyed learning and was always intrigued by the idea of doing something many considered difficult. I figured if I don’t pursue those areas, like math and science, who will? Being an engineer sounded challenging from what little I knew, and I thought it would be a great place to apply my academic strengths. And honestly, I heard it paid well.
Ellen: I’ve always had an interest in the healthcare field and growing up I thought I would become a doctor. In college, I found my fit in the Biomedical Engineering department, but it wasn’t until my first internship, where I got to work with medical devices, that I found a passion for lean six sigma and manufacturing.
And why were each of you attracted to 3M and the O2 program when starting your career?
Hang: 3M came to my university for on-site interviews, so that’s how I first heard about the company. The O2 program stood out to me because it was the only program with rotational assignments that would deliver fast-paced learning, experiences with cohorts of a similar life stage and the opportunity to travel. Those positives were exciting to me and far outweighed the uncertainties of not knowing where I’d be living for two years.
Ellen: I was attracted to 3M for the culture, developmental opportunities, international focus and innovation mindset. O2 quickly became a perfect fit for me coming out of college. The training opportunities alone would have been enough, but in addition to that I have been able to apply my skills and grow my network.
O2 brings you all across 3M’s locations. Where have you worked and what types of work have you done as part of the program?
Hang: I had assignments in four U.S. manufacturing plants (Wis., Okla., N.Y. and Minn.) and one St. Paul, Minn. laboratory. They each lasted two to seven months and were very different from each other. One assignment was a just-in-time project to improve manufacturing efficiencies. The second one was on process and product understanding so we can address production performance defects. And the third assignment was focused on statistical process control to optimize processes.
Ellen: Right now, I’m in my first O2 assignment at the Eden Prairie, Minn. site working as a manufacturing process engineer. I’ll find out my next assignment soon and move early next year.
Wow – that is a lot to experience in two years! 3M really pushes the value of mentorships to support employees. Have you had any strong mentor/mentee relationships to help through all the changes?
Hang: I’ve recently focused my energy on being a mentor, serving as an alumni ambassador for my alma mater, Case Western Reserve University, where I get to chat with and counsel many high school seniors considering STEM careers, and volunteer with their Alumni Mentor Network. I realized that I chose this career without knowing anyone who was an engineer, let alone someone who looks like me. I’d like to change that situation for others.
Ellen: I have been lucky to have had such fantastic mentors and coaches in the beginning of my career here. It feels like I always have someone on my team, and the relationships have made me a better engineer.
That’s awesome to hear about the power of being and having a mentor. Hang, you’ve been here for a while, and Ellen, you’ve been here for only a few months. Have either of you thought about leaving?
Hang: Not really. Professionally, working at 3M is like working with many smaller companies. There is such a breadth of technologies in which one could learn and grow.
Ellen: Not once. I love the fact that I’m not stuck where I am here. There are countless opportunities in the company to branch out, try different positions and find the path that fits me.
So knowing that you want to stay, what are your career goals in the next few years?
Hang: I’d like to broaden my contributions professionally and explore arenas away from my traditional comfort zone, perhaps with a new business within 3M, a new technology or a modified role. As a problem solver, I love a new challenge.
Ellen: I look forward to completing the O2 program within the next year and a half, and then working myself up toward a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt position.
Last, but not least, what would you want candidates to know about the O2 program?
Hang: Apply. It’ll be the best learning experience to start your technical career. Be prepared to commit to two years of fast-paced learning and growth. Be open-minded.
Ellen: Ask questions, and don’t write off the program because you are unsure about moving around over the two years.
Start your O2 experience.
To learn more about the O2 experience, fill out the Talent Community Form and select “Manufacturing” in the “Functional Area of Interest” section.