Jessica Schmidt is a Family Care Engineer at Procter & Gamble. In 2014, she graduated from Miami University with a BS in Chemical Engineering with a Concentration in Paper Science. While at Miami, she was a member of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute, where she began her transformational leadership journey. Jessica is a leader in her field, and she implements problem-solving and troubleshooting in her daily work to improve efficiency and productivity in her industry.
Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute alum Jessica Schmidt talks about her on-the-job experiences in leadership.
Jessica Schmidt: Hello
Zane Shreve: Hey this is Zane from the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute. Real excited to get to talk to you.
Zane: thanks for taking the time to do this.
Jessica: Yeah, no problem. I learned a lot from the institute. So anything I can give back is great.
Zane: Awesome, well let’s get started. So, my first question for you, what has been some of your biggest learnings since graduating and since you started your professional career?
Jessica: For me personally, a lot of it has just been learning how to take a step back and not be so hard on myself. I was a bit of a perfectionist as plenty others I knew in college were. You know it was all about getting an A on the next exam, next paper and you got the report card at the end of the semester and life was good, that’s all you needed. It’s obviously not nearly as simple in the real world but I still kinda went into it thinking I could be you know this straight A student, which equated to perfect work, I’ll have everything will be done on time, and it’ll would be great, no problem. It’s just not that easy. And the more you volunteer for more work, the more work they will give you and to the point that you can’t get it all done. And it's not all going to be perfect because your new and you’re just still learning. So, that was a big adjustment for me. Um, so learning how to not be so hard on myself. Learning how to uh take criticism without getting you know emotionally affected by it or letting it bother me. I got a lot tougher. You know you don’t really get, there’s not that much conflict in a school environment. But since I’ve started working at Procter and Gamble they’ve been undergoing a lot of change in just the way they do work, and the way teams are structured, and it’s been a very challenging time for the plant. So there has been a lot of conflict associated with all of that change which again it’s made me grow a lot, it's been hard at times at times but I’m very grateful for it because it's made me a much better employee and person.
Zane: Is there a specific leader in your field or even at your workplace that inspires you? If so, why?
Jessica: Yes um. The first guy that comes to mind for me is Tim Miller. So Tim Miller, when I first started at P&G, he was a machine leader. So I don’t know how much you know about paper making, I know Miami has a program. Paper Machines are huge.
One machine, no it's likes three hundred million per capital. You’ve got thirty something people that run that, that work on just running that machine around the clock 24/7 including most holidays. And if that machine goes down, every hour that's down is thousands of thousands of thousands of lost production. So, a machine leaders job is literally to lead that machine, keep it from going down unexpectedly, keep the good products coming off high quality, low cost. All of those things.They have a lot of responsibility, it’s a huge, a huge important role. That’s that most, that most machine leaders are, come from a technician base. Which at my job, so the machine leader I’m talking about his name is Tim. He’s just an hourly paid employee who started at Procter and Gamble looking for a paycheck. Never thought to get a promotion, didn’t want to move, didn’t need any credit. He was a very very hard worker, he learned very quickly and paid a lot of attention so he got, he got, people sought him out to give him bigger roles because he did really well in everything they gave him. So what I’ve learned from him, so he was sixty something when I met him. He actually just retired a year ago. He had so much respect, everyone talks about Tim Miller like he's some sort of god. And wherever he goes, they move him from different machines, that machine slowly transforms into the number one machine in the category. So clearly it’s somethings that Tim has been doing not just he’s been given easy machines. That he’s turned around machines from being one of the worst to the best. But when you meet him he is one of the most humble guys I’ve ever met. He says there’s nothing secret to what he does, he just comes in and does his job simple as that. He knows so much but he's never arrogant or cocky. He will happily teach, he loves teaching and showing people. He has a lot of respect from everyone who who works for him which I think is what's part of what made him successful. His teams admire him they listen to what he says. He doesn't need to be forceful. He asks you to do something or suggests something, people really take that and run with it because they respect him and want to do good for him because he treats them well. With a lot of respect. This is an hourly paid guy who's not looking for any attention but he got a lot just because of the type of person he was and that really impacted me and kind of reminded me to stay humble and work hard without looking for anything in return and what kind of dividends that can give you.
Zane: And I think that's something that we really touched on in the leadership institute. It’s kinda the idea that not everyone who is a leader is in a leadership position. You know, it's the way you act, the way you do your job, and obviously the way others respond to that and kind of the influence you can have on the others that really defines what a leader really is.
Jessica: Oh yeah so that, so it was really cool to watch, you’d watch him go to a meeting and people. There’s a lot of big talkers at P&G and people who like to dominate the room and Tim would sit quietly in the corner for 35 minutes and then finally at the end he’d calmly say his two cents and often times that, that kinda changed the course and he’d spill all the information and give it back and didn’t force it on anyone. But usually he was the one we’d end up listening to. It was just really eye opening, I’ve never really seen anyone lead that way before.
Zane: So, how can individual team members, who maybe aren’t in leadership positions, act as leaders? You kind of touched on that earlier.
Jessica: Um, yeah, you know, so I remember Professor Morman talking about this kind of stuff too, and I don’t know if I ever fully believed how true it was but as simple as it is to just show up on time, be fully engaged, and deliver what you say you’re going to deliver on time. I mean that alone can take you a long way. As sad as, you think that must be a given but everyone out there is so caught up with so many different priorities and it’s hard to keep your plates manageable. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but then deliver on everything you say you’re going to deliver and respond to emails. I know that’s one of her things as well. Respond to emails, don’t ignore things, make sure you actually read. I mean that still drives people at P&G crazy too. When you send out a bunch of emails about something important and people just say they’re not reading their emails. And it’s critical to just do simple things like that but then again with most teams are probably implementing some sort of change. But again change is really hard and I’m seeing a lot of that now, so embracing change, even when it is, seems like it’s going to be painful, um that goes a long way. Maintaining a good attitude and you know, moving forward.
Zane: So kind of from the flip side of that, what are some effective ways for a leader to motivate the members of a team?
Jessica: Um I’m sure it’s different in a lot of places, this is somewhat universal, but the biggest thing I’ve seen at P&G is to just get to know the people on your team as people, not just as employees. Get to know them as people, build a good personal relationship and prove yourself trustworthy. And, you know, care about that person, and let them know that you do care about that person. The leadership at my plant there’s a lot of turnover, so new managers like me come and go, and they often start out very skeptical. Like I get you know crew, the guys running the machines who are thirty years older than me on average, seen a bunch of new managers come in. So it takes the patience of getting to know them, letting them get to know me, building the trust. Once I’ve built that trust in them and they believe in me and they know that I care and I do want to make things better for them, even if I’m in a temporarily install, a change that’s going to be annoying, I’m doing it for a greater good. So once they build that trust, and it does take months, um, that makes everything, a world of difference. Then it’s so much easier to get things done.
I’ve been moved around a lot on different projects, so I’m on my fourth boss right now in a little over two years. I’ve been joking that they just keep trying to get rid of me, but hopefully that’s not actually the case. But I’ve learned a lot already about, you know, you can fall different sometimes when someone really digs deeper and wants to know who you are and what you want, um, takes the time to care about you as a person. I know the leaders who’ve done that really well for me made me want to work harder for them, and when I felt like they saw some potential in me and they wanted me to do well I wanted to prove them right. So I worked extra hard on anything they requested to, you know, prove that they were right in believing in me. And seeing that in myself makes me remind to do that with other people. Do believe in them and trust in them and then they’ll want to prove you right. If you’re really skeptical and, you know, don’t, all you’re looking for is the bottom line, that’s not going to get you very far.
Zane: Right, and that kind of goes along with the way that like, kind of setting that example of the type of, you know, when the leader sets the example and the followers can kind of mimic that as opposed to the leader barking orders from the top down.
Zane: In what ways does your specific industry or your specific workplace influence your work or leadership style?
Jessica: Umm So my industry is much different than I expected to be in when I went into engineering I mean quite honestly I don’t know why but I assumed I'd work in some kind of office because my parents worked in offices they’re not engineers
Zane: That’s where people work.
Jessica: I grew up in a pretty white collar community and so I just assumed that you know I could wear skirts to work and look nice every day. In reality I wear steel toed boots to work every day, I wear safety glasses, my hair has to be up in a bun. Um and its its big machinery and again a lot of employees there are 30 years older than I am, and it’s um very blue collar in Wisconsin it’s very very male um much different than I ever expected with uh the kind of it showed a willingness to get dirty so I mean that’s something quite frankly part of my leadership and credibility with a lot of these employees was proving that I had no problem climbing into the machine and getting slimy some days. That gave me a lot of respect. That’s something we never talked about and it all depends on where you’re working but being sensitive to the culture I mean I that’s something no one told me this but I just kind of could watch over time and seeing new managers weren’t very interested in getting dirty and you know showing they really cared. I could see that change in how they were treated by the technician base. To be really sensitive to things like that I think and just adjust and tweak I mean I’m probably with the technicians enough, I’m not saying I’m, you know crude but I’m not quite as polished because that’s easier for them to relate to and they like that better than someone who is very proper and you know defined but that’s how it’s changed in my time and I’m sure that would change if I worked in a P&G corporate office if I went into headquarters I’m sure that that that would completely change that how I kind of hold myself depending on the situation.
Zane: I actually kind of have uh uh a similar story to that. So I worked at a um in a in the die casting industry this past summer for an internship which is you know kind of similar like big heavy machinery you know loud dirty hot safety glasses
Jessica: Yup haha
Zane: yeah safety glasses, steel toes and 100% cotton shirts. And I kind of had uh a good I feel like for me personally I had a good experience because the previous summer I had just been working the line you know I was uh I was on the plant floor running the machines came back the next year as an engineering intern and just kind of having that experience before I think really helped me in in that communication kind of that you know less polished uh interaction uh.
Jessica: Oh I bet, our line leaders manufactur… uh I think I’ve mentioned before machine leaders they’re often either new managers or technicians who’ve kind of been tapped by management and asked to lead but some of those technicians who’s kind of rose through the ranks end up being some of the best line leaders our plant has because they know both sides of it and they understand the equipment and they understand what it’s like to run it so they’re much better at um yeah communicating all that
Zane: So last question here. What are some specific roadblocks that you kind of suggest others look out for when they’re on the journey of transformational leadership?
Jessica: From my experience uhh for me it was actually just being too hard on myself. I kind of back to again I think that perfectionist tendencies to kind of wanting to hit the ground running and be great right from the get go but it’s really hard and I again I got moved around to a lot of different projects so every about 6 months so far I’ve been moved and I’m told that’s a reflection of good things that I’m moving around trying new things and they want to move me to where they’ve got problems but it also it’s really hard to move every six months because you have to learn a whole new segment of operations so about a year ago I actually remember just being so burned out I had taken on more than I could chew. Um I was trying too hard to get everything just right and thinking that I had to get to the bottom of my to-do list everyday and just completely burnt myself out, I thought look I’m way too emotional I can’t do this this is just proof. You know I need to just quit engineering maybe and find another career path. Luckily I never came quite obviously to to that drastic measures but it took me a while to really stop being so um hung up on getting it all just right um some of the people at work I tried to talk to them about all of my crazy anxiety and they were the ones to say Jessica you can’t be so hard on yourself you’re you know you’re still learning you’re doing a good job and you have to accept that you’re not going to get it all right. And you have to be satisfied with just making a good effort and there’s plenty of of days where even the best employees are not going to get to the bottom of their to-do list there’s going to be behind on certain things and that’s just part of life and you can’t get hung up on that um honestly I would say once I got past those tendencies on my end and stopped being so hard on myself started just focusing on making progress everyday without getting it just right every day and just realizing that I was never going to get to the bottom of my to-do list but just keep chipping away at it that made a world of difference in my ability actually I got more productive once I stopped worrying about not being productive enough. Kind of funny the way that works out.
This is Jessica Schmidt, thank you for listening for insight.
Filetype: MP3 - Size: 14.08MB - Duration: 15:23 m (128 kbps 44100 Hz)