In our daily lives, we face obstacles that make us use our critical thinking skills.
Jenny Tang, Converting Operations Manager for Essity in North America, finds her background in STEM prepares her for different challenges she faces in her day-to-day job.
"The great thing is that every STEM discipline is valuable to the industry," Tang said.
With nearly a decade of experience, Tang sees how a background in STEM can help companies reach their sustainability goals.
"Whether it is water use, energy use, fiber use or carbon emissions, a STEM degree can help determine where the system is inefficient and work to help find a better, more cost-effective solution, so companies can stay true to their sustainability goals,” she explained.
The paper and wood products industry has a variety of career paths that depend on STEM education. From process engineers to innovators to supply chain experts, there are opportunities for many to explore.
Tang points to the innovators at work finding ways to use recycled fiber when it comes to designing new products.
"Essity, for example, takes recycled goods and makes paper. I think that's something that a lot of people don't recognize, especially with our commercial paper products," Tang shared.
"We try to work toward a circular society where we reduce, reuse, and recycle. We take paper products that are already in existence, recycle them and make [new] paper from them. A lot of innovation goes into the products to be able to make this happen…innovation that is fostered by many people with STEM backgrounds," Tang said.
Tang and her team at Essity are proud of the work that goes into manufacturing essential products.
"We use paper every day, and it directly impacts people's lives," she said. "No matter where you live, your job or your income—everyone uses some sort of paper product every day, and you can see them pretty much everywhere you go."
Tang finds her job rewarding and challenging. And it’s one that has ripple effects.
"I get to interact with people every day. I can teach. I can coach. I can mentor. I can develop somebody and have a direct impact on their life, and I can make change and see the outcome every single day,” Tang said. “At the end of my week, I never need to question if the work I did was important. I know it was."
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recycle resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative—Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $60 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Visit AF&PA online at afandpa.org or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.