As part of our Bemis Manufacturing Summer 2022 Product Development Engineering Pre-internship, our students had the opportunity to speak with a diverse set of professionals across the Sheboygan area. They shared their background, their career progression, and why they’ve chosen Sheboygan (one hour north of Milwaukee, WI) as their current home. Special thanks to Sala Sander of the Wisconsin Internet of Things Council and Corey Roberson, Head Football Coach at the Green Bay Blizzard.
The following is a transcript of a panel interview. This article has been edited for clarity. For privacy, student names and confidential Bemis information have been removed.
Keegan Moldenhauer We’ve got our Sheboygan spotlight panel as part of our Bemis summer 2022 Product Development pre-internship. Our students are going through project-based learning and an opportunity to learn about Bemis Manufacturing as a company and as a potential future career. We have nine students from across the country, studying electrical and mechanical engineering as well as architecture including students from Howard University, Madison College and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today we have the opportunity to connect with professionals in the Sheboygan area to learn their career journeys. With that, I’ll hand it off to our speakers, Sala and Corey!
Sala Sander Thank you, Keegan, for this opportunity. I am originally from the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. Well, I fell in love with someone who grew up in the Midwest and told me you know what, we’re gonna have to move to Chicago. So that’s when we first moved on. When I met my husband, he was in the Fiji Islands as a Peace Corps volunteer. I had just returned from the US I studied at the University of California in Santa Cruz. So I knew from watching football that it’s crazy cold in the Midwest. I said to him, “I don’t want to move there. I’ve never moved to the Midwest.” Well, now I always say never say never because I not only moved to Chicago, I even moved north of Chicago to Sheboygan. But you know, I love it, especially the four seasons. If you talk about career path, mine is really non-traditional. I work as the project coordinator for the Wisconsin IoT Internet of Things Council. I work a lot with engineers who are helping to sell solve the problems of the world through digitization.
Corey Roberson All right. Corey Roberson from Detroit, Michigan. Had the opportunity to come to Wisconsin, actually here to at Lakeland, playing football. Played football here for four years and then I jumped right into that arena game. After playing arena football for nine seasons. Always resided here in Sheboygan in the offseason, and I’ll always be back to Sheboygan because of the resources that I had here at Lakeland. I had an opportunity to start working at Lakeland, back in 2014. From 2014 to 2018, I was here coaching arena ball as well down the road for the Green Bay Blizzard, and then I took the head coaching job during 2018. Well, going into the 2019 season Lakeland asked me to come back and helping the student affairs role. So I’m working full time up there in Green Bay, but Sheboygan has been home for me since I was 18. Something about getting all the seasons, fall especially.
Keegan Fantastic. Thank you both for the introductions. Let’s dive a little bit more into career paths and life in Sheboygan. Corey, do you want to talk a little bit about Lakeland University and what you’re doing there from a day to day perspective?
Corey Yeah. So Lakeland is probably the most diverse college in Wisconsin per capita with students that they bring from all over the world, especially from the EU and Japan. It’s a vibrant community, still growing, of course, as we build in the new dorms on campus. My role on campus is in the Student Affairs Office as Director of Leadership and Student Engagement. That’s a mouthful, right? But what that includes is really working with our student leaders on campus. So I work with our Greek life, the students in the National Society of Leadership and Success, as well as our orientation leaders.
Keegan Sala, you mentioned a bit about your non-traditional career path. I would love to dive into that and let you share a little bit of that with with our students.
Sala Absolutely. So I graduated with a political science degree and at the time, I knew I was always going to return home to Fiji. I thought I wanted to work for the foreign office because I did an international studies major, but when I returned home, they were looking for people to work in television. And I said, sure! I started out really knowing nothing about television. So I started out camera crew, learning all about the camera. Then I learned how to direct and produce and finally I was in front of the news.. And then I met my husband. Very quickly, we bought out a company in Fiji, a Mac dealer. And then my husband saw the opportunity to grow the business. So we bought out a few other small companies, and our tiny little company with 28 employees soon grew to be Dealer of the Year in the South Pacific for the Konica Minolta brand.
While we were successful in our company, we went through two military coups. And so I don’t know how many of you have ever been in a country, where today you’re in the 1%, and the very next day you’re homeless. By now we have four kids, and we decided we had to move to the US for stability. We sold parts of the company. And I realized I’m going to be the stay at home mom now. So I stayed home for nine years with my babies. Then I returned to work. And so that’s why I said non-traditional.
“While we were successful in our company, we went through two military coups. And so I don’t know how many of you have ever been in a country, where today you’re in the 1%, and the very next day you’re homeless.”
When I started getting interviewed for jobs, people asked me “well, you know, you haven’t worked”. I had to laugh. I’ve only been working at managing six calendars as a mom! I knew that strengths are that I’m a an activator, and I’m a connector. I kept looking, and it fit well when I interviewed for this job as the project coordinator for the Wisconsin Internet of Things Council.
Keegan One of the things that we’ve talked about in this program is innovation and change within Bemis and the larger Engineering Technology picture. But when it comes to Sheboygan, how have you seen the area embrace opportunities to make improvement through change. Can you speak to that?
Sala I think, for me, I’m a big believer in “bloom where you’re planted”. I’ll put it bluntly, in Sheboygan, it is really white. But the first thing I did when we moved here was an open house party. I went to every house in the neighborhood and I put an invitation in. I said, “Come and know your neighbor.” Then I met some people of color. Except that he’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. I said, “that’s going to be trouble.” But it was so cool. That’s just kind of what I did. I just, I put it out there. Give me a call and let me know who’s coming so I can have enough kebabs for everybody to eat. Sometimes people are just waiting for someone else to start and they wait to be asked. So just do it.
“I think life takes this journey. No matter which way you go, I think you’ll always going to gravitate to the things that you love to do as a professional.”
Student I’d like to know if you found it challenging pursuing your career after completing college. What was the transition like?
Corey So me personally, I’m still figuring out life, right? I kind of bounced around. I went to school for sports management. Yes, I am a football coach, a professional football coach now, but that didn’t come until 20 years later.
When I first went to college, I walked into my Intro to Education course and the first thing the professor said was, “We’re gonna have a 27 page paper due.” I heard nothing else after that. I didn’t even know how to write, I was just a freshman. He probably could have just said a two page paper, but I heard writing a paper. I withdrew from that class right away. Fast forward 27 years later, I’m still in that education role, whether it be coaching, or I’m in a student affairs position that I’m in now. Even when I was working as a special ed teacher, years ago, I’ve always found myself back in that position. So I think life takes this journey. No matter which way you go, I think you’ll always going to gravitate to the things that you love to do as a professional.
“Sometimes people are just waiting for someone else to start it and they wait to be asked. So just do it.”
Student So I’m an international student. We know that you (Sala) are an initiator personality type, but I’m not that. It’s usually quite difficult for me to go up to people and ask them for favors. So as someone who moved into the United States, how did you work up to being more open to asking people for suggestions and favors?
Sala Yes, absolutely. I had a struggle dealing with someone rejecting me during the sales process or something similar, I used to take it very personally, I used to think, “oh, my gosh, they rejected me. Do they not like me?”
I thought I feared talking to people, but what I really feared was rejection. And when rejection happened, I would overcompensate by trying to win that person over. Eventually I understood to ask myself “Where did this need to be accepted come from?” Once I came to terms with the answer, I then released myself of having the need to be accepted and that helped unlock some things.
“I thought I feared talking to people, but what I really feared was rejection. And when rejection happened, I would overcompensate by trying to win that person over.”
Thanks once again to Sala and Corey for the time and insight they were willing to share with our pre-interns! This truncated Community Spotlight Panel was a session we hosted as a part of our Summer 2022 product development engineering pre-internship sponsored by Bemis Manufacturing. For more information on our pre-internship programming, please visit www.internshipondemand.com.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Sheboygan area visit https://visitsheboygan.com/. As a former engineering co-op at Kohler Company, our CEO & co-founder Keegan is always happy to talk about great things to do in the area!
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