As the manager of operations and supply chain training for Uponor, Pam Koehler has a team of 26 responsible for onboarding and training people who work in manufacturing, including quality, maintenance, tooling, extrusion packaging, secondary processes and the distribution center.
Koehler has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a precision rubber component mold designer, numerical control programmer and computer-aided design/computer-aided engineering administrator for Minnesota Rubber and Plastics.
She was also an instructor at Dunwoody College of Technology in the engineering design program and taught courses on manufacturing and plastic mold design. Koehler also worked as a training manager for Entegris.
"It has honestly been a career highlight for me to work at Uponor. The reason is [that] Uponor is truly dedicated to the learning and development of our employees. Unlike most manufacturing companies, we have dedicated trainers who work [one-on-one] with employees to train them in all aspects of our operation," she said.
In six years, the plastic pipe manufacturer has grown from about eight trainers to a team of 26 across multiple locations in Minnesota.
Koehler said she is interested in the potential of virtual and augmented reality for training.
"The technology is now so advanced that I think it's a real option — even for technical, hands-on skills like we have in a manufacturing environment," she said.
Koehler said the best advice she's received is to be open to and embrace change.
"There are so many facets to this industry. The opportunities span almost every profession and specialty you can think of," she said. "Not to mention the incredibly wide range of products and technology that you could potentially be exposed to and work with."
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Koehler: I think becoming an instructor at Dunwoody. I had to overcome a pretty intense fear of public speaking, and it took me probably three years before I really felt comfortable. Turns out I was pretty good at it and it was really rewarding.
Q: What is the most unexpected thing you learned from the pandemic?
Koehler: Probably how resilient people are. Just by the nature of their work, my team had to be on-site, working in somewhat close proximity with others during a pretty scary time. They really met the challenge head-on and, along with everyone else who had to work on-site, did their jobs somewhat independently and performed amazingly.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Koehler: I feel like I have my dream job. I've worked for several manufacturing companies and have often been frustrated by the lack of support for training. Few companies are really willing to put resources behind this function and Uponor is the rare one that does — with time, personnel and technology.