The Importance of a Mentor
By: Mary Kooper, Talent Brand & University Relations Intern
During my internship I've had the chance to be exposed to a variety of different functions, roles and projects throughout Sonoco. I've recently had the opportunity to connect with and interview some of the sharpest minds here. Some of these individuals have been with the company for over three decades and some just over three years. I wanted to figure out how they got to where they are today and how to take advantage of all of the opportunities within Manufacturing, because the possibilities seem endless.
I encourage you to be on the lookout for my future posts regarding other interviews I've had the chance to conduct during my time here. Without further ado, I'd like to introduce Rolfe Olsen.
Volume I: Rolfe Olsen – The Importance of a Mentor - August 15, 2019
Rolfe Olsen, Segment Director for Prepared and Specialty Foods for Rigid Plastics, had a lot of great advice for anyone planning to start a career in manufacturing and her emphasis on the importance of a mentor is advice that everyone should take to heart.
MK: Tell me about your career and current role.
RO: I have been with Sonoco for 30 years and I currently have responsibility for the manufacturing facilities and the commercial organization for two market segments within Rigid Plastics.
MK: Did you start with Sonoco right out of college?
RO: Yes, I graduated from the University of South Carolina and started in customer service. I spent three years in Atlanta on the industrial side and then I moved into a territory sales role which progressed up through a few other positions into an account manager role. Then I went on to fill strategic selling roles, market management roles and a marketing division manager role within the paper division. I moved to the consumer side in 2011 as a marketing representative. I was chosen to manage the Nestle relationship because I had previous sales experience and as a result I got to learn about the consumer businesses which lead to the role I am in now.
MK: What advice do you have for individuals considering a career in manufacturing?
RO: I'd start with figuring out how to get exposure and take advantage of networking opportunities so that you can move forward in your career. For example, Sonoco has the Diversity & Unity Council who sponsors Business Resource Groups, like the Women at Sonoco group. I would definitely recommend getting involved with organizations such as these. Additionally, I suggest finding, or asking for, a mentor. I didn’t realize how important networking was early on in my career and I believe a mentor can really help with that. Also, I’d recommend focusing on mastering the art of communication, particularly the way you communicate your message in a meeting and your confidence while in the room. A lot of the time the only exposure you get to someone who influences your career in a pretty big way is by them listening to what you have to say in a meeting or articulating your ideas in a presentation, and I think that’s a skill that stops a lot of people in their career paths.
MK: Have you ever had a mentor?
RO: I have never had a formal mentor at Sonoco. Any mentor relationships that I had was a result of getting to know people at senior levels within the organization who helped me. There weren’t a lot of women in senior roles when I joined Sonoco, but I still had a number of people who guided me along the way and I think that has been invaluable. I am glad we are doing mentorship programs now on a more formal basis because I think that’s a difference maker.
MK: Have you ever been a mentor? If so, did you find that experience to be rewarding?
RO: Yes, I have been, and I am still currently a mentor. The most successful mentor relationships I have had are the ones where the person who wants to be mentored is dedicated and has decided that they really want to go after it. Mentor relationships can happen in several ways, you can have your manager be your mentor, but ideally you should look for someone that you can be more formal with and have designated one on one time with them. I am really proud of the reputation that Sonoco has around talent management and our corporate culture of ‘People Build Businesses’. I have found that those within Sonoco have really bought into the importance of mentors and training our future leaders.