Meet grantee Jose Fernando Mattos Furlani Filho, attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City! Jose participated in an Academic Training (AT) opportunity with WestRock Company in Richmond, VA and learned skills he can apply for his future career goals.
Q: Where did you do your AT and what were your main responsibilities/objectives?
A: I did my internship at WestRock Company, in Richmond, VA. MeadWestvaco and Rocktenn merged to form WestRock Company on July 1, and I had the privilege of being part of this merger. They are a packaging company present in more than 30 countries worldwide with 42,000 employees. They have accrued $15 billion in total sales and have 2,400 patents granted.
As an Innovation Intern, my objective was to work on projects that would bring value to the business while exposing me to experiences that would enhance my career opportunities. My department was Home, Health & Beauty, and we were responsible to produce everything made by plastic in the company (like pumps, sprayers, dispensers, etc.)
I had different functions during my experience. While I worked as a project manager, I held the role to create an automated method to analyze the Innovation Portfolio. I learned how to use SalesForce.com and to generate data and reports automatically using VBA, allowing me to use these reports for a better understanding of our department. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to create a financial analysis for one of our projects. It was important to understand what we have to know when we are developing a project and analyze when it is worth it or not for our business.
Another function that I had at WestRock was working as a designer. Using my SolidWorks skills, I worked with the design team to understand the creative process and to support them on-going projects.
Q: How did you find your AT opportunity?
A: I found the AT opportunity in the IIE’s platform called Simplicity. The company posted the position on the platform and I applied. A few weeks later I was interviewed by phone by the HR representative and by my manager.
Q: What were some of the most interesting/important things you did and/or learned during your AT?
A: Because I worked on different projects, I believe all of them have their own value. On one of them, I worked with the designers to create a new product. They came to me and explained the idea, and needed to create what they were looking for in whatever way that I would like. I came up with different solutions, and one of them was appreciated by the engineering team in Germany. During the conference, they showed a lot of excitement and energy about my idea. I felt very proud doing something really important, sharing my imagination with my team and feeling important for the group.
At WestRock, they have the value of “Winning Together.” As a solid team, working hard with cooperation with everybody, we can achieve the main goal. More than this, employees have to know the customers, their insights and wishes. Once you understand who they are and what they want, you can put all your efforts to give them the best.
Q: How will this AT opportunity help you after you complete your BSMP scholarship and return to Brazil?
This outstanding experience helped me to open my horizons and created uncountable contacts for my professional, and also, personal life. It will help me to be highlighted when I will be looking for a job.
I hope to be able to return to work at WestRock in one of their locations worldwide and to work with BSMP’s interns. I want to help them to learn everything that is possible during their experiences.
Q: What advice would you give to students who will participate in AT next year?
Never give up! This is the key to find an AT opportunity. I had been applying for eight months when I got the call for my first interview, and then the internship. It was not easy. We have to work hard, study hard to have a good GPA, and create contacts. Not all companies know about the BSMP, and it makes it more difficult for us, international students, to find an internship. Some companies are not willing to train us and watch us leave the company with what they taught.
I think that the key to success is to work and study hard. Along the journey, I have been learning how to be more proactive and to improve my communication skills. As a BSMP grantee, we are very flexible. It’s hard to leave our country, our culture, and our family to face the world. Companies are looking for people like us, with courage to go and conquer the world with everything, being flexible for all the challenges along the way.