Kelsea Potthast served as the student moderator at ICPF’s virtual Teleconference on the Business of Corrugated Packaging in April.
Following is the second part of the article provided to ICPF by Kelsea Potthast that outlines her recent journey through ICPF to a career in the corrugated packaging industry.
Kelsea Potthast, Part Two
After ICPF’s 2020 Teleconference, I communicated to ICPF’s president how much I learned and was inspired by my experiences that week. I transparently explained how I had an internship offer that I was prepared to accept before attending this event. However, I expressed that I would much rather pursue internship opportunities in the corrugated industry that had made me feel excited and motivated all week during ICPF’s Teleconference. Mr. Flaherty assured me that ICPF had many resources to help make that happen.
The excitement, support, and confidence ICPF showed in me that winter was contagious. I was astonished that ICPF not only wanted me to consider a corrugated packaging career but believed in abilities I did not even know I had. This organization, its Dialogue Dinner, Teleconference, and especially its president contributed to a huge turning point for me personally and professionally. Personally, ICPF has dramatically impacted the projection of my career path by introducing me to opportunities, scholarships, executives, and students that have aided my understanding of the corrugated packaging and display industry and packaging in general. I wanted to get more involved with ICPF to help further their mission to spread awareness, provide resources, and connect students with opportunities “to generate a stream of increasingly qualified individuals to enter the corrugated packaging industry, now and into the future.”
The following year after the Teleconference, I sought out and moved up through various leadership roles with both the University of Florida (UF) Packaging Club and ICPF. I was elected president of the UF Packaging Club and worked toward expanding our diversity and inclusivity of students from other majors and backgrounds. During this time, I also became an ICPF student UF campus representative, which allowed me to expose students around me to ICPF events and resources. I later became an ICPF student advisory board member and ICPF’s student program manager intern. These ICPF positions allowed me to take on more significant roles, such as helping to plan ICPF’s first virtual Dialogue Dinner and its first virtual Teleconference, contributing new ideas to ICPF programs, and connecting personally with students across the country who sought to get more involved in learning about corrugated packaging careers. It was incredible to help guide these students to having the same eye-opening experience as I had at my first ICPF event.
I was honored to be given the opportunity to moderate ICPF’s 2021 Teleconference on the Business of Corrugated Packaging & Displays. Despite the difficulties of planning and producing an impactful Teleconference during a pandemic, the unique layout we organized for the virtual Teleconference was a complete success. Not only were students able to virtually attend to hear from industry leaders such as Brian McPheely, global CEO of Pratt Industries in the United States and Visy in Australia, but they were individually placed into smaller breakout rooms according to their industry interests, where they asked questions and networked with executives and students from across the country. The 15 participating executives represented corrugated companies that had active career, internship, and co-op openings posted on ICPF’s Career Portal. Speaking to 400 talented students from diverse educational backgrounds about career opportunities in the corrugated packaging industry truly made me feel as though I had come full circle.
There are many other resources ICPF has to offer, from helping to organize guest speakers in the classroom to mentor-mentee programs to scholarship information and more. However, one of the most valuable resources for me was the ICPF Career Portal. I made a profile online at careers.icpfbox.org, searched through available jobs and internship positions from leading companies within the industry, and applied easily. I began using this tool right after my first Teleconference, and I was offered and accepted a special internship opportunity with Hood Container for the summer of 2020.
My internship with Hood Container exposed me to so many corrugated facilities and caring people who wanted to help me learn about the industry. I traveled to seven Hood facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Illinois. Actually seeing the large equipment I had learned about in my college lecture hall allowed me to develop a much deeper understanding of the overall processes.
During the internship, I worked on numerous projects that ranged from sales and marketing research, to CAD table design, to providing input on further developing Hood’s internship program.
During the fall of my senior year, I once again returned to the ICPF Career Portal to explore career opportunities for new graduates. I applied to and was honored to be offered a commercial sales trainee position with WestRock. Through this program, I also would have the chance to again use my voice in working with the company in further developing a program that would appeal to new hires and best prepare them for a successful path into the future.
After graduating this past May, I have been enjoying every moment and the mentors who are supporting me in my role with WestRock. I could not have asked for a position that is more up my alley. I look forward to pursuing my career in the corrugated industry with WestRock for years to come. I also plan to continue connecting students with the corrugated industry by spreading awareness of ICPF and its corrugated packaging and display industry resources.
Richard Flaherty is president of the International Corrugated Packaging Foundation.