From contractor to employee in a long-sought manufacturing role: Shonda’s story

Last revised: May 20, 2024

Meet Shonda Williams. 

Shonda is a pulp machine production technician at International Paper’s Columbus, Miss. Mill where International Paper produces fluff pulp that is used in everyday hygiene products such as diapers.

Long before joining IP, Shonda had been fascinated by manufacturing. She’s such a manufacturing fanatic that she names shows like “How It's Made" among her favorites. However, she wasn't able to start her career in manufacturing for quite some time.

Four years ago, Shonda finally got her opportunity to experience a manufacturing environment firsthand when she started working at the Columbus Mill as a safety inspection contractor. In this role, she was responsible for identifying potential safety hazards throughout the mill and checking the working order of critical safety items such as fire extinguishers, eye wash stations and emergency lights.

Once inside the mill, Shonda was awed by the complexity that goes into making fluff pulp products. She knew she had a lot to learn. Fortunately, the Columbus Mill team members were willing and eager to share their knowledge with her. They recognized she was fascinated by the processes and they would tell her to never be afraid to ask questions. “They always told me that if one of us doesn't know the answer, we'll find someone who does,” Shonda said.

Shonda took full advantage of their offers and by her second year of working as a contractor at the mill, she had a comprehensive understanding of the many processes from the entry gate scale house to the finished products (and by-products) leaving the mill.
She also saw how important every team member’s role was in ensuing high quality and customer satisfaction.

Last year, when a production technician role became available at the mill, the Columbus team members encouraged Shonda to apply. Now, she is about to complete her first full year of being #ProudtoBeIP.

“I am proud to say today that I am officially an IP team member, but all along from the very start, everyone treated me like I was already a part of the team," says Shonda. “I am forever grateful because I have never been this happy."

The Columbus team members recognized Shonda's interest in the manufacturing process and were intentional about creating a space where she could thrive. When the time came for Shonda to officially join IP, she had the knowledge and skills she needed and an entire support team. 

“Shonda is the definition of a team player," says Emily Zimmerman, pulp machine area leader. “She is positive, reliable and adaptable. She is a leader of continuous improvement and routinely demonstrates safety leadership on her team. The mill's future looks extremely bright with team players like Shonda." 

Learn more about working at IP.