KMC’s Rachel Plourde Pioneers New Graduate Rotation Program

Rachel PlourdeThis year, KMC Systems debuted its new year-long Graduate Rotation Associate Program, giving recent college graduates the chance to work on a variety of teams across the company learning about the day-to-day operations of a medical diagnostics manufacturer.

Rachel Plourde of Salem is the first participant in the program. After joining in June 2019, she helped KMC Vice President and General Manager Derek Kane create the program to give her experience with every department of the organization.

“I went to business school, but you don’t have a supply chain course, you don’t have a quality course — you just have a business course,” Plourde said. “Getting to see roles and responsibilities in each department is pretty interesting.”

More than your average first job

Kane engineered the Graduate Rotation Associate Program with Plourde to provide her with a learning opportunity while giving the company a new perspective.

“Rachel’s talent was obvious from the moment I met her,” Kane said. “This program gives her the chance to experience far more of KMC than your average first job, but the company also gets a really valuable fresh set of eyes to tell us what we could be doing better.”

Plourde spends eight weeks working with each of KMC’s departments, ranging from engineering and manufacturing to technical operations and business development. She concludes each rotation with a presentation to the company’s leadership on her experiences and ways she believes KMC can improve.

“She’s not afraid to challenge the status quo and have those deeper conversations,” said Gary Greenleaf, director of KMC’s Supply Chain.

Plourde began the rotation program in January, but her initial stint in Program Management was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. While working from home, Plourde restarted the program in Supply Chain, the department that handles procurement of the materials used on KMC’s manufacturing floors.

Although Plourde began with no experience in purchasing, according to Greenleaf, she learned fast.

“She went from not knowing much about supply chain to, within six weeks of her rotation, she was one of the better buyers,” Greenleaf said.

Rachel Plourde KMC Systems
Rachel Plourde, KMC’s first Graduate Rotation Associate, at KMC’s Merrimack, New Hampshire headquarters.

Throughout each rotation with a given department, Plourde completes at least one project to improve on what she sees as weak spots in that group’s performance. At the conclusion of the rotation, she reports on the results of that project in her presentation to KMC’s Executive Staff.

In Supply Chain, Plourde created an instructional job aid package that outlines responsibilities and best practices for future buyers. Her pitch of the manual to the company’s management was a nerve-wracking experience — Plourde had not delivered a presentation since graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2018, but the senior staff put her at ease and welcomed her idea with open arms.

“They are all very easygoing. They don’t make you nervous when you talk to them,” Plourde said. “They are all very open and helpful when it comes to me learning, not only all these different jobs, but also building myself and presenting.”

Plourde has said that by confronting the task of reporting to KMC’s management, her confidence in her presentation skills has increased significantly over the course of her rotation so far.

Susan Colburn, Kane’s executive assistant and a mentor to Plourde, said Plourde has impressed her by adapting to a new industry with ease.

“She’s really grown a lot in this environment,” Colburn said. “I would be lost without her. I think we all would be.”

Plourde said she has adopted the attitude about learning that Kane expressed to her in her early days at KMC.

“He always said, ‘If you’re not uncomfortable, I’m not doing my job, because if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing,’” Plourde said. “If you’re nervous and you’re also learning, someday I won’t be nervous when I’m doing that anymore.”

During her second presentation following her time in Quality Assurance, Plourde suggested improvements to KMC’s internal communications. Before her next rotation began, she worked on a special project to improve communication within the quality and supply chain teams.

Plourde is now supporting the Technical Operations team, a group dedicated to developing the processes and procedures that govern KMC’s production floors.

KMC’s first Graduate Rotation Associate Program is set to conclude in January. Plourde said once her time exploring all KMC has to offer is over, she will likely search for a more permanent position at the company.

“I’ve never met a group of nicer people,” Plourde said. “When I was in college, I never saw myself at a medical device company. I didn’t think that’s where I’d be.

“But here we are.”

The end of Plourde’s rotation means KMC will be welcoming new graduates to the program. Kane said he looks forward to helping more young health care professionals find their way in the industry.

“We’ve learned a lot about this program through Rachel’s time as the Graduate Rotation Associate,” Kane said. “For future participants in this program, I think KMC is offering a unique and exciting opportunity to set yourself up for success.”