Connie has lived a diverse and exciting life during her 42-year tenure at KEMET. Today she serves as Senior Director of Quality, Tantalum Products, but her work history at KEMET has taken her through different leadership roles, into almost every aspect of the business, and through all different locations. She moved from Georgia, to Greenwood, then on to Greenville, South Carolina, ending up in Texas, where her office is located across the border in Matamoros, Mexico. She travels regularly for her job.
It’s been quite the ride, and Connie summed up her experience.
“I’ve been around the world. I’m a little girl from Georgia who never expected to leave the US, much less travel the world, which is what I currently do. I fly into Shanghai, get in a cab with someone I don’t know and travel for 2 hours hoping you’re going to the correct place. I don’t know the language, but you just assume it’s going to be okay and go.”
That fearlessness, that persistence, and that openness shone through in Connie’s story. She began her KEMET career as a college student in Columbus, Georgia in 1977. Stamps cost $.13, gas was $.62/gallon, and Elvis had just passed away. Connie worked second shift after classes making capacitors on the line. Her talent was quickly noticed, and by the time she graduated, she had been promoted to Quality Engineer, and later Supervisor in Greenwood, South Carolina. Moving through different positions of increasing and varied responsibility, Connie embraced challenges and became well known for her strong work ethic and her abilities. Her big move to Mexico came after she had been working in the military group in Simpsonville, South Carolina from 1983-1987. She was tapped to transfer the line she used to supervise in Greenwood to a new location in Matamoros, Mexico as Quality Superintendent.
Connie was a whiz at learning, understanding, designing, and training in all types of quality systems. Her problem-solving abilities were sharp, and that talent did not go unnoticed at KEMET. She was often called in to help where KEMET needed them most. “Whenever we had a big issue with a raw material or with a customer, I would get pulled back into the quality group because, ‘Connie can take care of that.” Mentorship played a huge role in Connie’s growth and development at KEMET. Over the years, she had several important mentors that made a difference and helped her to expand her skill set. An early mentor was Bill Vondersmith in Greenwood. To announce her promotion, Bill played a little prank on Connie. She recounts,
“He told me one day, “I need to see you in my office.” So I came in and he said, “Sit down. We need to talk about something.” I thought, “Oh my god. I’m getting fired.” He handed me this little box and it’s full of business cards, and they said Connie Wallace, Quality Supervisor. He had my business cards ready before he did the promotion. I thought that was one of the nicest things, to think about my feelings.”
A later mentor, Brian Hawthornthwaite, challenged her to push her skills further for Quality at KEMET. His standards were high. They were higher than the team had ever known, but through his leadership, they were able to move the needle towards higher quality overall. “He was really good about pushing that kind of thing, you know, problem solving. Understanding the true root cause and fixing it so that you don’t have a reoccurrence of the same issue. He was great at that.” Q&A Lab Manager Ed Schmidt also played a special role in Connie’s career. He served as the voice of reason, helping Connie to think things through methodically when a potential problem arose. Connie described him as “very deliberate and very specific.” These qualities meshed well with Connie’s temperament.
Nowadays, Connie herself has taken on the role of mentor. And that feels different. “That’s been a very strange transition for me.” She has learned to trust her knowledge and give that needed advice, because she does know. A pet project that Connie has been interested in is outreach to working mothers in Mexico. She really empathizes with “the pull” that these managers feel of trying to balance their career and home lives. Connie wants the managers to prioritize special moments in life that are irreplaceable. “I tell them if you’re child has a program today, go watch that. Because you can’t get that time back. You can work tonight. You can work Saturday, but don’t miss out on your life.” These are wise words from a wise woman. We are proud of Connie, all her accomplishments, and all that she has contributed to KEMET.