Kelley Wilber

Thermomechanical Pulp (TMP) Mill Superintendent with AbitibiBowater.

B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Pulp and Paper Technology, North Carolina State University.


What attracted you to your chosen field?

I initially went to NC State for Chemical Engineering because I really enjoyed Math and Science and I had a Dad that would leave articles on my bed once a week telling me how great a career in chemical engineering would be and that the starting salaries were some of the highest out of school. Upon being accepted in engineering, the Pulp and Paper Foundation at NC State sent me a letter saying they would give me a substantial scholarship if I would join the Pulp and Paper program and would be able to earn 2 degrees. I was not sure what Pulp and Paper was but a free education with 2 degrees sounded excellent.

What do you like best about the field?

Pulp and Paper is an extremely challenging field. Current market conditions, environmental conditions and overseas competition have put an extreme strain on the industry. Everyday you face a new challenge whether it be cutting costs, improving quality, or troubleshooting maintenance issues there is always something to keep your attention and I enjoy a good challenge.

What are some personal challenges you have faced in your field?

The biggest personal challenge with this field is long hours and 24/7 coverage. The mills are always running and as a supervisor you are always on call. Sometimes your personal life is put on hold. Coming out of college or trying to have a family can be difficult. You have to learn quickly how to prioritize your life.

What does the future hold for your chosen field?

The paper industry faces serious challenges for the future with stricter environmental regulations, increased electric and fuel costs, increased raw material costs and overseas competition for our recycled materials, and decreased demand for non-consumer product paper. The paper industry is looking to diversify their product line such as making biofuels with pulp as a byproduct to make the industry more profitable.

What things can students do to prepare for a career in this field?

To prepare for a career in the Pulp and Paper Industry you need to be fully aware of the challenges, be strong in math and science, be able to problem solve under pressure, and be able to communicate well with a range of people from CEO's to those who barely graduated high school.