We checked in with some of our young alumni working all over the state to learn how they got their jobs, what their workdays are like and their advice for a successful career.

Elton Lawrence ‘12

Process Engineer with Pharr High Performance

Elton Lawrence graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in Polymer and Color Chemistry, with a concentration in Medical Sciences. While in school, he participated in new student orientation, tutored with the undergraduate tutorial center, was a peer educator in health promotion and was a member of the African-American Textile Society and the Tompkins Textile Student Council. His undergraduate research focused on synthesizing the Rose Bengal-Vinyl Benzyl Chloride monomer. Pharr High Performance spins innovative yarns for “protective clothing for the military, fire services and industry, industrial work gloves, filtration fabrics, high temperature straps/harnesses” and more.

What are your significant job responsibilities? What is a typical day like?

Day to day, I contribute to process improvement projects which involve interactions with our production teams, customers and suppliers. I plan my days around current projects, but there are always times when I have to shift my priorities to work on more urgent tasks.

How did you find out about this position and what was the interview process like?

I found out about this position through a [Wilson College of Textiles] Lifetime Careers Services email and, after reaching out to personnel at Pharr directly, the interview process began. In a positive way, the interview process was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. When I reached out to Pharr, I thought I’d go through the typical interviewing process — a phone screen and an on-site visit — but in addition to that, I had multiple face-to-face interactions with the team. Being that two of our core values at Pharr are “Family” and “Strong Relationships,” it was important for us all to get to know each other.   

What is the biggest difference between being in college and working in industry?

The biggest difference is that you don’t have a syllabus to guide your work efforts.  In college you can tell very quickly if you’re behind in a class, but in industry it’s not that clear. Your productivity is REALLY in your own hands.

What experiences did you take from the Wilson College of Textiles that you can say have helped in your new career?

The Wilson College of Textiles allowed me to be very hands-on while learning, which has helped me tremendously.  The best days are those spent on the manufacturing floor working with and learning from the production teams.

Was there a professor at the Wilson College of Textiles that made an impact on you? Who was it and why?

Mr. Philip Dail, also known as PDail.  Being that he was the first person I interacted with from the college, he exposed me to the endless opportunities I could have by pursuing a textiles degree.

What is the best thing about the city you now live in?

I love Charlotte because it’s filled with young professionals and there’s always something do.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

Until the sophomore year of my undergraduate studies, I wanted to be a doctor. I always thought in order to impact lives you had be a doctor, teacher or a police officer, but once I was introduced to textiles, I found that to be untrue. It’s an awesome feeling to know that I play a small part in manufacturing yarns for fabrics that protect lives.

Jamie Harvey stands in front of Culp, Inc. booth at the Wilson College of Textiles career fair
Jamie Harvey

Jamie Harvey ‘17

Textile Design Trainee at Culp, Inc.

Jamie Harvey graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Fashion and Textile Design with a concentration in Textile Design. She studied Italian language, design and history at the Lorenzo de’ Medici institute and was student chapter secretary of WithIt (Women in the Home Furnishings Industry Today). She entered several contests during her time at the Wilson College of Textiles, winning third place in the Denali Design-a-Throw competition, second place in the Cotton = High Tech + High Design contest and first place in the 2017 Wilson College of Textiles student bookmark competition, and interned at Prospect Brands and Kohl’s Department Stores. Her current employer, Culp, Inc., designs and produces residential upholstery fabrics.

What are your significant job responsibilities? What is a typical day like?

As a textile design trainee, my current job involves a lot of learning the process of the current designers at Culp and applying what I have learned to specific projects I have been delegated. The design office is relatively small and allows me to get my hands into a lot of projects. A typical day could involve editing artwork, assigning weaves, choosing yarn colors (and more).

How did you find out about this position and what was the interview process like?

I had heard about the company throughout my time at the Wilson College of Textiles through professors and the Career Center and ePack. When Culp decided they were hiring, they contacted me for an interview.  

What is the biggest difference between being in college and working in industry?

The coolest thing about working in the industry is seeing your hard work come to life. The fabrics that I would design in school would be geared towards a certain market or company; however, like most projects, they were just a representation of what I would do for that company. It is really exciting to see the projects I am currently working on go toward production for the actual market.

What experiences did you take from Wilson College of Textiles that you can say have helped in your new career?

One of the reasons I chose to be in the Wilson College of Textiles was because of the exposure to creativity and design, while also learning the technical side of the industry. I think that this prepared me for the current job I have and allows me to be a well-rounded designer. Another thing I did often was participate in the competitions Wilson College of Textiles provided with companies in the industry. Whether just entering or placing, they helped me gain exposure into working within requirements for their market and consumers, while also allowing myself to be creative and innovative.

What is the best thing about the city in which you now live?

I am currently living in Carrboro, N.C., and commuting to work in Burlington, N.C. The best part is that it is right between Raleigh and work so that I can still visit friends. I am also from Charlotte which makes home not too far away.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

I always thought I would do something with math, whether it be finance or engineering, which is what I have always excelled at in school. I was also creative and took art classes throughout school but never really thought I would want to make a career from it. When I learned about the Textile Design program while in First Year College, still thinking I would do something math-related at the time, I realized that it was the perfect fit for me because it combined creativity with math and science.

Do you have any advice about job searching or are there things that you know now that you wished you had known as a student?  

Something I am glad I did as a student was having multiple internships in various areas of the industry. This really helped me to narrow down my scope of what I wanted to do beyond graduation. I was lucky enough to secure my job February of senior year which helped me to focus on my senior collection. If you start job hunting before the end of senior year it really helps relieve the stress of the end of college.

Adam McDonald stands in front of ATEX Technologies, Inc. booth at Wilson College of Textiles career fair
Adam McDonald

Adam McDonald ‘12

Polymer and Fiber Engineer, ATEX Technologies, Inc.

Adam McDonald graduated with bachelor of science degrees in both Textile Engineering and Polymer and Color Chemistry. During his time at NC State, he was involved in varsity cheerleading, Campus Crusade and FCA; he also tutored and was a research assistant for the Wilson College of Textiles. His current company, ATEX Technologies, makes implantable textile components for medical devices.

What are your significant job responsibilities? What is a typical day like?

(I) design and develop fibers for use in implantable medical devices, pioneer new polymer development and fiber technology (and) oversee all fiber and yarn manufacturing processes for internally developed and externally sourced products.

How did you find out about this position and what was the interview process like?

I interned at McMurray Fabrics when I graduated from high school to make sure that the textile industry actually interested me before I went to NC State. When I graduated from the Wilson College of Textiles, I reached out to my former manager who referred me to ATEX (which has the same owner) as he thought my background would be more applicable there. That interview process was about as comfortable as I had been anywhere just because I was already familiar with the company and how they operate internally. I was asked tough questions, but I felt like I was most prepared for that interview as opposed to others I had gone through.

What is the biggest difference between being in college and working in industry?

In college, problems are well defined and there is almost always a right or wrong answer. Once you step out into industry, you are either provided problems where you must define the necessary parameters, or you discover / determine your own problems to solve. You learn pretty quickly that there’s so much nuance and so many different ways to address issues that it becomes less about what you know and more about what you’re willing to figure out.

What experiences did you take from the Wilson College of Textiles that you can say have helped in your new career?

Because I double majored, I was offered a unique range of perspectives. I got to see how multiple departments worked through problems and got to understand what challenges are most critical to each. It has made a world of difference for me in terms of communicating with internal and external customers to better understand what each is looking for from me or my products.

Was there a professor at the Wilson College of Textiles that made an impact on you? Who was it and why?

There are two people in the Wilson College of Textiles that really stand out to me – Philip Dail and Dr. Jeff Joines.

Most of the current students probably have no idea who PDail is, but he was the first year advisor for all students in the Wilson College of Textiles and was my personal advisor and mentor for all four years that I was there. PDail really invested in me early on and spent a ton of time talking through problems I was having and making sure I was staying on track. He is the one that convinced me to double major at a time when I wasn’t even sure that the Wilson College of Textiles was for me. I credit him with a good portion of my success.

Dr. Joines is the professor that convinced me to come to NC State and was one of the first professors I had that pushed me to be better. I came to NC State’s open house with very little idea of what I wanted to study beyond engineering of some sort. I spoke with a lot of people that day, but he was the only one that had a conversation with me rather than making a sales pitch. I can’t describe it in any other way than a gut feeling I got from him that this was a place I needed to be.

In their own way, each pushed me to do more than what was required in class and to become more involved in the College. They are the reason I started working in the tutoring center which was probably the most gratifying experience I had in college. They also made me want to take classes that I didn’t need so that I would be well-rounded when I graduated.

What is the best thing about the city in which you now live?

The city I live in now (Pinehurst) is where I grew up so it feels like home. It’s a slower paced area which is a good fit for me – I don’t have to deal with traffic like I did in Raleigh!

Do you have any funny/interesting anecdotes from your time at NC State or the Wilson College of Textiles that you’d like to share?

When I was there, I was the only chemist in our senior design class. Victoria’s Secret was one of the sponsors that year and specifically requested a chemist so my group of four male students was assigned the task of improving support for their line of sports bras. One of the main elements of our project was to develop bra support tester so that we could quantify that support. The tester was an oscillating mannequin wearing a sports bra with water balloons in it and a high speed camera to measure movement. We brought it to our presentation and, needless to say, had more than a few confused looks. Victoria’s Secret was impressed with our tester though (I think).

What did you want to do when you were a kid?

After I figured out that I wouldn’t make it as a Power Ranger, I thought I would be a lawyer because I liked to argue.

Do you have any advice about job searching or are there things that you know now that you wished you had known as a student?  

I would tell current students just to be open to opportunities and to ask questions. I’ve been to a few career fairs since I graduated and I see the same thing each time – students limit themselves to their concentration, mostly product development. The same was true when I graduated as many of my classmates, myself included, would ignore job postings for quality or process engineers even though the job may have been more in line with our interests. I was fortunate enough to find a company that fit what I was looking for, but it took some of my classmates years to realize that R&D  wasn’t their best fit. I would encourage students to be more open to what a role actually entails rather than what the job title says.

In the five years since I graduated from NC State, I have received countless resumes and applications but I can count on one hand the number of applicants that asked me questions. They don’t have to be difficult, but they should demonstrate interest and require more than a “yes or no” answer. Every applicant that has reached out to me with more than just a thank you and actually made me think of a response has stuck in my mind and ultimately gotten my recommendation for employment.

 

Charles Suaris ‘16

Beverly Knits Inc. / Creative Ticking – Process Engineer

Charles Suaris graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Textile Technology and minored in Military Sciences with a concentration in Aerospace Studies. During his time at NC State, he was a resident mentor in the Impact Leadership Village and a research assistant in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. His current employer, Beverly Knits,  “designs and develops fabric for all markets, including intimate apparel, active wear, outdoor products, mattress and bedding” and more.

What are your significant job responsibilities? What is a typical day like?

I monitor and make improvements on the efficiency of the knitting process from scheduling to finishing fabric. I also track down, isolate, and fix quality issues that occur with any of our products.

How did you find out about this position and what was the interview process like?

I found out about this position from a coworker who was a classmate of mine in the Wilson College of Textiles. She mentioned my name and I was given the contact information for the vice president of business development. I contacted him and submitted my resume. The company was very busy at the time since it was the summer. I stayed persistent and checked in weekly, which I was commended for when I was called in for an initial interview. I was interviewed by the vice president of business development, the research and development manager, and the lead designer at Creative Ticking. I was then called back for a second interview with the owner of Beverly Knits/Creative Ticking, Ron Sytz. I received an offer letter a week later and was asked when I could begin working for the company.

What is the biggest difference between being in college and working in industry?

The biggest difference I’ve seen is the fast pace of working in industry. In college, classes are relatively spread out during the day and then students do other extracurricular activities in the evenings and on week-ends. This usually gives students time to breathe during the day and at least slightly recharge. Working in industry, especially if you’re in manufacturing, work is almost non-stop from 8-5. There’s constantly something happening that needs your attention, whether it’s a project, quality issue, or meetings with customers. You have to stay very organized and be judicious with your time, or the stress can really get to you and things can go wrong quickly.

What experiences did you take from Wilson College of Textiles that you can say have helped in your new career?

The basic, beginner knowledge from fiber science courses, my first knitting class, my first weaving class, etc. has been crucial. I didn’t even realize that I still had that knowledge stored in my memory, but it has been vital with everything that I’m doing. Besides that, learning how to adapt technology to work in my favor, from something as simple as working on group projects, helped immensely. It not only helped me, but I was able to make improvements to the overall operation and processes within the company by improving communication and efficiency of production.

Was there a professor at the Wilson College of Textiles that made an impact on you? Who was it and why?

Two professors really made an impact on me at the Wilson College of Textiles. Dr. Moon Suh’s Quality Control and Management course gave me skills and knowledge in an area of textiles that I didn’t know much about. It’s also a class that you can apply to almost any industry, especially if it concerns manufacturing. Even though I had just this one class on this subject, I have applied a lot of the knowledge I learned from his class and just in speaking with him at work every day. The other professor was Dr. Martin King. Dr. King’s Biotextiles class had a huge impact on me. Taking his class made me realize that I was highly interested in the medical aspect of textiles. He would constantly bring in different devices that would amaze the entire class. The main thing I liked about his class were that the exams weren’t typical exams. They would test us on the material, but in order to do well, you really had to go and do research on your own about surgeries and how certain medical devices were used, along with their purpose, in order to answer questions well. This taught me that no matter what you’re learning in life, you have to go above and beyond in order to thrive. If you just do what is required, you won’t advance.

What is the best thing about the city in which you now live?

The best thing about the city I live in is that it’s the same city I grew up in. Beverly Knits Inc. is located in Gastonia, NC, but I live in Charlotte, NC. Charlotte changed a lot in the time I was at NC State. It is amazing coming back here and rediscovering the city as a mid-20s adult compared to knowing the city growing up as a kid. So many people in Raleigh always wanted to travel and see Charlotte and I use to wonder if they were seeing something that I didn’t. Now that I’m back, I completely understand why so many people from NC State want to visit Charlotte and explore.

Do you have any funny/interesting anecdotes from your time at NC State or Wilson College of Textiles that you’d like to share?

One of the funniest things, I would say is for senior design. My design group was working on enhancing paint roller fabric for a company. It wasn’t the most glamorous project, but every time we had a presentation, we would be pretty enthusiastic. Dr. Jesse Jur and Dr. Russell Gorga both loved it, but Dr. Jur especially would get really thrilled and always say that he couldn’t wait until we became millionaires because of making a groundbreaking paint roller that would revolutionize the painting industry.

What did you want to do when you were little?

When I was little, I wanted to be a pilot. I’ve always been fascinated with aviation and flying. Aircraft are moving towards being made with composites, so I’m hoping to be able to take my textile experience and branch over into the aviation sector.

Do you have any advice about job searching or are there things that you know now that you wished you had known as a student?  

Companies prefer that you are persistent in following up. I did it with the company that I am currently at simply because I (wanted to) land an offer before my decision time limit on another job offer ran out. Most companies are going through so many resumes and interviews, not to mention having to carry out their day to day tasks. When you are persistent about checking in and asking where they stand, you may feel like you are being annoying, but on the contrary, you’re showing that you have a great interest in working at the company. It reminds them that they were interested in you and you will come to the top of the pile when they make a hire. Persistence is the one crucial factor I advise all my friends and current students looking for jobs to keep up because it will help them tremendously.