From Wolfpack to TemperPack
By Cameron Walker
Wilson College of Textiles alumnus Michael Scipione is using the skills he learned as a member of the Wolfpack in his career with an environmentally friendly packaging company. The 2015 NC State graduate, with bachelor’s degrees in both Textile Engineering and biomedical engineering, is the director of research and development at TemperPack.
“My role is responsible for enabling TemperPack to bring novel and innovative packaging concepts to life,” he said. “Operating in this broad and very cross-functional role, I lead a team of brilliant engineers that drives research, analysis, prototyping, pilot manufacturing, market testing and eventual commercialization of tomorrow’s best ideas in cold chain packaging.”
TemperPack’s mission is “to solve the world’s packaging problems through sustainable design.” Their products include a paper-based, curbside-recyclable replacement for bubble wrap and an alternative to styrofoam coolers, and products are made of ingredients such as recycled burlap, denim, cotton, wool, paper and plastics, as well as plant oils and starches.
We asked Scipione about life after graduation and to share some advice about his job search.
How did you find out about this position and what was the interview process like?
A long-time family friend was introduced to a pair of TemperPack’s co-founders. After hearing more about what their company was all about, the friend mentioned that I might be a good fit for them and passed along my contact information.
After a few email exchanges, we decided to meet and formally discuss my background and qualifications. About a week later, I had a phone interview with the co-founders which included a range of standard, behavior-based interview questions. The co-founders took a few days to review my resume and application and came back with a job offer that I later accepted!
What is the biggest difference between being in college and working in industry?
Perhaps the biggest difference between college and the real world is the effect that one’s initiative can have on his or her career. During college, going above and beyond may seem pointless and unnecessary if you are already receiving grades you are content with. After college, however, demonstrating the initiative to take on new projects and responsibilities will quickly pay its dividends in your career.
In addition, since leaving academia, I have developed a newfound appreciation for Sundays. During school, I never spent Sundays relaxing because I was consistently using them to finish up homework that I had put off until the weekend. Now, Sundays are spent on things that I enjoy.
What experiences did you take from the Wilson College of Textiles and the Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science program that you can say have helped in your new career?
My experience with TE110 has definitely helped me immensely in my career thus far. It has become obvious that solid VBA* skills are hard to come by and that Dr. Joines and Dr. Pasquinelli have done excellent jobs in preparing students to enter their careers with these skills.
My former roles involved plenty of data analysis, and the raw data I came across often needed to be cleansed and manipulated before it was ready to be analyzed. I could not imagine working with that raw data without how to efficiently work with it using VBA.
*(VBA: Visual Basic for Applications, a computer programming language used in Excel and other programs)
What is the best thing about the city in which you now live?
Taking the job with TemperPack relocated me to my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Richmond is a great city to call home and is filled with a culture that focuses on food, festivals and a rich history. Moving back to Richmond has also given me the opportunity to spend more time with my family, which I have missed since leaving for college.
Do you have any funny/interesting anecdotes from your time at NC State that you’d like to share?
A fellow was working on a presentation for class on a specific group of polymerization catalysts. The first few slides of the presentation started off with subliminal pictures of kittens flashing across the screen. Eventually, subsequent slides had the entire screen was filled with pictures of various cats. All of this unfolded while the presenter delivered a straight-faced, serious and factual lecture to his classmates on polymerization catalysts.
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?
During the job search and interview process, you will undoubtedly meet many interesting people that each have taken a unique career path that has gotten him or her to their current position. Take the time to learn about these individuals and their backgrounds and perhaps you’ll be enlightened by career possibilities that you never knew existed.
One of my mentors advised me to keep in touch with the contacts I established during the interview process and I would recommend this advice to anyone searching for a job. Whether you end up taking a position with a company or not, adding professionals from various backgrounds to your network is never a bad thing. You never know when or how those connections might be helpful in the future!