30 Under 30: Kyle Rhodes
Dow Chemical Co.
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Like his father and grandfather, Kyle Rhodes studied chemical engineering before going to work in a chemical plant. Hired right after graduating from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Kyle has worked at the Dow Chemical Co.’s ethylene oxide and plastics manufacturing facility in Seadrift, Texas, for six years now, holding multiple engineering positions including the titles of Run Plant, Process Automation and Improvement Engineer.
Until April, he’d been an improvement engineer at the Seadrift plant, and has worked mostly in process and automation roles since joining Dow. “I’m representing the plant here in Seadrift as part of a project team,” Kyle said regarding Dow’s recent investments in the Gulf Coast area, some of which is going to the Seadrift facility.
Working at a plant always interested Kyle, after hearing stories from his grandfather, who ran a plant in Montana, and from his dad, who worked for 3M. “My dad once told me that scientists come up with great ideas,” Kyle recalled, “but to actually get anything done, you need an engineer. That’s what drew me to this, to the manufacturing environment—if you really want to get involved, you need engineers around.
“It’s dynamic, that’s the best one-word description for it,” Kyle said of his work. “You can come in on any given day with a plan, and circumstances at the plant can change that instantly. There’s a lot of troubleshooting, a lot of thinking on your feet, and I’ve enjoyed that greatly. There’s a lot of problem-solving.”
In nominating Kyle for 30 Under 30, Roger Painter, Seadrift GPPE Production Leader and Kyle’s supervisor, wrote: “Kyle is a natural leader and has demonstrated many of the attributes of a seasoned veteran. For his project teams, he leads by example. He ensures his teams make sound decisions based on data, and they consider alternative approaches in order to identify the optimum path forward. Kyle establishes high standards of personal excellence in executing his work, relating to others, and behaving in alignment to Dow’s ethics code. This same behavior becomes an expectation for those on his teams, or the teams he is supporting.”
Painter also had high praise for Kyle’s abilities as a team leader, technical capabilities, and his engagement with fellow employees and company programs. “Kyle maintains a very high level of productivity and quality in his work. When presented with a challenge, Kyle applies sound judgment and problem solving techniques to identify the best solution. He works independently, but recognizes when to pull in needed resources to improve the project efficiency. Kyle proactively shares knowledge with his fellow colleagues, especially when mentoring the less experienced engineers. He takes independent action to offer coaching to the new engineers, while maintaining an exceptionally heavy workload for an engineer of his experience level.
“Kyle works well with others within the organization, including peers, technicians and stakeholders,” Painter said. “He proactively seeks to understand differences of views, and strives to ensure the best overall approach is selected. Kyle voluntarily communicates project and organizational needs to his stakeholders and management. What is noteworthy is that he not only highlights the opportunity, but recommends a solution. Regardless of the circumstances or how heavy his workload is, he is always willing to help. Kyle is engaged in several Dow initiatives, including steering team member for the New Professionals Network and serving as student advisor for Co-Ops working at the plant. He manages both of these activities in addition to his normal work responsibilities.” ME