This blog is part of a series to celebrate and share the stories of Black American manufacturing leaders.
Adrianne Kroll says she kind of stumbled into manufacturing. “With an electrical engineering background, I thought I wanted to design roller coasters!” she says. Sometimes the opportunities available where you live change everything, and Kroll was living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. After finishing her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering technology at Old Dominion University, she stayed on to get a master’s in systems engineering.
Kroll says, “Newport News Shipbuilding is one of the largest employers in the area. I applied for an internship with them while working on my master’s degree and was subsequently hired on full time.” She began her career in the defense industry as a systems engineer supporting nuclear aircraft carrier and submarine design and construction for the U.S. Navy. Kroll has also supported the U.S. military as an analyst for the U.S. Joint Forces Command.
Her career has taken various turns, and after her work in the defense industry, Kroll began with North Carolina State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) nine years ago. IES administers the North Carolina MEP Center and is part of the MEP National NetworkTM. She is currently the Assistant Director of Quality at IES. She serves as the product lead for management systems and quality projects and oversees a team of specialists and third-party vendors who provide training and coaching to manufacturers across North Carolina. Her team supports manufacturing clients with quality, environmental, health and safety, and energy management systems.
Kroll loves learning about the various ways that manufacturing impacts communities. “I like traveling throughout the state and seeing all the amazing products that are manufactured in North Carolina,” she says. “I really appreciate meeting small business owners and seeing how the companies they have started have positively affected their communities and counties. I enjoyed supporting the U.S. military, but I really love seeing how the work we do directly impacts the communities around us.”
One such success story is Sirchie, a North Carolina company that manufactures forensic test kits for fingerprinting, fire and arson investigation, and evidence collection. It also manufactures vehicles used as mobile crime labs. Kroll worked with Sirchie for several months to implement an ISO 9001 quality management system across its business. “I learned a lot and made some great connections along the way!” Kroll says.
For anyone interested in a career in manufacturing, Kroll suggests being open to opportunities. “I started off as an electrical engineer and ended up in quality. You never know what doors can open for you!” she says. She suggests that people try different areas of manufacturing to see what clicks for them. “I would tell anyone interested to start with shadowing someone else in the field as early as you can. There are so many paths you can take in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and in manufacturing. Start thinking early about what path you may want to pursue and try different areas.”
In addition to her engineering degrees, Kroll is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Her focus is quality management systems, but her expertise includes kaizen initiatives and lean manufacturing strategies, business process mapping, and project management. She has led various cross-functional teams with employees on all levels including upper management. She’s helped them document processes, identify waste, and brainstorm improvements in customer support, information technology, engineering, and supply chain management. She has also helped companies implement metrics to track on-time delivery and customer satisfaction. Her varied career includes experience in systems and industrial engineering, risk management, requirements management, configuration and change management, and business process improvement.
She’s found meaning and connection through her manufacturing career. Kroll says, “Careers in STEM, and manufacturing in particular, are so rewarding. Working in manufacturing, I have the opportunity to see things flow through the entire process – from raw material to finished goods. I also feel like the work that I do directly supports our state and economy.”
Manufacturing provides careers where you can try out varied roles, find professional satisfaction, and have a positive impact on the wider community. What more could you ask for?