Gen Z Spotlight: Sara Smart Brings Fresh Energy to Kloeckner


Though Sara started working at Kloeckner in July, 2019, we consider her our first hire of 2020, not only because she just transitioned to full-time from an internship after graduating from college, but also because as a Gen Z employee, she represents the future of Kloeckner and brings the fresh energy you’d expect of a student graduating into a new decade.

I have been with the company since mid-July, 2019. I started here as a summer internship and worked throughout 2019 as a part-time employee while I finished up my last semester at UNC Charlotte in December. I officially started full time on December 23, 2019.

With a double major in Organizational Management and Innovative Marketing, Sara didn’t come to Kloeckner empty-handed. “I mainly worked in the service industry since I was 16 and all throughout college. It was an easy way to make money as a college student, and allowed me to meet so many more people in the Charlotte area.”

Unlike most Gen Z or Millennials, a career in the steel industry didn’t seem so far-fetched. “My mother is the Head of Purchasing for a company that buys steel from Kloeckner Metals. Her outside rep is Michael Riccio, who told my mom about the opportunity to work here.” 

Like other millennial employees who found themselves as employees, Sara showed the same initiative that we prize, jumping at the chance for a summer internship, followed by the opportunity for part-time work, and then a full-time position. Now, she’s an Account Manager at Kloeckner Metals in Charlotte (CNC).

I took over a large account and have been prepping for months. I mainly handle this large construction equipment manufacturer account, which has also recently grown a great deal. You would come to me if you needed material such as plate or sheets and I would quote you a fair price.”

Already, this customer has proven to be an exciting opportunity for a new grad. “We recently purchased a new blaster that will run material much faster than our old one, which allowed us to expand our business with them. I am looking forward to seeing what more is to come with it!”

And, while the steel industry was not foreign to Sara, working at Kloeckner still came with surprises. “Truth be told, I was surprised that I would enjoy working in steel. It is not what I expected and did not seem like the industry I would have ever worked in. But, I feel it is very similar to any other sales job in a different industry, and all of my coworkers are very warm and welcoming.”

Her colleagues, in fact, are what have made working at Kloeckner great. “Especially while I was finishing up my last semester of college, everyone was very understanding with my schedule and if I could not work my normal part-time hours due to extra schoolwork. Everyone here is very helpful and willing to show you how to do things when you do not understand something.

But, Sara also puts in the work and represents the “new perspective and fresh ideas” that are unique to Gen Z. “I believe in working hard and putting in the extra time when it is needed. If I work longer than the typical 8-hour work day because not all of my work is finished, then so be it. I feel like that is what makes you stand out in comparison to others when it comes time for promotion or better opportunities.”

And Sara also recognizes that she represents the future of not just Gen Z in steel, but also women in steel. To her, being a women of steel means that she’s not afraid of a “challenge or ‘getting dirty.’ People view steel as a male-dominated industry and over the years more and more women have been seen taking managerial roles. I believe being a women in a male-dominated industry merits a great deal of respect” (and so do we!).

Sara hopes that she represents a new vanguard of Gen Z employees joining the steel industry and hopes to see more people from the younger generation soon. Kloeckner, of course, is doing what it can. “Kloeckner Metals is really working to get college grads more excited about the steel industry and make it more appealing. There has definitely been more people from my generation added to the team.”

Melika Nouri
Melika Nouri is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Kloeckner Metals. Melika holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from Kennesaw State University. She previously worked in the technology industry at Hewlett Packard Enterprise as part of their global MarCom team but is very eager to take on steel!
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