In 1999, the Kloeckner Metals’ purchasing department was located in New Orleans. It was there that Robin Portera started as an expediter. When hurricane Katrina hit, Kloeckner moved the purchasing department to the corporate headquarters in Roswell, Georgia. Portera decided to move up with it, and Kloeckner put the purchasing employees up in a hotel for six months while they settled in. They had lost everything in the storm, and suddenly everything had changed.
“I was working for Kloeckner, but I was going to night school through Charity School of Nursing to become a nurse,” Portera said. “Then the hurricane happened and we came here, and obviously that changed my whole plan. Kloeckner actually said, ‘Go back to school for something that has to do with business and we’ll pay for it.’ I did. I went and got my management and finance degree.”
Kloeckner offers financial reimbursement for employees that decide to go back to school while continuing to work for Kloeckner. Portera, now the plate product manager for corporate purchasing, encourages people who are considering going back to school to approach their managers ask about it. Balancing a job by day and an education by night is difficult, but Portera thinks that it is worth it.
“You’ve just got to get through it,” Portera said. “I would definitely recommend that they stay focused, and don’t give up, and make sure that they let their management know that they are driven and they are happy in their position, but they are not satisfied and would like opportunities for growth.”
Kloeckner also offers a variety of training and management programs for employees interested in further developing their careers. These programs help employees get a bigger picture of the steel industry and become well-rounded. That knowledge and skill set is crucial to long-term success in the industry. That is why Kloeckner is committed to offering these programs.
“New employees or employees that feel like they are stuck might not realize they can approach their manager, and they absolutely can and should if their desire is to grow with the business,” Portera says. “We have a lot of young people in the business that we need to be in various important positions in the future. So I think it is important for them to step up and become more well-rounded so they can help run the business one day.”
Portera is happy with her decision to move to Roswell and stay with Kloeckner. Being in the corporate office gave her exposure and opened doors for her. By continuing to develop herself, she was able to rise through the ranks and progress in her career.
“I think that the sky is the limit, and you are your own barrier because the company definitely gives you the opportunity to expand if that is what you choose to do in your career,” Portera says. “They invest in you as long as you invest in them.”