In 2019, after 15 years as an admin at INVISTA’s Victoria, Texas, plant, Eva Garcia had an epiphany. Her husband was about to retire, but her own retirement was more than a decade away. “I asked myself if I could keep doing the same thing for another 15-plus years – and the answer was no,” she said. “It was a long time to be stuck in the same position when I knew I had so much more to contribute.”
Eva considered a number of different options, including finishing her psychology degree or looking for a new job. But she’d already determined psych wasn’t for her, and she wanted to stay at INVISTA. It was the job, not the place nor the people, that was unfulfilling. Eva had to decide: What kind of job did she want?
She had developed a keen interest in data analytics following a 2017 training session for a tool that helped her automate custom reports. Until then, Eva had spent every Monday manually looking up data and putting PowerPoint reports together, slide by slide, for three different business units. “This new tool did all of it automatically,” she said. “I was so excited. I had been running myself ragged with these reports every week and suddenly my Mondays were free.”
As she streamlined more of her job, Eva started receiving requests for data analytics help from coworkers, so she organized online training for others at the plant. “My supervisor gave me the freedom to do that, and that's what opened the doors to me analyzing more and more data,” Eva said. “I kept telling people how much they were going to benefit from it, so they’d get excited, too. And I was right – it took off like wildfire.”
It also sparked an idea. Maybe Eva could somehow make a job out of analyzing data for the company. After all, no one else had been doing all the reports she was creating, and everyone seemed to be happy with the new insights she was generating. “I felt like, OK, this is where I need to be,” she said. “Analytics kind of came easy to me and felt really natural.” But although she continued to find new ways to use Microsoft’s Power BI, the automation tool, she never talked to anyone about the job idea.
“It was just my own insecurities,” Eva said about what held her back. “I didn’t have confidence in myself.”
That all changed one day late last year. She’s always been a bit of an introvert, and was never one to toot her own horn. But she’d been ruminating on her husband’s retirement – and those 15 years. “I knew I’d come to a fork in the road,” Eva said.
When an unexpected opportunity to make a big change came her way, she seized it. The day before she was leaving to visit her sister in Alabama, Eva was presenting the findings of one of her new, custom reports. She noticed two INVISTA leaders were in the audience.
“I thought, You know what? This is my chance to speak up,” she said. “I had these two people in front of me that I needed to talk to in order to find a place. And I was leaving for vacation, so it seemed like the perfect time. If it didn’t go well, I didn’t have to see anyone for a week.”
Eva approached Bill McKnight and Travis Gibb after the presentation. “I flat-out just asked, ‘What do you have in mind for my future with INVISTA?’” she said. “I really surprised myself that I did it!”
Their reaction was even more surprising to her. They countered, “What do you want to do?”
“I kind of stepped back, because I really wasn't expecting that question,” Eva said. “It was almost like a blank check. I couldn’t believe they would actually ask me that. It really floored me.”
She told them her idea.
Eva left for her sister’s, but Bill and Travis got to work. “Her proposal was so intriguing and made so much sense that Travis and I immediately brainstormed and developed a new role for her to help the site transform faster,” said Bill, mechanical precision reliability superintendent. “Within a couple of hours, I had a new role proposal on Travis’ desk and very soon after, the role was approved.”
Returning from vacation, Eva wasn’t sure what to expect. She thought maybe they’d have forgotten that impromptu discussion, or might have decided it really wasn’t a good idea. “But they hadn’t forgotten,” she said. “I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, to know they listened to what I said, that they had faith in me – how valued that made me feel.”
That’s part of how Koch leaders are trained, Bill said. “We have a strong focus on applying the principles of Principled Entrepreneurship™, transformation and self-actualization so that our employees can transform themselves,” he added.
In October 2019, Eva transitioned to her new role as innovation support analyst. She spends her days looking for trends and analyzing metrics, like the percentage of overtime in the plant in any given situation, how many work orders are opened and how quickly they get closed. Word quickly got around the plant – and even their sister sites – that Eva is a whiz with data.
“People come to me looking for help with this or that,” she said. “They’ll ask if there’s a way of measuring something, and it can be challenging sometimes to get the data pulled.”
But it’s a challenge she relishes. Eva loves finding the right data to solve a problem and figuring out how to put it together so it makes sense. “I needed to feel like I was contributing something, and I think it’s important to share my knowledge,” she said. “This wasn’t a position we had, so I definitely feel like I am making a difference.”
Eva encourages her coworkers to think about what kind of job would make them happy. She uses her own transformation from admin to analyst as an example of what’s possible. “I tell them you need to make sure your supervisor knows your interests,” she said. “They’re willing to help if you tell them.”
Bill agrees. “We were working hard to understand how to apply digital innovations and the operations team needed analytic dashboards,” he said. “But I can tell you the biggest reason this change was made was that Eva proactively came forward to share her passion and desire to change her career.”
These days, Eva no longer feels stuck. During a recent performance review with her supervisor, he asked if she saw herself eventually moving from innovation support to innovation leader.
“I said, yes, but let me get comfortable with what I’m doing now,” she laughed. “But it felt good. It means they have plans for me and they value my capabilities. I can definitely keep working on this path for 15 years.”