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Alyssa Michelle Ruiz, 23
Process Lead, Kraft Foods-Springfield
Alyssa Michelle Ruiz grew up in a manufacturing household. And even though she went to college at the University of Illinois to study nuclear engineering, she eventually found her way back to the factory. “I realized I liked agricultural engineering, so I went into food science,” she says. When it came time to apply for internships, Kraft took her on and sent her for two consecutive summers to their Springfield plant, one of their largest in the United States.
In January 2014, she accepted a job with Kraft, in Springfield, which she had grown to love during her internships. She is currently a Process Lead on an assembly line that produces Kraft’s 16-ounce bags of shredded cheese. Her goal: Raise efficiency of the line, evaluate why things go wrong, decide how to fix it and determine when the problem is corrected.
She’s also working on full certification in the Six Sigma system, a common efficiency analysis program (full certification is fondly referred to as “Black Belt”). Along with two other leads, Alyssa oversees three shifts on each of two lines, totaling about 30 people.
In her free time, Alyssa volunteers as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks and spends time hiking and running. She has a goal of completing a half-marathon soon, and with her can-do spirit, there’s no doubt she’ll do just that.
Job title and where you work: I am a Process Lead at Kraft Foods-Springfield.
Education: I have a Bachelor’s in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
City or town where you live: Springfield
1. How did you end up at your current job/profession?
I had changed my major three times in college and really struggled to figure out what I truly wanted to do. My parents have always worked in manufacturing and growing up I never imagined that it would be something I’d go into myself. But after my first internship with Kraft Foods, all of what seemed like complete gibberish at the dinner table as a kid made sense.
2. Where do you find passion to do what you do?
My job is all about problem solving with my co-workers to eliminate issues on our lines. There’s always a sense of achievement when you’re able to problem solve and eradicate an issue. To put it simply, I love working with these incredibly intelligent people from all types of backgrounds every day because I am always learning.
3. Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
I have an incredible and very supportive boyfriend, Shane, of about two years.
4. What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
I am currently training for the St. Jude’s Country Half Marathon in Nashville. I’d say running is a love/hate relationship at the moment, but I do it often. My goal is to run a half marathon each year in a place I’ve never been to before and Nashville is first on the list. I am a huge bookworm and always have been. I love a great book any time of the day. My greatest hobby is one I’ve gotten from my mom: cooking. Some of my favorite memories stem from our time in the kitchen, and it’s something I absolutely love to do now as an adult.
5. Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
I am a Big Sister at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks. In my opinion, I think the pre-teen to teen years are the most crucial in a child’s life. When I look back at my mindset at that age, my decision making was so easily influenced and all I really wanted was to be like everyone else. I strongly believe the reason I chose my current path was because of a select few individuals that changed my opinion on what was legitimately important. My Little is such a blast and is full of energy at any time of the day. She has changed quite a bit in the year that we’ve been paired, but I’ve also realized that she has changed me in so many ways as well. Big Brothers Big Sisters really gives you an experience you can’t get anywhere else and it is so incredibly fulfilling. You begin the journey to enhance the life of another, but you’d be amazed to see how much they brighten yours.
6. Are you a member of any professional organizations?
No, I am not currently part of any professional organization.
7. How would you define the secret to success?
I’m pretty sure this definition is always a work in progress, but here is what speaks to me the most as of today: The secret to success is to always bring up and acknowledge those who got you to where you are. You will succeed exponentially if you remain humble and honest about how you’ve gotten to that point. No one is successful on their own; at some point some individual gave you life changing advice, was a mentor to you or cautioned you against a certain decision. Make sure they know it!
8. What's your favorite thing about your career?
I cannot begin to describe my thankfulness to my co-workers. I work with some of the best people in the world that come from so many different backgrounds. I spend every day laughing along with them and they have become my family away from home.
9. What's your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
Springfield, and really this whole area, is so underrated. I grew up in California and I always assumed that there was nothing better. Now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. You have everything at your fingertips: great restaurants, the cutest boutiques, lakes, hiking and the best farmer’s market (my personal favorite). Above all, the most substantial difference I’ve noticed between 417-land and all the other places I’ve been to is that people are kind and genuine here. It’s always nice to go away and visit a new town or city, but there’s something about 417-land that feels like home.
10. If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Your hair is awful, stop it! But really, stop concerning yourself with the pettiness and the opinion of your friends. High school is really about defining yourself as an individual and figuring out where the next part of your journey will take you.
11. What was your “dream job” at age 5?
I have always wanted to be a teacher and still do. I had some of the greatest teachers that all contributed to today’s version of ME! I think there is something incredible about helping to mold a child’s life and inspiring them to take chances.
12. List three traits that define a successful career:
- The ability to successfully practice a work/life balance.
2) NEVER BEING AFRAID TO FAIL! Failure is the only way to learn and never repeat it.
3) Success is not about the people you step over on your way to the top, it’s about building others up and creating long lasting relationships.
13. Why are you a 20 under 30?
I still wonder if I got that call by mistake! But really, I think it’s all about doing what you’ve been called to do. I don’t volunteer and go to work every day to be titled “20 Under 30.” I do it because it’s who I am and what I’ve been called for. When most people put their lives into true perspective, you ALWAYS have the time to help someone out in some way.
14. What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
Well, every week for me is a new project. However, I am very excited to be completing some Lean Six Sigma certifications here in a few months.
15. What completed project are you most proud of?
At Kraft-Springfield, we really focus on the small wins and projects that, over time, amount to quite a bit. I can’t say there is any one project I’m really proud of, but the camaraderie my team has built over time due to these quick wins is what I am the most proud of.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
Family and great friends makes life worth living.
A day at work wouldn't be complete without laughter and jokes, oh and coffee.
Ten years from now, I hope I'm even happier than today.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would share and open a bakery!
The best part about being a 20 under 30 is encouraging others to make a change.