Kristen Johnson is on the fast track.
Just 3½ years ago, she graduated from Black River Falls High School. On Saturday, Dec. 15, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Wisconsin-Stout. She took a combination of summer and Winterm courses to graduate a semester early.
She’s not slowing down, either. Two days after commencement, on Monday, Dec. 17, she is scheduled to begin work at her new job in Middleton, near Madison.
The retail merchandising and management major was hired as a global sourcing analyst at Spectrum Brands, which has more than 30 consumer brands, such as Remington grooming products, George Foreman grills, Black and Decker tools and Toastmaster appliances.
She will work with existing Remington products, like curling irons and hair straighteners, and also help develop new products.
Johnson seems unfazed by the quick turnaround from college student to being employed full time. “My family is coming to graduation, and we’ll celebrate. I’ll drive to Madison on Sunday and start work on Monday,” she said.
It will be less than 48 hours from the time she crosses the stage at Johnson Fieldhouse to receive her diploma to the time she walks into work, about 200 miles away, at Spectrum Brands.
More than anything, she’s excited about getting started on her career. She’s already had a taste of it, interning in a similar capacity at Spectrum from May through August and then working remotely for the company from Menomonie until Dec. 8.
She accepted the job offer in November.
Actually, she had two offers from Spectrum, the other in supply chain management. True to form, she took the global sourcing analyst position because “I really like the fast pace. You’re doing about 20 things at once,” Johnson said, with a smile.
Meriem Chida, an assistant professor in the retail program, is pleased to see Johnson begin her career in consumer hard goods.
“We encourage students to think beyond just soft goods and to seek opportunities in consumer packaged goods and fast-moving consumer goods as well,” Chida said.
“Students are holistically trained in business acumen and are able to add value to cross-functional teams, whether it be in product development or stores or the corporate setting. Kristen fully embraced this challenge and took advantage of a global sourcing internship in hard goods with a global supplier.”
Chida said Johnson was hired because of her “ability to work independently, to communicate quality expectations and to ensure that everyone delivered on the company's specific priorities. Kristen is a great testament to the caliber of students we attract at UW-Stout. They are curious, have exceptional work ethics and are not afraid to take the road less traveled.”
Moving on with good memories
Johnson said she chose UW-Stout because of the retail program and the high rate of employment or continuing education for graduates, 98.2 percent in the most recent report. She was happy with the program, the school and, obviously, landing a job so quickly.
“I liked the professors a lot; they were easy to talk to. And I liked the school size. You can walk down the street and meet someone you know,” she said.
Two of her favorite classes were international trends and assortment planning, which dealt with global sourcing and store management, respectively. Her trend forecasting class also will be valuable in her job, she said.
Along with her Spectrum internship, Johnson had a Cooperative Education experience through UW-Stout at Steinhafels furniture in Milwaukee and worked part time at Hom Furniture in Eau Claire. Both helped with her knowledge of retail processes, and she liked the sales aspect, she said.
Top: Kristen Johnson graduated from UW-Stout in 3½ years.
Bottom: Meriem Chida teaches in the retail merchandising and management program.