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  • 02 Jun 2021

Young managers – Nicole Rivera

Nicole Rivera, director of administration and operations at K Laser Technology

Nicole Rivera, director of administration and operations at K Laser Technology, discusses stepping into labels and working with her father. 

Starting off in college I was very stereotypical in that I didn’t know what I wanted to do and just thought college is where you went after high school. I majored in business, figuring: how could you go wrong with that? After graduation I got a job at a college apparel company and it was there I realized I wanted to do more in logistics. I got my master’s degree in global supply chain management and at the same time started my job here at K Laser.

My dad is my boss at K Laser, which is an interesting dynamic. There was no pressure to follow in his footsteps, but I had always known something about this industry from him since he has been in the industry for so long. Our company is an Asian company, based out of Taiwan, and within that culture if you start a company, you want to pass it down. My dad really wanted to follow that aspect of the culture and he always envisioned passing this down to one of us, whether it be me or one of my two brothers. When he started the east coast facility in Florida, one of my brothers came down with him. He worked here for a couple years and my dad was starting to groom him to take over, but it ended up not being for him.

At the time I was working at my old job, which was not in vain as I got to see how another company operates and brought that knowledge with me to K Laser. I started here about three and a half years ago with the goal of increasing sales. I can tell you my dad is thrilled that I’m here, and that I’ve stuck around. The deal was once I started here, I would be here for many years. The first three years have flown by. We have so many things we are waiting to unveil and I’m excited about all the things I still have to learn. I have become a label nerd. I love going through the grocery store aisle and looking at the labels, not even the products, and getting inspiration for samples we might do.

“When I was able to step out of the bubble of cold foil and see other parts of the printing industry at Labelexpo, my jaw was on the floor.”

As director of administration and operations, I have had a different focus within the business every year. The first focus was operations, with the goal to make everything more efficient for us; this included lean and six sigma ideas to rework our processes. My focus last year was logistics. This year we are rebranding and I have been knee-deep in marketing. It has been an interesting eye-opener for me as that is not really my forte, but I am learning a lot.

Experience as a young professional

For a new person stepping into this industry, it would be incredibly intimidating. We are on the supplier end so we focus on just one thing, cold foil, and that is enough to keep you learning for quite a while. When I was able to step out of the bubble of cold foil and see other parts of the printing industry at Labelexpo, my jaw was on the floor. I thought, how is all of this just to print a label? But I am learning every day and there is so much to learn.

The vast amount of information was intimidating, until you start putting the pieces together. You have to learn the jargon, that it is a label not a sticker – which I learned the hard way – but as long as you are willing to learn, you will be alright. Being able to learn is my favorite part of my job. I am really falling in love with marketing at the moment, which I would not have expected. My passion really is more operations and I feel like I thrive there but now that I have moved into marketing, it is challenging me in a good way. While it may be a little scary, marketing is challenging me to be more creative and figure out the best ways to get a message across to our customer or end user. Marketing may end up being a two-year focus for me, both because of the pandemic and because of our rebranding.

As far as the people in this industry, they have been nothing but warm and welcoming. Even the veterans are so eager to teach you. They don’t want to hold things to their chest, they want to pass on their knowledge. I’m in a unique position that I do have my dad as a mentor, as well as several other people on our team who have been in the industry for years. I have his network to learn from, as well as creating my own network within our generation. I’m in a unique spot and to not take advantage of it would be foolish.

Jordan Hart - online editor

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan joins the editorial team with international journalism experience and a degree in communication.

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