Eat Slowly, Plow Deeply: How a Group of 3Mers Made an Impact in Rural Vietnam
Apr 9, 2018
  • When asked why they love to work for 3M, many employees reply that they get to make a difference in the world every day. To draw on this passion, 3M offers 3M Impact, a program where teams of 3Mers travel to communities around the world to spend two immersive weeks collaborating with local organizations to contribute to a solution for a pressing social or environmental issue. Kris Hansen, lab manager, Transportation Safety Division, 3M Corporate Headquarters, recently visited Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, for 3M Impact.

    “Before my trip, I thought of 3M Impact as a 3M outreach program—a way for 3M to affect positive change in a way that isn’t just financial,” shared Kris. “Through my time in Vietnam, what I came to appreciate is that 3M’s real investment was in employees like me. That’s because my time working in Vietnam was the most impactful personal and professional development experience I’ve ever had.”

    In her day-to-day work in Maplewood, Minn., Kris provides technical and operational leadership to 3M’s Priority Growth Platforms program called Connected Roads, which develops roadway infrastructure solutions for automated vehicles. And while her role during 3M Impact was technically very different from her day-to-day job, she faced many of the same challenges. Some of these include trying to develop a solution for a problem that is not completely defined, working closely and intensely with a cross-functional team made up of individuals with very different perspectives, and identifying gaps and stepping out of her comfort zone to address them to move the team forward. 

    In Vietnam, Kris and her 3M teammates worked with the startup for-profit company Happy Tap, whose mission is to bring better hand-washing habits and infrastructure to rural communities. For children in Vietnam, the most common cause of death is diarrhea and pneumonia—two preventable diseases primarily linked to poor personal sanitation habits. 

    During the two-week project, Kris and her team helped Happy Tap develop an effective product launch campaign to sell the handwashing stations to families living in cities where handwashing infrastructures are already in place. For each handwashing station that was purchased, they could donate one to a community that needed better handwashing infrastructure. 

    The team also helped Happy Tap develop other avenues to generate interest in their mission, by writing an investment package and creating a donation model that would allow Happy Tap to solicit individual donations from private donors in countries other than Vietnam.

    Although many of her technical skills and expertise didn’t directly apply to her team’s project, Kris was able to focus on developing different soft skills, like learning to be patient and thinking creatively, during her time in Ho Chi Minh. 

    “There is a Vietnamese proverb: ‘Eat slowly, it is good for the stomach; plow deeply, it is good for the fields.’ I sure hope my time in Vietnam did some good for the ‘fields’; my experiences in Vietnam ‘plowed deeply’ in me and I am forever changed,” said Kris. “I am so proud to work for a company that is willing to invest in me and in the mission of making a difference around the globe.” 

  • What has been your experience with 3M?

    Kris’s story is truly inspiring and at 3M, we want to make sure all our employees and candidates interested in 3M are heard. We’d love for you to anonymously share your experiences interviewing with or working at 3M on our Glassdoor page.

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