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Kayla Schwickerath

Kayla Schwickerath

BS Mathematics and Spanish
Wartburg College

Target Corporation

I have always enjoyed math. Crazy as it is, I remember being excited to do my math homework after school before I headed out to help milk cows on our farm in small New Hampton, IA. Most of the time I did my math homework on the bus ride home because I couldn't wait to do it. It was my favorite subject ever since I can remember. I think it was because I don't like there to be a "gray" area. I like answers to be black and white and to be logical. You can imagine my struggle to adjust to the 'real world' when I got out of college and found out that although I would use math in my job in the day to day operations, the answers aren't always black and white.

When I was at the end of my junior year at Wartburg College in Waverly, IA in May of 2004, I was lucky enough to have an advisor by the name of Brian Birgen who looked out for his students. I was working at Pizza Hut and I was content with that being my summer job. Dr. Birgen wasn't. He insisted that I look for an internship and told me to start at the Target Distribution Center. I honestly think he would have stood between me and that waitress station at Pizza Hut had I not listened to his advise. I applied there as their first intern; the Distribution Center had only been open a year and a half. I interviewed and got the position. I had a project for which I had to develop a cost function in order to increase the efficiency of an area of the warehouse which stored the non-conveyable freight. This is where my math expertise came in. I created variables and functions in order to analyze data that I had gathered to determine the most efficient layout of that particular area of the warehouse. The project was successful and I was offered a position to return as an executive after I finished my last year at Wartburg.

I graduated in May 2005 and started as an executive with Target Corporation in June 2005. I guess you could say I lead people and we put boxes through the building and to our stores. That would be the simple way of putting it. There is a lot of math that plays into that though. I analyze data on a day to day basis to determine what staffing do I need; what areas of the warehouse do I need the staffing. We plan how many cartons each day we need to process in order to maintain the level of service needed to keep product in stock in our stores but not too much as we can't overflow the backroom. If we have variances between our planned volume and actual volume worked we analyze that data to determine where adjustments need to be made.

Along with these day to day operations, I also take on projects that allow me to incorporate my math abilities. As an example, when I transferred to start up the new Dekalb, IL Target Distribution Center one of my many tasks was to program our packing modules for our 47 stores we would service. The packing modules are where we boxes on shelves and each box is designated to one of our Target stores. We break apart vendor boxes of freight to give the stores 'just enough' of what they need. I had to gather information about the volume of each store and determine the best layout that would minimize the travel time for those team members that would be breaking apart that freight. This is one of the many projects that have involved math.

As you can see, a lot of what I do involves much data and analysis. Once you are in the 'real world' for a while, you begin to realize that the math you do isn't only data and analysis though, it is also using the wisdom and experience that you gain over time. Math is in my day to day life and it's become so much a part of me that I don't even realize it's math anymore, it's just doing my job. Once I really think about it though, it is virtually in almost every aspect of my job... this is probably why I love my job so much!