At 3M, the greatest by-products of bringing together so many talented minds, are the unexpected ideas that emerge when they work together.
At 3M, mentorship is a critical source of innovation and is fostered both formally and informally at every level. The result of developing so many mentor-mentee relationships—many of which bridge disciplines and business units—is a cross-pollination effect. It’s these types of interdisciplinary connections that make truly creative and unexpected ideas come to life.
“In 3M, creativity comes from connecting the dots from different points of expertise. Each person is very deep in what they know, but the great things happen when we come together.”
- Reema Chatterjee
3M Advanced Product Development Specialist
After a successful career in 3M’s Corporate Research Analytical Lab, Reema Chatterjee decided to move into product development. She knew she had her work cut out for her. The company supported the move, but quickly gaining expertise in her new field was going to be challenging. Luckily, Reema had someone on her side: one of 3M’s most renowned pioneers, whose work has literally transformed an industry.
Ken Smith is a man who, in many 3M circles (and beyond), needs no introduction. As a Corporate Scientist in 3M’s Traffic Safety and Security Division, Ken has made breakthrough contributions to optic modeling and microreplication, earning recognition as a member of 3M’s esteemed Carlton Society.
Ken and Reema work on finding new ways to improve traffic and personal safety with retroreflective technologies. Nearly doubling the brightness of protective devices like road signs and safety vests, these technologies rely on minute reflective prisms that precisely return a beam of light from (for example) a car’s headlights to the driver.
Though Ken and Reema worked in related fields, their roles were very different: Ken focused on optical modeling, while Reema’s focus was materials and process development. At other companies these two scientists might have been siloed off from one another. Luckily at 3M, they developed a mentor-mentee relationship that flourishes to this day, leading to the continued innovation of several traffic safety products.
“Often it’s really reverse mentorship. When you work with someone who’s smart and has a fresh perspective, you gain insights you’d never have discovered yourself. I really think I get more out of mentorship than the mentee.”
- Ken Smith
3M Corporate Scientist
3M’s equivalent of the Hall of Fame, the Carlton Society demonstrates the company’s commitment to technical innovation at the corporate level. It’s completely peer-nominated, representing the highest achievement a 3M scientist or engineer can reach. Membership not only recognizes individuals who made products worth billions of dollars, but the collaboration and technological discovery it took to make those solutions possible.