VP at Procter & Gamble shares advice with students in leadership course

March 11, 2022

Jeanie Knuth

Jeanie Knuth

Students who have the opportunity to learn by doing — be it through research, a campus job, an internship or co-op — should do so, Jeanie Knuth, ChE ’98, says. And for those interested in pursuing a leadership path, she highly recommends taking the new Engineering Leadership and Strategic Communications class.

The course, ENGINR 2001, features visits from prominent alumni such as Knuth, who shared her insights and advice with students earlier this week. Knuth is Vice President of Research & Development at Procter & Gamble, leading the global product development of feminine care products.

“I think it’s incredible that Mizzou offers a course of this nature because I had to learn leadership on the shift, in the moment,’ Knuth said. “It’s great if you’re brilliant and have good ideas, but if you’re not able to successfully execute those ideas or influence others to accept your idea, it’s useless. I appreciate the course because it’s really trying to coach and develop the individual on critical leadership skills so that students who have those brilliant ideas and engineering expertise can get them out and truly make a difference.”

Students who have internships and co-op experiences should take full advantage of not only the work experience but also mentorship and networking opportunities, she said. Get a feel for the company culture, learn from those around you and look for common objectives among co-workers. Those relationships will pay dividends for years, she said.

Knuth knows first-hand the power of taking advantage of opportunities. At Mizzou Engineering, she was involved in the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Chemical Engineers, and she worked as an office assistant for then-Professor Thomas Marrero.

“It was the Missouri Method before it was branded,” she said. “There were all of these faculty investing in students and bringing research to the school. I just remember the one-on-one engagement we had that helped me find my way and opportunities.”

She credits Paul Chan, now associate professor emeritus in chemical engineering, for encouraging her to seek opportunities that led her to Procter & Gamble. After two internships there, she accepted a full-time job in research and development after graduation.

She has since worked in a variety of roles across business units including feminine care and baby care. In her current role as vice president, she leads by example, taking time to help others along the way. Knuth mentors dozens of people in the company, primarily those who face cultural or gender biases.

“I try to be a role model and be authentic, relatable and accessible,” she said. “I try to spend a lot of time in one-on-one mentoring but also sponsoring trainings and leadership forums.”

Outside of the company, Knuth volunteers for the Greater Cincinnati YWCA Women of Achievement Sponsorship Committee helping build relationships between corporate and private sponsors.

She also continues to give back to Mizzou Engineering, where she has been inducted into Chemical Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

“You lift as you climb,” she said. “That’s my truth. There’s no way I would be where I am today if it weren’t for Mizzou. My responsibility is to give back and help.”

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