When Eryn Schneider joined the LAS Leaders organization as a student, she had no idea how it would lead to a decade-long (and counting) successful career at one of the largest energy companies in the world.
Schneider (BS, ’09, chemical engineering), a Waukesha, Wisconsin native, came to the U of I with plans to pursue chemical engineering. Her parents’ careers in math and pharmaceuticals inspired her choice of major.
Soon after arriving at U of I she joined the LAS Leaders organization, which started in 2001 in the College of LAS Office of Advancement as a way for students to become involved on campus. Part of their role was to help host visiting alumni.
During Schneider’s sophomore year she served as a campus tour guide for Dennis Houston (BS, ’74, chemical engineering), the vice president of supply and transportation at ExxonMobil, who was on campus to receive an LAS Alumni Achievement Award.
Ironically, several weeks before that, Schneider had applied to ExxonMobil for an internship. She was not accepted for the position due to her lack of industry experience at the time. She didn’t know that Houston’s visit would be a second chance.
Schneider worked hard to make sure that Houston and his wife had an enjoyable experience. She spent time with the couple and showed them around campus.
“It was all about alumni coming back to campus and helping them connect with their roots and what was meaningful to them when they were at the university,” said Schneider. “My goal was not to get a job. But at the end, he said, ‘I think there could be something in you that could be valuable at ExxonMobil.’”
Several weeks after Houston’s visit, Schneider was offered an internship at ExxonMobil. This was the start of her career there.
Schneider graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a minor in technology and management. She began working at ExxonMobil full time the same year, and she has been there ever since.
Schneider credits LAS Leaders for helping her step out of her student mentality and think about her future after graduation.
“It gave me a really good view of the future,” said Schneider. “A big part of that organization was interfacing with alumni directly."
Schneider has moved across the country working in 10 different roles for ExxonMobil. She has been located in Houston, Illinois, and Louisiana, where she currently resides.
She began her career as a process contact engineer, working on the technical side of things, but she has since worked in a series of supervisory roles.
“I love how much I get to interact with people,” said Schneider. “I always knew I wanted to be more on the leadership side.”
Currently, she works as the operations manager for the Baton Rouge Plastics Plant. She lives there with her husband, Bob (BS, '08, civil engineering; MS, '09, construction management), who is the ExxonMobil construction manager for Baton Rouge area projects group. They met through ExxonMobil and have two sons, Will and Drew.
Schneider believes in being passionate about what you do. “I always saw ExxonMobil as a place I could have a phenomenal impact,” she said.
She feels strongly about using her position at ExxonMobil to influence the future of the energy industry—specifically the need for energy in developing nations and finding a way to a lower carbon future.
While her experience with LAS Leaders helped her secure a job at ExxonMobil, she sees how the organization helped foster the skills that allowed her to grow there, too.
“One of the biggest characteristics of leadership is to care and communicate,” said Schneider. “I think LAS Leaders really allowed me to display both.