I never saw myself as a leader…
Ruth was a shy kid, which made high school hard. In class, she always sat in the back and didn't participate much. She got an email one day from her school about the JA Company Program. "I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. Just that I wanted to help people." It's not uncommon for high school students to be unsure of their direction. And Ruth was no different. Maybe she'd figured that out with this program. But she was a shy student and signing up was a stretch for her. When she first went to the offices of Ikea, the company that was volunteering to host the program, she was terrified. She didn't know anybody and did her best to stay in the back and keep quiet. "I learned quickly--there are no wallflowers in a successful business."
During her first year, she held back, not really sure of what to expect. She was assigned to the supply chain department and responsible for inventory. That first year was eye-opening for Ruth. "I wasn't sure I liked it but I didn't want to give up." She did her best to force herself to participate more and surprised herself by having fun.
They actually created their own business—from start to finish. Their product was a stress relief putty and their company was called Knada. They designed the product, produced the product and sold it. Ruth was part of the supply chain team and they encountered a lot of problems that needed to be solved. She never realized how important supply chain management is. Ruth learned so much that she decided to come back the next year…and the year after that.
As she progressed, she was forced to do more which helped her slowly gain confidence. By the third year, Ruth had found her stride. She loved the supply chain side of their business and had decided this was where she wanted to pursue a career. When job assignments were made her third year, Ruth was elected Vice President of Supply Chain for her company, Colorfall.
JA Company Program students spend 15 weeks starting, building and liquidating a company of their own design. This year, volunteers from Ikea inspired Ruth and students like her to push past their fears and dream big. Now, Ruth does see herself as a leader and plans to start college in the fall. She credits her time in the JA Company Program with her newfound confidence and drive. She's determined to use this experience to continue her personal growth.
After three years in the JA Company Program, she now had a plan for her own career. The volunteers helped her connect business to what she was really passionate about—helping people. She decided she wanted to go into pharmaceuticals—she would make medicine that could help people. Sometimes she still got nervous and felt shy. But the volunteers she met and worked with every year at Ikea taught her something—"I learned that you can't know you'll fail if you never try. If you want to make a difference, you have to change something about yourself."