Alumni Corner: Miranda Helmer

A lot of YSU STEM alumni go on to pursue extraordinary careers in their field. Our STEM alumni include people who work at Hershey’s, VEC, Inc., and even NASA.

Among those outstanding alumni is Miranda Helmer, who is the Director of Research & Development for new product innovation at The Clorox Company.

Miranda graduated from YSU in 1997 with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and said that YSU was a wonderful experience and that being a Penguin helped her get her return on investment sooner than if she went to a more expensive university.

“YSU provided me with exceptional academics without the high price tag of other universities,” she said. “This enabled me to not be weighed down with the stress of how I would ever pay off my student loans.”

She manages a department of 24 Engineers and Ph.D. Chemists to develop new products for Clorox’s home care and laundry product lines. Some of the recent innovations from her team include Clorox Smart Seek Bleach, which was named as one of Better Homes and Gardens Best New Products for 2015 and was voted as the Best New Laundry Stain Remover.

Miranda said that she did have to work a bit harder than others with degrees from big schools, but said that academic organizations on campus were a big help.

“My advice would be to create strong chapters of organization such as [Society of Women Engineers] or [American Institute of Chemical Engineers].  These organizations have large conferences that companies attend,” she said. “At these conferences network, network, network.  There is a lot of recruiting that happens at these types of events.  Since the companies aren’t coming to your campus, you have to go to them.”

Miranda said that a big part of her success was being flexible with work location. After graduation she moved to Wisconsin to be a production supervisor with Frito-Lay PepsiCo. Two years after joining Frito-Lay, she was transferred to their Research and Development department, moving her to Dallas.

After spending 11 years at Frito-Lay and obtaining an MBA, Miranda and her husband made the move to California, where she put in two years at Chevron before moving to Clorox.

She also addressed a common thought of most students: “How many times will I actually use this stuff?”

“I mean, really, how many times will I actually need to size a heat exchanger?” she said. “What I didn’t realize was that, more than the exact content they were teaching, they were training my brain a way of thinking. The curriculum is set up to give you broad knowledge of content. The content was used to train our brains how to approach a problem in a structured and logical fashion. That can be applied to anything thrown at you.”

And in case you’re wondering just how many times you’ll need to size a heat exchanger, the answer is one.

“You will likely size a heat exchanger just once in your career but you will use the way of thinking everyday.”