Employer of choice: POET earns top marks with workplace culture tied to mission

Sept. 27, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by POET.

After spending years in the world of corporate banking and insurance, Lezlee Herdina joined Sioux Falls-based POET in 2007.

The company’s workplace culture, challenging work and overarching commitment to creating a more sustainable world make it a rewarding place to work, Herdina and other team members say.

And, Herdina adds, the company cares about employee well-being and shows it through benefits such as an on-site gym and other wellness offerings.

“POET walks the walk when it comes to developing people, and the care we receive is not something I’d experienced before,” said Herdina, director of financial planning and analysis. “I’m grateful for being here every day. There’s definitely a positive attitude of taking on whatever and figuring out a way to make it work. Being part of a team with that can-do attitude, it’s pervasive.”

It’s a winning culture that earned POET the Workplace Excellence Award from the Sioux Empire Society for Human Resource Management for larger companies two years in a row. The award recognizes family-friendly companies with a dedicated workforce that show a strong culture of empowerment and growth.

The company offers career and growth opportunities across a wide spectrum — more than you might think would be available at a biofuels and biotechnology company.

POET hires across industries from research to technology to finance. At its home office in Sioux Falls, the company employs more than 340 people in a variety of job areas.

The largest career area at POET is engineering, followed by accounting/finance and information technology. Like any growing business, an extensive team that includes professionals from all spheres also supports the company.

“What’s cool about POET is we have every role from accounting to sales to journalism and communications,” said Steve Bly, bioproducts research director. “If you have the passion to make a difference, we probably have a spot for you.”

In his role, Bly leads a team of research scientists and engineers to develop products other than ethanol from corn. A recent example is JIVE, a renewable asphalt rejuvenator and modifier that is a direct replacement for petroleum products. POET recently was recognized on Fast Company’s list of most innovative companies for its development of JIVE.

“What’s really rewarding is the teamwork,” Bly said. “All of these projects are so complex, and it takes strong teamwork to get them executed. In research, we all work on projects that will be commercialized, and our team takes a lot of pride in making it efficient and working on products and solutions to replace petrol-based products in a sustainable fashion.”

Bly also emphasizes the diversity of talent within the company, particularly among scientists and engineers.

“We’ve got people with anything from a bachelor’s degree to a Ph.D. in chemistry, biology, microbiology, engineering and really any science,” he said. “It’s a pretty diverse group, and we need that. We have an open-door policy, so if you need more expertise, you just walk down the hall and ask someone.”

The company also provides work in niche areas such as research and development that has allowed team members like Melissa Tille, analytical laboratory manager, to build careers in state instead of moving to larger metropolitan areas.

Melissa Tille is the analytical laboratory manager at POET and works primarily in POET’s research and development arm. Photo by Greg Latza.

Tille, who is originally from Winner and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, began working as a chemist at POET in 2005 after working briefly in Minneapolis for a pharmaceutical company.

“As an analytical chemist, there are limited job opportunities for my field in South Dakota. POET has given me the chance to grow my career and leadership while working on meaningful projects right here in my home state,” Tille said.

Aside from the collaborative work environment, employees enjoy benefits such as profit sharing, which they become eligible for after one year of employment.

Other benefits include flexible scheduling, an on-site community garden, events throughout the year like a company picnic and Christmas party, community involvement with a school supply drive or volunteering opportunities, and a world-class fitness facility.

Cole Fricke, POET’s wellness coordinator, said the company’s commitment to employees’ health and well-being goes far beyond the gym.

“When I was interviewed and hired, they described my department as a tripod,” Fricke said. “My expertise is exercise and nutrition, but we have a spiritual care adviser who does a Bible study and prayer group, we offer counseling and community outreach, and we even have a massage therapist who offers services in the energy center. It’s really about the whole person: physical, mental and spiritual.”

POET’s wellness facility includes a full-sized gym, as well as a separate room for group fitness classes.

Wellness coordinator Cole Fricke instructs Tonya Morken, senior manager of distribution and business processes at POET, on proper weightlifting form at the company’s on-site gym, one of several company benefits that support employee well-being. Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim

“There’s investment from the leadership at all levels,” Fricke said. “They want you to develop, and they want to make sure employees are taking care of themselves, not from a bottom-line standpoint but just because it’s the right thing to do.”

Between a diverse lineup of jobs across the company and the prioritization of employee care and development, POET continues to set itself apart as an innovative employer in Sioux Falls.

Exciting new jobs at POET

If you’re excited about POET’s mission and workplace culture, check out POET’s open positions! We’re always looking for people who want to make a difference. Get the details at poet.com/careers

Accounting/finance

Accountant II

Accounts payable supervisor

Information technology

Developer – data analytics

Developer

Research

Analytical research scientist

Research scientist – engineer

Engineering

Senior process engineer

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Employer of choice: POET earns top marks with workplace culture tied to mission

“POET walks the walk when it comes to developing people.” Enjoy this look inside the culture that’s led to winning a Workplace Excellence Award two years in a row.

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