Breathe easy

Computer Science Global Commerce History
November 5, 2020

When COVID-19 struck, Caileigh Marshall ’19 became part of a national effort to produce the gold standard of respirators for healthcare practitioners. Marshall, who majored in both computer science and history at Denison, works with 3M, where she is a member of a research and development IT group. “We basically consult out our software and firmware expertise to R&D projects and groups,” she says.

Little did she know that her first assignment would play a role in saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marshall was tasked with improving lab software for a personal safety group that specializes in Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR for short). PAPRs provide wearers with filtered air through a hood or helmet rather than a tight face mask. They primarily are used in construction, industrial, or pharmaceutical environments — today we routinely see them in hospital settings during the treatment of COVID-19.

She joined a pivotal 3M/Ford partnership in March 2020, with a goal of increasing PAPR production by 600% to meet new demands powered by the assault of COVID-19. Her task for the project was to edit the lab software to qualify new PAPR quality testing stations in manufacturing plants.

“It is an amazing opportunity to be able to work on a high-profile project less than a year after graduating college. It has been both stressful and rewarding work knowing that my code could directly influence the supply of personal protective equipment for the healthcare system during a global pandemic.”

How did she land that job? Hard work, intelligence and a little bit of luck

When she graduated from Denison, Marshall had already spent two summers as an intern at 3M, and she joined the Fortune 100 company a month after commencement. “My family is from Minnesota and my mom was in a women in technology group. In the fall of 2016, she coincidentally sat next to the head of intern recruiting for 3M IT. Through that encounter, I was able to get my foot in the door.”

Giving back

Marshall was back on campus (virtually) to talk to students about her career at 3M as part of the Global Commerce Connects series. Marshall connected with History and Global Commerce Professor Karen Spierling first in class, then on LinkedIn. When Spierling read about Marshall’s position in the 3M/Ford collaboration, she reached out to ask Marshall to participate in a Zoom session with Denison students.

The hour-long discussion covered Marshall’s career at 3M and a Q & A that showed a wide range of curiosity: from questions about how she manages her day, her thoughts about how 3M is being portrayed by the federal administration, tips for connecting to new colleagues/teammates in a remote work setting, and more.

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