The Nucleus of a Georgia-Pacific Job: One Veteranís Story

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Some might think making bath tissue and paper towels isn’t nuclear science. While that may be true, having a nuclear engineering background is actually a valued skill at Georgia-Pacific. And so is being a military veteran.

Navy veteran and Operations Excellence Specialist Nicolette Danenberger is an example of having both backgrounds. Her role at Georgia-Pacific is a “special forces” engineer of sorts, where she and a team of specialists consult with our paper and containerboard mills across the country on designs for operations improvement. Her military experience not only gives her a strong bank of technical skills, but it also provides her with the interpersonal qualities to be successful in her current job.

A native of Zanesville, Ohio, Danenberger enlisted in the military right after high school. “After joining the Navy, I went immediately to nuclear power school where I studied chemistry and physics, nuclear theory and how a reactor works. I learned my way around mechanical equipment,” said Danenberger. “When I finished, I basically had my degree in nuclear engineering.”

Selected to stay on as an instructor, Danenberger had to quickly learn how to teach people in higher ranks, be diplomatic and hone her communication skills. “I taught captains, which can be intimidating, so I had to learn to get in front of a room of people with no fear,” she said.

After eight years in the Navy practicing nuclear engineering technology and then holding civilian jobs in the field, going into the paper manufacturing business wasn’t something on her radar screen. But, Danenberger was ready for a change.

“The nuclear field is my bread and butter, but I needed a new and exciting challenge,” she added. “The fundamentals and processes I learned in the Navy are very applicable to my job. I consult with mills on making their equipment run more efficiently in the operation; I’m able to pull data and put a fresh set of eyes on things.”

When asked about what makes veterans great hires for companies, Danenberger said, “It’s the attention to detail - no matter what field you’re in - you have to have it. In the military, so many people are relying on you to ‘get it right,’ so you learn to have a really strong work ethic.”

In her current job, Danenberger visits multiple Georgia-Pacific facilities across the country and credits her experience in the Navy as giving her an advantage. “You quickly learn how to communicate with all walks of life and different personalities, so when I go into a facility I can easily relate with people to get the job done.”

Veterans Day to Danenberger means a day of remembrance and thanks. “I gained amazing life experience in the Navy and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve made energy to launch an airplane, but I don’t think I did anything to deserve a parade,” she said. “Veterans Day is a time to remember the basic freedoms given to you by those who have served and not take them for granted.”

We want to thank all of Georgia-Pacific’s veteran employees for their service. A special congratulations goes to Nicolette for being honored with a 2013 Top 40 Under 40 Military award from, recognizing top service members who are serving or have served in the U.S. armed forces!

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