Helping employees climb the ladder through education

“I don’t think I would have gone for my degree without the Mercury tuition-reimbursement program,” said Joe Pausma, who began his career at Mercury Marine in facilities engineering in 2008. Pausma often squeezes homework into lunch hours at his desk, but says it is worth the effort as he envisions advancing from technician to manufacturing engineer.

Sandy Brodnax, who wants to grow beyond her position in Mercury’s international exports group, shares Pausma’s sentiments. She’s currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in business while caring for her three children and aging parents. Brodnax wants to build on her accounting degree from Marine Park Technical College, just as Pausma wanted to build on his associate degree in mechanical design. Both are about halfway through their respective programs at Marian University and plan to graduate in the next few years. Both agree that education is an important benefit, and they appreciate the opportunity of continuing their education.

Amy Weisner, who started at Mercury in 2002 administering extended service contracts, has worked her way up to a management position and now wants to earn a master’s degree. With Mercury’s assistance, she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and in two or three more years, while juggling work, marriage and a two-year old, she plans to complete her MBA online at Southern New Hampshire University. Weisner enjoys applying what she learns to new areas of her current position and hopes the degree will help her move up at Mercury.

Jackie Kottke reached her goal this year, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on operations management. She came from technical college to Mercury in 1987, performed data entry, then moved to planning and to outboard engines, parts and accessories. She is currently a project manager. Kottke said she enjoys strengthening her ability to manage projects and plans to add another certification. Though reaching her goal took seven years, Kottke said she received continual encouragement and support from her supervisors.

“I see myself as a lifer here,” she said. “Mercury is a great company, and they’ve treated me well.” Investing in facilities and technology is necessary for any business to grow. For Mercury Marine, investing in its employees to achieve personal and professional growth is equally important.

Carrera Panamericana

While Mercury Marine founder Carl Kiekhaefer’s success in NASCAR is legendary, his desire to conquer automobile racing was initiated by running in a 1951 race in Mexico.

The Carrera Panamericana was a 1,933-mile race that zigzagged over some of Mexico’s most treacherous and desolate roads. In their first attempt at the Panamericana, Kiekhaefer and crew got off to a bad start, driving the race cars and support truck 4,000 miles from Wisconsin to Mexico, arriving hot and exhausted. Though the team finished in a respectable third place, Kiekhaefer was incensed by being beaten by two Ferrari cars.

The following year, he returned by airplane and had the cars transported by truck. Team Mercury finished third again, this time behind two Fords, despite illegal modifications made to the Fords and discovered by post-race inspectors.

That was enough for Kiekhaefer, who moved to NASCAR where he believed rules were honored. But after dominating the fledgling circuit for two years, rule changes he perceived as aimed directly at him drove Kiekhaefer from the sport forever.

Chad and Jeremy Bohn (Mercury years: 1995 – present)

Growing up, cousins Chad and Jeremy Bohn watched their fathers — Clarence and Ed — leave home five days a week and head for Mercury Marine. But neither Chad nor Jeremy gave much thought about working there until it was time to “get a real job.”

By sheer coincidence, the cousins started working at Mercury the same day and ended up working side by side in aluminum die-casting (Plant 17). “It was special from a father’s point of view,” said Clarence, “but it was more important to see them get a good job with a future.”

The pair felt no additional pressure to perform. “But we knew they would hear about it if we screwed up,” said Jeremy. The four Bohns have more than 100 years of Mercury service between them, and “it’s closer to 200 years when you count our moms’ sides of the family,” Chad said.

Avid anglers, the Bohn family has had multiple teams compete in the annual Mercury National Walleye Tournament in Fond du Lac since its inception.