From an early age, Rhonda Laughman knew she wanted to be a chemical engineer.
“I always enjoyed science, chemistry, and math throughout school,” she says. “My parents were not college-educated, and I knew that I wanted something different for myself.”
Rhonda graduated from Ohio State with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 2000 and began working for Cargill, a food and beverage manufacturing company, that same year.
“The Cargill facility was in the same town as my high school and once I understood what they did there, that chemical engineers had great earning potential and that Cargill hired engineers, my initial goal was set – go to Ohio State, get my degree, and get a job at Cargill.”
She hasn’t looked back since. After twenty-three years, Rhonda – Anvil’s Project Management Resource Manager – reflects on an impressive career that has only just begun.
In 2006, Rhonda and fellow Cargill engineers had the opportunity to travel to Efremov, Russia to help support the development of a new plant.
Rhonda served a variety of roles at Cargill, such as the Production Supervisor in Dressings, Sauces, and Mayonnaise. Here, she would supervise a production line that filled gallon sized containers with different products like ranch, barbeque sauce, mustard, and vinegar. She later moved on to supervise the ‘picking’ department – this group unloaded, picked, weighed out, and staged all the ingredients that went into Cargill’s various recipes.
“We made products for clients like Burger King, Wendy’s, and Sysco,” she shares. “It made me fully appreciate all of the work that goes into making something as simple as that small packet of dressing you get at a fast-food restaurant.”
In 2012, Rhonda became a Project Engineer for Cargill’s Vegetable Oil Refinery, a role she would occupy for an additional two years. In this position, Rhonda was given her first opportunity to work in an industrial refinery, an experience that would come to shape the rest of her career as we know it.
After fourteen years with Cargill, Rhonda had accomplished all she could from the company she dreamed of working for as a child. The Ohio native knew it had come time to move on; for Rhonda, sitting still has never been an option.
In 2014, Rhonda joined Anvil as a Project Leader to contribute to ConocoPhillips’ work in the Bakken region.
Rhonda photographed in 2015 during her first trip to the Bakken region.
“I am super proud of the work we did, and continue to do, for ConocoPhillips Bakken,” Rhonda shares. “We were able to establish a strong relationship with the client that enabled us to provide the client with the best customer service. It was a great experience for me.”
At the time of writing, Anvil has completed over 420,000 hours of work for ConocoPhillips in the Bakken region alone.
Regarding Rhonda’s work with ConocoPhillips, Kyle Volf, the client Bakken Project Manager at that time, wrote this in 2019:
“The model review was especially impressive given the short timeline and numerous challenges we’ve encountered along the way,” he said, “I’m so, so happy with the results!”
Coincidentally, Kyle joined Anvil earlier this year as our Vice President of Operations – Billings Branch after eight years with ConocoPhillips. He now works alongside Rhonda every day in our Montana office.
“Rhonda is a first-rate team member. Dedicated, organized, and ready to pitch-in on any activity,” Kyle says. “She brings a high level of focus and enthusiasm to her work and always has a smile and laugh to share with those around her.”
Rhonda participates in Billings’ 2023 Free-Throw Contest.
In 2020, Rhonda became Anvil’s Project Management Resource Manager. It is now her responsibility to organize and oversee the team of professionals that direct many of Anvil’s larger projects. By providing Project Managers with the resources they require, she ensures Anvil’s most complicated work is completed effectively, within budget, and on schedule. It’s demanding, intensive work – but perhaps the most rewarding of Rhonda’s career so far.
“In my previous work, I was on the operations side,” she explains. “This required me to always be on call, installing projects on weekends and holidays. I really enjoy working for Anvil now, and the balance it’s provided for my life at home.”
Rhonda has also spent time on Anvil’s board – between the years of 2018 and 2022, Rhonda was selected to participate in the Anvil Governance Committee. Rhonda was the first employee to ever be selected for this role, and the first woman to serve on Anvil’s board. In more ways than one, Rhonda was able to bring new perspectives and experiences to our board’s discussions.
“I was very appreciative of the chance to serve on the board,” Rhonda shares. “That position allowed me to better understand how the board functions, deepen my business acumen, and share my perspective. In addition to the normal board business, during my tenure I got to participate in the interview and selection process of a new board member.”
Rhonda was formally recognized by Anvil’s board for her tenure.
Beyond her formal responsibilities, Rhonda has spent much of her time at Anvil invested in the relationships that make our workplaces and communities so special, regularly going above and beyond to bring smiles to the faces of her coworkers in Billings.
This October, Rhonda helped organize a sock drive for at-risk communities in the Billings area. She was able to collect over a hundred pairs of socks. The beneficiary, Yellowstone County United Way, sent her a note a few weeks later: “Thanks to you, we are providing basic services for vulnerable populations, educational programs to ensure school success, and healthy resources that help foster self-reliance for every person in Yellowstone County.”
Pushing our next generation of engineers forward, Rhonda is also a reliable mentor for many of her juniors – she can often be found administering advice or sharing specific project expertise around our organization.
“I can think back to lots of experiences in my career where people I’ve worked with have taken the time to explain things to me,” Rhonda says. “In all cases, it helped to deepen my understanding, increase my insight, and give me empathy for what someone else might have going on. I appreciated that people took the time for me and took that positive experience forward in finding opportunities to help others.”
Rhonda (dressed as Bob Ross) and Sara Schantz donated their collected socks on Halloween.
Despite everything she’s already accomplished for Anvil, Rhonda can’t help but look to the future of our organization with eager excitement.
“It’s thrilling to see us branch out into Salt Lake City and I’m excited to see us grow our client base in that area,” she shares.
Those who work closely with Rhonda will already know of the rate at which she pushes all of us forward.
As one of Anvil’s fastest moving employees, Rhonda helps to set the pace of our organization – not only through her direct contributions to Anvil’s most important projects, or the invaluable significance of her time on our board, but also through the example she sets for those ambitious enough to follow in her footsteps.