Better Work, Better World: Sawyer Desotelle of BW Papersystems

February 21, 2023
  • Brent Stewart
  • Brent Stewart
    Digital Strategy & Content Leader at Barry-Wehmiller

Despite having grown up in Phillips, WI (US), Sawyer Desotelle – like many other kids from small rural towns – left home and moved to the big city to start his career and family.

But the right opportunity brought Sawyer back home and into a company that gave him challenging, fulfilling work where he feels like he makes a difference. He is now the Corrugating Engineering Controls Team Leader at BW Papersystems.

“Having the opportunity to work here and lead a team and make decisions that would frame how we're going to move forward was something I was really excited to do,” Sawyer said.

Barry-Wehmiller acquired Marquip, Inc., which was based in Phillips, in 2000. The acquisition of Marquip was the foundation for the BW Papersystems business of today, which is the combination of 13 well-known global brands that serve the corrugating, paperboard sheeting, packaging, folding carton, and security documents industries.

Technically, you’d say BW Papersystems makes corrugators and corrugated finishing equipment; folio-size, cut-size, and digital-size sheeters to convert paper, board, and other materials into boxes, folding cartons, ream-wrapped paper for copy machines, and passports.  Or, you could just say they make the machines that produce corrugated boxes that are used to ship everything. In addition, BW Papersystems’ portfolio includes stationery and passport production, specialized paper-converting applications, and RFID processing technology.

As a kid, Sawyer was able to see first-hand the impact of Barry-Wehmiller’s presence on the town.

“They started bringing on a whole bunch of engineers and growing the team,” he said. “As the engineers came in, they came in with young families, and the young families brought a bunch of kids to the school district. The school district started to expand. They brought in teachers and they brought in families. And it was awesome to grow up in that.”

After leaving Phillips, Sawyer spent 27 years in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul, Minnesota area. The last ten years there he worked as an embedded hardware design engineer.

But his time in the city began to wear on him.

“So, everybody in the Twin Cities had this mass exodus every weekend,” Sawyer said. “It would be a three-hour drive up to the cabin and then you'd spend a few hours there. And then you'd drive back begrudgingly to the city to go and get into the grind of your everyday life. And then rinse, lather, and repeat for the following weekend for the few precious months of summer sunlight that we get.”

The decision to move back to Phillips to join BW Papersystems and be closer to family was almost a no-brainer. No more three-hour drives to escape into nature.

“I can walk outside and see trees and forests, and I can go hiking through the woods,” Sawyer said. “I can go out and go kayaking. After work, I don't have to get in my car and drive to my cabin, I'm here.”

As part of Barry-Wehmiller, Sawyer can definitely see the difference from other companies because of our culture of Truly Human Leadership.

“I think our culture makes a difference because we want to develop you both as an individual (teammate) and as a person, as well as a teammate and a contributor to the organization,” he said. “We're in the business of developing people, in the business of developing leaders, and solving problems that are going to help people. If it doesn't help somebody, it doesn't make somebody's life better, then we're not going to do it. The challenges that we're trying to solve are to make somebody's life better, it always will be. And this organization recognizes that.”

And working at BW Papersystems gives Sawyer the opportunity to use his gifts and abilities to not only make a difference in the lives of his teammates and the people he leads, but also in the lives of his customers.

“The group of engineers that I get the chance to work with are incredible,” he said. “They're some of the best engineers that I've worked with. And so, getting up and coming in, I don't know what challenges we're going to be faced with in a given day. We have a variety of different customers and customer challenges. So, when you wake up, you don't know who's run into any kind of issues and who has something unique and challenging that needs to be solved. But I know when I get up and come in, that the team that I work with is going to be eager and ready to solve those issues. And that's nice. We're all in this together and everybody draws on the experience that they have to try to come up with the best solution possible. And that's pretty good.”

Although Sawyer is from Phillips and partially returned to Phillips to be closer to family, as part of BW Papersystems, he’s hoping to be part of something that is bigger than just his family.

“What's interesting is, the culture actually goes beyond the walls of the building, it's actually the community,” Sawyer said. “Everybody's still here, which I think speaks volumes to just the company as a whole that all of the legacy knowledge is still here, but it's reaching a point where there's going to be a passing of the torch, changing of the guards. So, I joined and brought a young family back, and then I'm looking to recruit and grow the engineering team, hopefully bring in a batch of young families, teachers, grow out the community and do this again, and create this really thriving, vibrant environment.

“Both of my in-laws work here. My wife is from Phillips. I met her when I was in daycare, we're daycare sweethearts, so I've known her since I was four years old. So, while I'm married into the family, it's still the generation ahead of me and then I'm the next and I've got my kids. Carrying on that generational legacy would be really cool.”

Better Work. Better World. is a video series designed to shine a light on team members throughout the global Barry-Wehmiller organization. You can watch the video through the link above.

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