Right out of high school, Oakes hired on with DuPont in Tennessee loading export trucks carrying polymer resin. A young man with natural curiosity and a mechanical aptitude, he was pulled into a number of new projects.
“One of those projects got me an invitation to join a start-up,” Oakes says. “That led me to Qingdao where I helped produce the first Nylon 6,6 fiber in China. It was an interesting time, doing this work through a translator with a production group who didn’t speak any English.”
Oakes’ career took another interesting turn, with the blessing of his employer, he took leave to join the Air Force. He enlisted and was moved to Texas, Mississippi and Colorado in a few short years.
His last military post put him in the Second Space Warning Squadron — an Air Force missile defense team supporting the U.S. and allied forces with missile warning and battlespace awareness.
“If you were watching the news during and after the Gulf War and heard the warnings for the Scud missiles,” Oakes says. “It was my team’s satellite and computers that were actually monitoring and tracking those missiles. It was an interesting diversion from my work at DuPont.”
From Military to night school
After returning to DuPont, Oakes wanted to further his education and started going to night school. Working the swing shift and managing a crew of 56 employees at DuPont, he earned his bachelor’s degree in business.
In 2004, INVISTA was created when Koch Industries acquired DuPont Textiles and Interiors. This road led him to focus on supply chain, systems analysis and process improvement. After a combined 28 years with INVISTA and DuPont, Oakes joined the Koch Agronomic Services team to help integrate the supply chain processes and meet the growing demands of the business.
Global Supply Chain
Oakes will be the first person to tell you no two days are alike in the supply chain and customer service profession. That’s even more true when you need to get products to destinations around the world. He and his team work through any number of situations, from a domestic driver shortage during the pandemic to the availability of containers and vessel space around the world.
“We deal with a lot of things each day, but we’re passionate about our work,” Oakes says. “And I’m passionate about the people I work with across Koch. Individually, each team member is putting forth their best effort to complete the many tasks that need to get done, but we need to never forget how important it is to be connected to the broader team.”
The work provides him with a lot of satisfaction, knowing that his team has met the needs of our customers – internal and external while building relationships along the way. Knowing he’s helping farmers and the community makes the results even more important.
“The products we ship around the world means we help farmers grow more with less waste,” Oakes says. “With KAS’ stabilizers and micronutrient product offerings, growers can experience reduced losses of nitrogen and increased optimization of key nutrients, so there’s less loss of the raw materials you’re utilizing and increased ROI. That’s important to any business, not just in farming.”
Driven, even away from work
When Oakes isn’t at work, he’s still driven — remodeling nearly every home he and his family have lived in. And when he’s not doing that, he’s restoring classic cars.
“Anybody who knows me, knows I really enjoy classic cars,” Oakes says. “We have a three-car garage currently and I am out of space. So, once all of the home remodeling is completed, I hope to build a new garage.”
He says there's a sense of accomplishment working with his hands, taking a problem, solving it, and then putting the resolution in place.
Those same problem-solving skills, combined with the ability to visualize how pieces need to fit together, have served Oakes well on the roads he’s taken.