Carlonda Reilly has never been worried much about the expectations of other people. As Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Kennametal, and one of the few female executives in the STEM space, her life is a testament to the fact that gifted and passionate women worldwide are focusing their eyes on scientific and technological horizons once thought unreachable.
Since 2018, Reilly has served as CTO of Kennametal, which has thousands of employees in nearly 40 countries. The manufacturing company operates in a diverse range of markets – aerospace, earthworks, energy, general engineering, and transportation – and depends on Reilly's leadership and deep expertise to deliver end-to-end innovation. Additionally, Reilly serves on the board of directors for W. L. Gore and Associates, Inc. She is also acting Chairman of the Board for Kennametal Shared Services Private Limited.
Her journey can be traced back to Terre Haute Indiana, where she grew up. As a youth, Reilly was not only fascinated by math and science, but how these fields related to practical applications. In high school she chose to write a paper about the fractional distillation of crude oil. This cemented her lifelong interest in chemical engineering. After graduating valedictorian of her class in 1986, she landed at MIT, where she was a distinct minority studying chemical engineering. But this didn't stop her from receiving her bachelor's at MIT before heading to the University of Delaware for her master's degree and doctorate, all in chemical engineering.
Prior to Kennametal, she worked at DuPont for 22 years. Greatly respected for her work ethic and expertise, she held various R&D, operations, marketing, and business leadership roles. Most recently, she served as global technology director in DuPont’s transportation and advanced polymers business. During her time at DuPont, she also worked across a diverse range of advanced materials technologies. This includes the manufacturing of chemicals, coatings, metallurgical tooling, and wear solutions, among others.
For the outstanding contributions she made to the industry during her lengthy career, Reilly was inducted into the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2021. Never one to rest on her laurels, she continues to spend a significant part of her time mentoring other women and minorities, helping them pursue their career dreams. It’s a topic that is close to her heart. Looking over her 25-year career in terms of opportunities for women in manufacturing, Reilly said recently, “I think we have definitely progressed . . . We’re judged now on our skills and on abilities." But while progress has opened new doors for women today, the executive warned, “we still have work to do . . . there are still challenges."