Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Mentorship Is a Gift that Gives Back
Finding a mentor and being a mentor are both rewarding experiences.
Think back over your personal life. Were there people who were there for you at the right time and the right place? Family members, other relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, kind neighbors—most of us can point to a few people who have helped us navigate life in important ways.
Now, what about your professional life? Is there someone from way back when, elsewhere in your industry, or just down the hall who has made a difference in your career? Someone who took the time to care about your personal success and help you achieve? Someone who stepped up as a mentor?
Hannah Smith, a senior product development engineer with Printpack knows exactly what that feels like, courtesy of the mentorship program run by PLASTICS’ Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) committee.
“Keeping up with customer demands in the wake of COVID, the limitations it has presented, the raw material shortages, the shipping and logistical challenges, being an effective contributor in a remote workplace—those were just some of the things I wanted to talk through with someone,” Hannah said. “Getting a fresh perspective from someone outside my company and talking with someone who has gone through similar experiences from both a work and personal standpoint was wonderful.”
Talent Sharpening Talent
The FLiP Mentorship program pairs plastics professionals under the age of 40 with volunteer mentors from throughout PLASTICS’ member companies. In Hannah’s case, she was paired with Monica Filyaw, Director of Quality, Safety and Regulatory Affairs for PolyQuest. Monica brought plenty of experience to the table both from her corporate life and from the PLASTICS perspective; she is the first woman to chair the association’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee.
“Monica understood my role and the dynamic within the company and was able to pull from similar past experiences to talk through some of the challenges I face,” Hannah said. “She’s a strong, genuine person, committed to her family, community and work.”
The mentorship program provides some guidelines, but mentors and mentees are free to take their partnership in whatever direction they choose. Distance and COVID restrictions prevented Hannah and Monica from meeting face-to-face, so they met online once a month for an hour, and discussed such issues as problem-solving, work/life balance, and communicating and influencing at multiple levels and across departments.
“I found that our meetings were a great opportunity to run different scenarios by someone,” Hannah said. “Monica was able to provide feedback and suggestions on ways to improve. It’s great to get perspective from someone who’s not into the weeds of day-to-day activities at your company.”
Rewarding experiences all around
In case you’re wondering, all these positive feelings are mutual; Monica is convinced that Hannah “is going to do great things” in her career. And the mentorship program experience turned out to be just as rewarding for the mentor as it was for the mentee.
Monica was especially happy to be there for someone traveling a similar path to her own. It wasn’t long ago that she, like Hannah, was a young mom caring for two small daughters, a young woman working a technical job in a largely male manufacturing environment. “When I was a young engineer at Dupont,” Monica said, “it would have been nice to have someone in the industry outside of my company to talk to about things, someone to be a sounding board. That’s what I would have liked to have when beginning my career, so that’s what I wanted to provide for Hannah.”
Hannah and Monica remain in touch, enjoying a genuine friendship made possible by the FLiP Mentorship Program. Hannah is thankful to the program for doing “a great job” selecting her mentor.
“Our meetings quickly became more like a chat between friends. I felt comfortable talking about any topic,” Hannah said. “This program was a great opportunity to network and meet another woman in the plastics industry, outside of my current organization. I would recommend the Mentorship Program to anyone interested.”
>And Hannah’s mentor has some words of encouragement for her peers among PLASTICS members. “We’re all busy,” Monica said, “but this is a way to nurture the next generation, so we don’t have to stick around until we’re seventy. We can help make sure they don’t get burned out at a time in life when they’re being pulled in a hundred different directions by sharing our experience and giving them support in dealing with their challenges.”
Founded in 1956 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Printpack is a privately-held flexible and specialty rigid packaging manufacturer. Employing over 3,200 associates worldwide, the company operates 19 manufacturing facilities in the United States and Mexico. With investments in leading-edge technologies and a deep understanding of customer needs, Printpack has partnered with the most successful CPGs to launch new products and grow market share. Printpack’s purpose, Preserving and Enhancing People’s Lives, is continually demonstrated by the commitment to sustainable products, active involvement in the local communities, and the empowerment of all associates.