Vice president, Pearl Technologies Inc.
Linda Gillette, 53, is vice president of Pearl Technologies Inc., a Savannah, N.Y., supplier of components used alongside film extrusion, such as punches, perforators, gusset boards, bubble guides and bubble cages.
Her father, who worked in manufacturing, and her mother, who raised her children at home, instilled the values of a well-rounded person, she said.
Gillette graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. This education, combined with her leadership skills, gave her good background to assume later supervisory positions in technical work environments. Her first career step was taking on the post of manufacturing supervisor at the age of 22. At Cheseborough-Ponds's Oriskany Falls, N.Y., operation, she led a team of 55 people in the skin-care products company.
Q: What were some of your career highlights?
Gillette: A highlight was my time at Ultralife, a start-up lithium-ion battery operation within Eastman Kodak Co. At that time lithium batteries was a new technology. I was hired into a department that started as a blank slate. I created the positions, the jobs — everything. I trained all my people. The department grew from nothing to a three-shift operation with 120 people.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Gillette: Pearl Technologies Inc. was my first plastics-related employer. I admit that I never thought I would end up in the plastics industry, especially since I have a chemical engineering degree. But the plastics industry did sort of run in my family. My husband worked in the medical and food packaging industries and through his trade I became familiar with terminologies, processes, sealing applications, etc. Being allowed to go into his facilities, I was exposed to the concept of packaging and plastics.
Q: What was your greatest achievement?
Gillette: Becoming vice president of operations at Pearl, a notable achievement for a female in a male-dominated industry.
My success stems from the success of the company and our top-notch employees, who are dedicated to making the customer happy.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Gillette: Working with our limited space. We're growing, and at a fast rate. It's hard to schedule all our jobs around our small staff and small building, but we do it!
Another challenge is learning to let go of things sometimes. As you advance in a career, you have to learn how to step back and let others be more integrated and accountable for their jobs.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Gillette: Microperfing of film. We're working with the Rochester Institute of Technology's research plastics laboratory in the College of Applied Science and Technology. They're working hard to discover the benefits of microperfing and Pearl has donated a small microperforation unit for them to use for research and development.
New stand-up pouches are also intriguing. They present a great opportunity for the plastics industry in the reduction of cardboard boxes for packaging as well as the potential for greater shelf life for food products.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Gillette: It's amazing to see how plastics truly help us: sterilization is possible; food preservation has been made easier; durable materials keep us safe. Who knows how it will advance civilization years from now?
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Gillette: The same thing I always do, work hard and respect everyone. When I became vice president, I told people not to look at me any differently. I'm still the same Linda, just with more duties and tasks.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Gillette: I live on a farm so when I'm not working for Pearl, I work at home. We have a small pick-your-own blueberry business. I enjoy planting flowers and working in the garden and I can even freeze and can the fruits and vegetables from our harvest. I enjoy going on walks and hikes on our 107-acre farm. And I enjoy photography (another family trait) so during my walks or gardening I frequently take pictures. And of course I enjoy doing things with my husband and kids.