Vice president, Diversified Plastics Inc.
Annette Lund, 60, is vice president of Diversified Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder in Brooklyn Park, Minn. She has been with the company 34 years, reaching her current position in 2001.
She earned an associate's degree in 1983 from North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, and in 2012 received that school's Distinguished Alumni Award. She received her bachelor's degree in business from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., in 1997. She has been a speaker at Antec and was invited to talk about her career path as a woman in a technical field by St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
She was a member of the governor's trade mission to Europe in 2013 and was elected to the Foundation Board of Hennepin Technical College in suburban Minneapolis.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Lund: My first job in the plastics industry was as a part-time receptionist and my interest in the industry resulted from the exposure I received from this job. I found plastic injection molding to be interesting and this led to a fascination with how things are made, particularly all things plastic. This interest has only grown over time.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Lund: I started in the industry in the late 1970s. At that time, it was a very male-dominated field. It became apparent that I was going to have to be more knowledgeable than my male counterparts to gain the trust and respect of our customers. I worked hard by doing almost every job in the company; polishing molds, running presses, inspecting parts, shipping product and assembly. This experience, accompanied by my efforts to learn about the materials and to read blueprints, helped me to achieve a measure of respect. When our customers and prospects started coming to me for answers to their questions, I knew that I had actually achieved success from all my hard work.
Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Lund: Early in my working career, as with most young adults, I wanted a higher salary. So I accepted a position at a company in the food industry. This position only lasted six months as I quickly realized that I had made a big mistake. I discovered that I needed to work for a manufacturing company creating a product and one with high moral and ethical standards. The company needed to care about every employee and [everyone had to] work together as a team toward the success of the company. I had this at Diversified Plastics and fortunately, my old boss took me back. The lesson I learned was that money isn't as important to me as finding a position that is rewarding and where I feel that I am contributing to a better world through the products we produce.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Lund: Keeping up to date with the latest innovations in our industry; recruiting, training, motivating and retaining skilled employees, with the lack of training within the current labor pool; and serving on both the board and as an ESOP trustee.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Lund: Currently we are developing our 3-D technology knowledge. We were one of the first companies in the country to print plastic mold components from our Stratasys Objet 3-D printer. The ability to print mold bases to be used to run injection-grade plastics is an exciting new process. We are still doing research and development on the technology, but in the future it will open the marketplace for companies that would like to have a low quantity of parts but cannot justify the cost of metal molds.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Lund: The ingenuity of inventors and the variety of markets. We run the gamut from parts on the NASA Juno probe used to test the aurora borealis on Jupiter, to parts for water filtration systems that provide clean drinking water, to the manufacture of implantable medical devices. Our niche in the industry is making very precise and cosmetically appealing parts, as opposed to other molders who make such items as plastics cups, toys and swizzle sticks. Whether it's a close-tolerance part or not, there are lots of very cleverly designed plastics products on the market. I always enjoy reading about the latest new products being introduced. My goal is to visit as many manufacturing plants as possible to see how products are made.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Lund: Early on in my career, my mentor urged me to push myself and to take on difficult tasks. I learned from him that I can be successful in everything I try if I believe in myself and give it all my effort. Without his urgings, I would never have been able to speak at Antec, the Society of Plastics Engineers' annual event, about 3-D printing molds. I have enjoyed the challenges of each new opportunity and the growth that this has given me. His urgings have contributed to my path to vice president.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Lund: The plastics industry is exciting. There are lots of opportunities available in a variety of positions. My advice is to find a mentor to help guide you into a position that fits your talents and interests. The plastics field is growing and there is a great need to fill technical positions. These are good-paying positions with excellent career opportunities.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Lund: Every company has its own culture. I would determine how that culture fit in with my beliefs, [then] try to redirect this culture to match my values of morality, ethics, trust and respect.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Lund: My boss, Diversified President Jim Dow, was my special mentor. He is an admirable person and I've learned so much from him. He taught me that, even as a woman, I can be successful in the plastics industry. He supported me throughout my career and urged me to take on difficult tasks, as they arose. And he has helped other women to grow at Diversified Plastics, too.
I admire Jim's morality and he taught me that sometimes it would be so easy to fall into unethical behavior, thinking that it is the best decision at the time. But it never is and only causes others to lose trust in you. As difficult as it can be, it's important to take the high road in all situations.
Jim accepts and respects everyone. He taught me that you can't condemn others unless you've walked a mile in their shoes. This acceptance has won him the trust of all our employees. I have used this example and have also earned the respect of our employees. This has helped with my position as ESOP trustee, as they trust that I will make decisions that benefit them.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Lund: My dream job of the future is to grow with the company. We are a small injection molder, with about 70 employees, but we are on the cusp of some phenomenal growth. I'd like to be part of that expansion and the added responsibilities that will come to my position as vice president. It will be exciting to help the company to grow and perhaps expand to new locations.
I'd also like to give back to manufacturing and particularly the plastics industry for giving me the opportunities to achieve my career goals.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Lund: My favorite pastimes are boating, traveling and reading. Fortunately all three can be done together. Traveling can be by boat and I can read at the same time. I love being on the water. We own a 42' Sea Ray boat that we slip at a marina on the Mississippi River. It's so relaxing to lazily cruise the river, go through the locks or socialize with other boaters that you meet on your travels. It is my dream to boat down the Mississippi River to St. Louis.
I love to travel, just about anywhere. Last year I was able to travel to Costa Rica and Jamaica, as well as some trips in the U.S. that included Anaheim, Calif., and Salt Lake City. The trip I took with Gov. Mark Dayton to promote trade to Europe in 2013 was a dream come true for me. We visited Stockholm; Oslo, Norway; and Berlin and Düsseldorf, Germany. In all locations, I met and was entertained by the U.S. ambassador and representatives of that country. It was a thrill of a lifetime for me.