Flexible packaging product manager, CDF Corp.
Iris Thomas, 59, grew up in the Boston area, speaks Spanish and graduated in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in political science from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She spent 25 years in human resources at various manufacturing companies before transitioning into sales and marketing.
She is now flexible packaging product manager for CDF Corp. in Plymouth, Mass. Thomas is a member of the Petroleum Packaging Council board of directors and the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Thomas: My first plastics job was as a human resources manager and I grew to love the whole industry. I love that plastics touches on a variety of industries and is ever-changing.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Thomas: Bringing bag-in-box technology and sales to my company and promoting the concept throughout North America and in Europe. Also, making a career transition and being a female in a predominantly male industry.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Thomas: Keeping current with changing technology and understanding all the various markets that we service.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Thomas: Flexible packaging, of course. But also the opportunity to use packaging concepts to provide clean water to underdeveloped areas or to areas experiencing natural disasters.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Thomas: I am constantly surprised by how interesting and exciting it can be, touching on all areas of business.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Thomas: There is no perfect decision. Make the best decision that you can with the information available, and ethics are an important part of that decision.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Thomas: Go for it! Talk to people in the industry and find what part excites you the most. Take the most technical classes you can. Learn other languages.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Thomas: Find and keep the best people. There is no substitute for a solid team.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Thomas: My father, who built a successful career with a major public utility even though he had only a high school education. He never stopped learning. And he thought everything was possible.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Thomas: A job that combines sales, marketing, product development and my human resources background.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Thomas: Travel and spend time with family.