EMILY TIPALDO, 31
American Chemistry Council Plastics Division
Title: Packaging director
Location: Washington, D.C.
Social media: LinkedIn, Twitter @EmmTip
Education: Bachelor's degree, cum laude, Mary Washington College; master's degree in international relations, with distinction, University of Westminster in London.
Associations: Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers; Women's Energy Network, D.C. Chapter board member; also work substantially with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
Q: Tell us about your family.
Tilpado: I'm married to a wonderful guy named Frank and we have a cat (Max), dog (Bean) and four chickens (Carmella Soprano, Miss Lee, Einstein and the Karate Kid).
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Tilpado: Plastics and chemistry are tangible. I love being part of an industry that is innovative and touches human lives across the globe. I'm also fascinated by the industry's connections with energy, public policy, design and resource management. In 2009, I joined ACC's legal department as its coordinator. Doing administrative and paralegal work for both chemical and plastics gave me my first exposure to the industry.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Tilpado: In supporting efforts by major consumer product goods companies to phase out the use of exfoliating microbeads in personal-care products, I developed the federal legislative strategy that united advocacy on behalf of three associations: ACC, the Personal Care Products Council and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Upon developing the desired model bill, we collectively lobbied the relevant House and Senate members. Discussions using the model bill as our agreed-upon language continue, with a hope of moving the bill this summer.
Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Tilpado: In middle school, I quickly branded myself as “bad” at math and science and never stopped to think how that mental shutdown would affect my career prospects. As I've come into my own, as an appreciative, pragmatic steward of the world around me, I can see the immense contribution of science and of plastics. I now know to keep an open mind and not to shy away from new endeavors.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Tilpado: Getting people to think about plastics sustainability holistically. Plastics, like all things, cannot be judged by a single attribute. Plastics are selected for a variety of factors that differ for each application. Encouraging companies, nonprofit environmental organizations, and the general public to look more closely at the benefits of plastics, as well as providing them with the tools to understand these benefits, is an ongoing challenge.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Tilpado: The industry is like the old Transformers (yes, as we know I'm a child of the ‘80s) commercial: “More than meets the eye!” It's amazing to work in a forward-thinking, innovative industry. Constantly, I'm learning about new plastic applications and companies challenging themselves to do more with less.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Tilpado: Immerse yourself in all things plastics. Go to trade shows and industry events. Speak with those in the industry. Contact relevant trade associations for more information. And, while PhDs and engineers are the backbone of the industry there are other, critical, career paths in plastics such as communications and marketing, sales, waste management/end-of-use management and advocacy.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Tilpado: First, I would spend at least a day in as many of the company's roles as possible. I learn by doing. Experiencing firsthand what my employees do on a day-to-day basis would immensely help me understand the operations and challenges.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Tilpado: Two women who are invaluable mentors to me are Ms. Karyn Schmidt, ACC assistant general counsel, and Ms. Sarah Brozena, ACC senior director of regulatory and technical affairs. They are technical and political experts, with years of experience and a kindness toward imparting career advice. Karyn and Sarah are underappreciated for their managerial and tactical savvy. I am indebted to them for their support during my time at ACC.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Tilpado: I would love to be chief operating officer of a plastics or packaging company, or work for the sustainability division of a large consumer products company. Becoming vice president of the ACC Plastics Division, taking over for Mr. Steve Russell, also appeals to me! I get excited about being a champion for the plastics industry.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Tilpado: Disconnect. Spending time with my family and friends, time outdoors — stand-up paddling, kayaking, and running — traveling and reading are important to me.