For Akemi Mitchell, it's the day-to-day accomplishments that fuel her fire and keep her going at Amcor Rigid Plastics.
As senior director of quality management at the Manchester, Mich.-based company, Mitchell has just started at Amcor, but has spent the bulk of her two-decade career in plastics.
“A lot of time when people talk about great achievements, we always talk about the end results,” Mitchell said. “We need the end results to deliver and perform. However, in order to get those end results, it is the daily cadence that makes that happen.
“It's every day putting in and identifying what's driving that change. It's not one big thing that we do. We always talk about it as one major achievement. But it's really not,” she said.
Mitchell developed a love for the plastics industry as a high school senior interning at Dow Chemical Co.
“The internship program opened my eyes to the world of engineering and plastics manufacturing,” Mitchell said. “I was hooked on plastics. Upon graduation, I knew I wanted to be a chemical engineer and I knew I would work with plastics.
“Plastics,” she said, “is such a diverse industry that it's just really easy to fall in love with.”
But while there is diversity in materials and applications, Mitchell does not always see diversity when she looks around. That's why she talks up science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, to folks just like her.
“I am passionate about promoting STEM, especially to young women of color. It is important that we catch students at a very young age and let them experience all the opportunities of STEM,” Mitchell said.
“The more I progress in my own career, the more I understand that ... a fun part of my job is to open doors for future engineers,” she said.
Constant learning also is important because the plastics industry is ever evolving, she said.
“There is so much new technology that is coming our way. And we are learning every day. What we are going to be doing in plastics 10 years from now is going to be so much more than what we are doing today,” she said.
Mitchell expects to graduate in 2018 with a doctorate in business administration in quality management. That comes after a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and a master's degree in technical processes.
“Have the thirst for knowledge. We never stop learning. Whether you're a student, entry-level employee, manager or a CEO, you don't know it all. The strongest leaders are those who are lifelong students,” she said.