For Jessica Zirkelbach, finding opportunities to build teams has been a focus of her career at Saudi Basic Industries Corp.
Zirkelbach said that showed itself in what she considers her greatest professional achievement: overseeing her team in their part of a successful, and ahead of schedule, $65 million refurbishment of a Sabic plant.
"Leading a team that was initially petrified by the enormity of the upcoming change — leveraging each person's strengths to do more than anyone thought we could and watching each person grow through the process, it was amazing," she said.
Zirkelbach, who is the asset operations leader for the phenol and bisphenol-A unit within Sabic's Mount Vernon, Ind., plant, said the shutdown and rebuild was done without injuries or spills, and the operations part she was leading was "75 percent ahead of committed timeline."
"By making this business change, we have helped keep our asset competitive on the global market," she said.
The 36-year-old engineer has spent all her working life in the plastics industry, starting with GE Plastics in 2004 before it was purchased by Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Sabic in 2007.
She's found it eye-opening in terms of understanding the global links in the industry. An early career development program with GE Plastics included six-month stints at operations in India and the United Kingdom, as well as New York state and Alabama.
And it's been eye-opening as far as seeing the place of plastics in society.
"At the time I joined the plastics industry, I truly did not understand the role plastics plays globally," she said. "It was not until I stepped back and took time to look around did I realize how invaluable plastics are to today's society."
Zirkelbach said she spends time encouraging other women in manufacturing, an industry where more than 70 percent of the workforce is male.
Since 2008, she's been the co-leader of the Sabic Women's Network at the Indiana facility, and with the help of that network, said she increased women in team leadership positions in hourly jobs on her team by 20 percent.
"Diversity of thought is critical to being a high-functioning team," she said. "I feel very passionately about sharing the value the network has provided across my career with other female employees."
She credits an early focus on sports with helping her build her career. She was a member of the West Virginia University women's soccer team, an NCAA Division I program, while earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
"I spent my entire life playing team sports," she said. "The concept of team success is the same in the workplace as it is on the soccer field."