Mike Leo is a self-described outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing. So, not surprisingly, his favorite plastics end market is outdoor recreation.
"There is a sense of relaxation and complete happiness when being able to experience the outdoors, where all of your problems dissolve and you gain true peace," he said.
"I have found through my career that if you can be lucky enough to work on products that you have a higher level of passion about, you get personal satisfaction in your work as an engineer."
Leo is a senior engineer at Newell Brands in Huntersville, N.C. The Pittsburgh native earned a bachelor's degree in plastics engineering and technology, with a minor in supply-chain management, from Penn State Behrend. Then he worked at several plastics jobs before starting on his master's in plastics engineering at UMass-Lowell.
He finished up that degree while working at Nypro Healthcare's headquarters in Clinton, Mass. Along the way, he's learned some things from people he's worked with. He considers Geoff Foster, now president and CEO of Core Technology Molding Corp. in Greensboro, N.C., a mentor.
"I worked with Geoff during my time at Bright Plastics. Geoff was an individual that brought positivity to the team and was not hesitant to reach out to a young engineer for input for problem-solving. I strive to push myself the way that I know Geoff has, to achieve success in the plastics industry."
Why were you interested in the industry? When I first applied to colleges, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I didn't know what type. A good friend in high school mentioned plastics engineering, and from that point on, I was intrigued.
My first job was at Bright Plastics. Being a custom molder, we constantly were working with products anywhere from medical to outdoor recreation to military. Being hands-on at Bright jump-started me in the plastics industry and gave me a passion to build my knowledge.
What is your current challenge at work? Venturing into a different method of plastics manufacturing where I have no experience. It is a challenge to develop a product when you first have to understand the capabilities of multiple manufacturing processes, then apply that to your design.
What about the plastics industry surprises you? How it is so close-knit. Throughout my short professional career, it always surprises me how often I come across someone I used to work with or went to school with.