Jennifer Perez is working to get the word out about the importance of manufacturing, especially plastics processing. She's active in the Plastics Industry Association's FLIP (Future Leaders in Plastics) program and on its Manufacturing Day committee.
Her company, injection molder Plastic Molding Technology Inc. in El Paso, Texas, is active in the National Association of Manufacturers, Society of Plastics Engineers and Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors.
But it all could have turned out differently. Like Frenchy in the movie musical "Grease," Perez was a beauty school dropout.
"Six months into beauty school, I realized I definitely was not a good fit for that job! I returned to academia, where I realized I had been ignoring my talents in writing and communications. I went on to earn a journalism degree a few years later."
Perez earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.
She grew up around PMT when it was located in Connecticut and spent many Saturdays following her dad around the office. But her first real plastics job was in public relations at the company.
"After college, I wanted to apply my journalism and communications training to an industry that has a lot of untold stories to tell," she said. "I decided to see if I could put my skills to use in the family business."
Greatest achievement? Successfully balancing a career in a family business with my family life and young kids.
Current challenge at work? Marketing to new industry segments to promote company growth and finding effective ways to garner the attention of young professionals to pursue careers in the plastics field.
What emerging technology or market most interests you? Collaborative robotics and automation in the factory is most interesting right now because of the efficiency aspect. But more importantly, it holds the potential to free up people from monotonous jobs, opening the ability to use their minds to think creatively about the best ways to optimize processes. This area of technology is also relevant to young innovators interested in our field.
What about the plastics industry surprises you? I was surprised to see I could use my journalism background effectively in the plastics industry, and that there was a real need for and appreciation of my communication skills. There are careers paths in plastics that complement the more technical engineering-specific jobs. A big piece of my job today is helping engineers communicate all the great and innovative work they are doing.
What is the best advice you have ever received? A quote my father shared with me a few years ago: "You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor." — Aristotle
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry? Despite its reputation, the manufacturing industry — especially plastics — is a field driven by innovation. It needs the next generation to propel it further and to ensure we can continue to sustainably make things in the USA.
Who is your mentor? My father. His decades of experience in the industry are extremely valuable in learning about manufacturing and how things work. His wealth of experience in everything from sales to management to engineering have been inspiring.
What job do you really want to have in the future? I would like to work in all areas within the industry to learn all aspects of manufacturing, with a goal of moving into a supervisory role.