Like other Rising Stars highlighted this year, Elizabeth Serdar did not have her sights set on the plastics industry at first. She did not plan on going into sales either.
"I always had a passion for science and never thought about entering the sales field until the opportunity presented itself. However, after being in the plastics industry for nine years, I truly think plastics is the future and has so much potential for growth and creating good in our everyday lives," Serdar, of Chicago, said in her survey. "We wouldn't be able to live how we do without plastics!"
Serdar, 31, was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. She had earned a Division I full-ride tennis scholarship.
Serdar started at Omya Inc., a global producer of calcium carbonate and distributor of specialty chemicals, in 2009 as an inside sales representative. Her roles changed to sales representative Midwest of the Polymers division in Cincinnati and sales representative Midwest of the Technical Polymers and Coatings divisions in Chicago. She has been in her current role as senior sales representative of technical polymers since April.
"Getting some potential customers and prospects to realize that I'm not just trying to sell them raw materials to benefit my company and myself, but to be true partners with them and offer them solutions to their problems [is my current challenge]," Serdar said. "I think that historically, salespeople get a bad rap for being dishonest and selfish, which is what made me hesitant about going into sales vs. a technical role. And throw a young female's voice in the mix, it becomes difficult to be taken serious sometimes."
To combat those challenges and keep her eyes on the prize, she keeps some advice from her father in the back of her mind: "Run your own race."
"If you constantly are worried about the 'runner' next to you, you will lose track of your pace in the race and your true potential," she said. Her parents still live back in Tennessee; her brother is a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force and is currently stationed in England.
Serdar is a member of the Society of Plastics Engineers, and she is on the board of directors for SPE's Color and Appearance division.
She is interested in packaging improvements since packaging is "such a large part of our lives."
"It's interesting to see how packaging was just 20 years ago to how it has evolved. I think as an industry, we are trying to be as efficient as possible while offering friendly solutions for our environment," she said.
Color concentrates also interest her.
"Plastics is the future and isn't going anywhere," she said. "There is room and a need for young people in all areas!"