Stephan Tanda, the CEO of AptarGroup Inc., has filled his professional life with plastics.
A formal education in both plastics engineering and business has helped him land the top spot at the maker of dispensing systems for the packaging industry.
But he said the best career advice he has received has nothing to do with school work.
"Have the courage and curiosity to find out what it's like walking in other people's shoes," he said in a written response to questions from Plastics News. "Take on assignments in different regions and different functions, especially early in your career.
"The experience of dealing with new challenges regularly keeps you humble and learning all the time. It also gives you a sense of what it means to be in 'the minority,'" Tanda said.
And even at age 53 and sitting in the corner office, the CEO said he sees the importance of continuing to broaden his horizons.
"Never stop learning. It's a big world out there, so go there and engage face-to-face," he said.
And while only on the job as CEO since February 2017, Tanda said he wants his legacy to be that Aptar is a "sustainable, great, truly global, inclusive enterprise full of decent, smart people that create innovative products that improve our daily lives, responsibly."
When Tanda began leading the Crystal Lake, Ill-based company, he decided to go on a whirlwind tour of many of the company's locations.
"I spent my first 100 days visiting the majority of our 50 sites engaging with employees, customers and investors around the world to better understand our potential for growth and what would be the most effective to accelerate momentum in the company," he said.
Tanda's first full-time job was with DuPont Co., where he led the Nomex and Kevlar protective apparel segment in Europe.
And that's where he was mentored by a senior executive named Siggy Wittauer. It was under Wittauer — and his approach of creating small regional profit-and-loss units — that allowed younger employees to gain critical experience needed to help lead.
"He took extraordinary steps to create development opportunities for young talents, like myself, allowing us to gain hands-on experience in other regions and functions, so we would be ready to take on these P&L roles at a young age," Tanda remembered.
Tanda earned his graduate degree in plastics engineering at the University of Leoben in Austria. His MBA came from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
And while he has spent plenty of time in plastics, Tanda said his most "interesting or unusual job" involved creation of a nutrition company in Africa.
"I was fortunate to have the opportunity to lead the establishment of a joint venture with public entities, private companies and NGOs to establish a company and construct a plant in Rwanda to produce nutritious foods for mothers and young children called Africa Improved Foods," he said.
He did that work as a member of the managing board at Royal DSM NV, a job he held before joining Aptar in early 2017.
"At Aptar, we use insights, design, engineering and science to create innovative packaging technologies around the world. We are a leading designer and manufacturer of differentiated dispensing and drug-delivery solutions that improve the everyday lives of millions of consumers and health care patients," Tanda said.
He specifically pointed to the company's "unique nasal spray device" used to administer naloxone, also known as Narcan. That drug overcomes opioid overdoses and saves lives.
"This product, the first U.S. FDA-approved, nasally administered, ready-to-use naloxone medication, is becoming the standard treatment to help stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose within minutes, and sometimes within seconds, which can make all the difference in saving a life," Tanda said.