Casey Blabolil, 30
Laboratory Manager, Materials Engineering, Mar-Bal Inc.
Casey Blabolil's first job was as a product development chemist with thermoset compounder and molder Premix Inc. He said he had no idea about the thermoset plastics industry prior to joining.
"In fact, before my interview, I looked up the company to gain some insight on what the job was. However, I got confused when I saw they made plastics but was molded into so many different things I didn't know what they actually did," said the Madison, Ohio, native.
Blabolil, now laboratory manager, materials engineering, for Chagrin Falls, Ohio-based thermosets molder and compounder Mar-Bal Inc., has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Mount Union in Ohio.
After being in the industry for only eight months, he spoke at the 2014 SPE Thermoset TopCon, despite feeling unprepared to give a presentation on the "Application Of Thermal Analysis Techniques To Drive Product Development" to peers who had been in the industry for up to 40 years.
"However, with all of the support from the R&D group at Premix at the time who were able to help me have such a great understanding of the topic, I was able to give the presentation and have it ranked second in overall presentations for the conference by my peers," he said.
In 2015, he presented at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers conference.
"Since day one the very simplest steps I [have] taken I feel have helped me in every stage along my career. That is just to learn the things that people seemingly don't want to do," Blabolil said. "It is amazing how learning something that seems to have nothing to do with your current job will one day come back around."
Blabolil said a dream job would be technical director, which brings all of the different areas of business he's interested in into one role.
"This focuses on the current science and the future of plastics industry science as well as business strategy and personnel development," he said. "My goal is to give people the help in their careers that has been given to me over the last seven years."
Blabolil is involved with the Society of Plastics Engineers thermosets division. To relax, he enjoys playing video games or watching Netflix with his wife, a physician assistant at Akron Children's Hospital, and two cats.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Blabolil: The first and main thing that I would do as CEO of a company would be to drive personnel development. Every company I have been to, it's been 100% apparent that is the people who are driving the company forward, not the executives. By helping them develop more fully into their roles and give them confidence I believe you can really see a company take off more so than they have in the past. The people are the ones who create new materials and processes and the things that companies want to sell. Without the opportunity I believe you lose the passion of your workers and passion has always been a moving force in the world.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Blabolil: I would tell someone who's considering the plastics industry to go for it. Coming out of college, I never thought I would do the things that I have so far and gone to so many of the places I've been just for work.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Blabolil: One technology that has interested me for years is unfortunately not "emerging," and that is bio-based thermosets. Early in my career I worked with an amazing Ph.D. chemist Paula Watt on bio-based fillers and bio-based resins. She was able to do things way above my head to be able to take soy beans and turn them into fillers and resins, without the negatives of an organic filler or resin. However, I learned one sad lesson early in my career. Everyone wants bio and recyclable, but no one is willing to pay more for it or have lower properties.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Blabolil: I have been truly blessed to have had the mentorships in my career. I have been taught by truly some of the titans of the thermoset world over the last seven years. This includes my current boss, Larry Landis; previous bosses, Jody Riddle and Jeff Danielson; but most importantly was Mike Gruskiewicz, who hired me into this plastics world and started my path down this career. Paula Watt really took me on when I first started out and got me into her research, which still interests me to this day.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Blabolil: One of my current challenges at work has come around from COVID, and that is to reduce cost where all possible. As I'm sure most other companies are also dealing with this challenge, we are seeing a lot of new and unique ideas come up to help streamline manufacturing and increase productivity to help make up for the loss of sales from the pandemic that a lot of our customers have been experiencing.