Maggie Highberger, 25
Account Manager, M. Holland Co.
Maggie Highberger said she became drawn to the plastics industry because of its "continuously growing" opportunities and technology.
Highberger was born in Kansas City and graduated from Pittsburg State University in Kansas with a bachelor's degree in plastics engineering technology. Her first plastics-related job was an internship at Kohler Co. in Sheridan, Ark., making toilet seats and components.
"The internship taught me not only how to work with my hands, changing molds, but also how to build relationships with everyone involved in the manufacturing process," Highberger said. "My experience at Kohler taught me so much that it could fill a book, and every day I am grateful that experience was my first look at the plastics industry."
In 2017, Highberger was accepted into the Commercial Development Program at Northbrook, Ill.-based resin distributor M. Holland Co. She graduated from the program and took over a Kansas City-based territory in 2018, and the following year started growing the southern region of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Highberger won Rookie of the Year in 2019.
"Even after my training, I was drinking through a fire hose all year with new customers and new business, so it was an honor to get recognition," she said.
Highberger was promoted to account manager in 2020.
She advises others to "buy in" to a career in the plastics industry.
"I got a plastics tech degree, but during my training at the M. Holland headquarters in Northbrook, I learned so much more that I didn't know about the industry," she said. "You have to buy in and be a sponge, learning as much as you can will only help you more down the road."
Highberger is involved with the Society of Women Engineers, Society of Plastics Engineers, Association of Rotational Molders and Pitt State Alumni.
"I try to take advantage of any opportunities to advance and learn," she said. "I have attended internal company trainings with our suppliers and inquire about attending trade shows as much as possible. I'm always inquisitive about new technologies in the industry. I hope 2021 will bring back those opportunities."
Highberger likes to do puzzles and play volleyball in her spare time. She plays on a recreational beach volleyball team called Exceeding Expectations, and she is a volleyball referee in the Dallas area.
Patty Berman, M. Holland Company director of human resources, nominated Highberger for Rising Stars.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Highberger: From day one, the networking and connections people have is shocking. My professors in college were once clients of M. Holland. My first trip with M. Holland was to Kohler, where I got to see my team from my summer internship. And my technical service representative went through the same program in college I did. I could go on about how small the plastics industry is.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Highberger: Sustainability has caught my eye and the ways the industry is adjusting to meet the needs of a more sustainable future. You can feel that there is so much energy behind it, witnessing it start to take off has been awesome, and I can't wait to see where it goes. I'm glad to be at a company that is working to make a difference in this space.
Q: What is your philosophy related to plastics and sustainability? What steps have you taken to improve plastics' sustainability, either in work, your community or personal life?
Highberger: I am thankful to work for a company that has a forward focus on sustainability and sustainable products. Personally, I educate family and friends about recycling and new renewable sources.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Highberger: I believe the sky is the limit! I don't have a specific job title in mind but am focusing on being the best at what I do each day.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Highberger: I think all the advice I've received can be summed up into "do the right thing and good things will happen." I also had a colleague tell me to "celebrate your successes." I have always valued humility, but I am learning to pat myself on the back now and then.