Melissa Gurchinoff, 33
Account Manager, Nova Chemicals
Melissa Gurchinoff was born in Dollar Bay, Mich., near Lake Superior, but now calls St. Petersburg, Fla., home. Having been surrounded by water, Gurchinoff has a deep appreciation for the environment.
"I am passionate about plastics, and I love the environment; that is my home, near the ocean," she said. "I strongly believe plastics and the environment can peacefully coexist with the right tools and education. In my space, for example, I participate in beach cleanups and educate family and friends on how best to recycle within the confines of the rules and regulations within their municipalities."
Gurchinoff said she is excited about the circular economy, particularly advanced recycling.
"We're working toward a vision of a closed-loop circular economy where plastics are 100 percent recyclable and never become waste," she said.
Gurchinoff graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Her first job in the plastics industry was at global color and additive concentrates leader Ampacet Corp. as a sales trainee.
"I have my brother, Steve Gurchinoff, to thank for getting involved in plastics. My brother went to school for plastics engineering and I saw how much he enjoyed his job and the industry," she said. "When a recruiter was looking for candidates for a different position, he recommended they reach out to me as I was looking for new opportunities at the time."
Gurchinoff is now account manager at Nova Chemicals Inc., one of North America's largest polyethylene resin makers.
Throughout her career, she has won several awards, including 2014 Ampacet Northwest Region Quality of Sales Improvement Top Performer, 2014 Ampacet Northwest Region Margin Growth Top Performer, 2017 Nova Distinguished Applause Award Recipient Team Member and 2018 Nova USCC Responsible Care Outstanding Contributor.
Gurchinoff attends industry events such as NPE, Pack Expo and Women Breaking the Mold: "It's an excellent environment to build your network, gain exposure and to learn about new technology and ideas within the industry."
Andie Stiles, Nova marketing communications manager, nominated Gurchinoff for Rising Stars.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Gurchinoff: Joining an industry in which many of my counterparts have been working in for 20-30 years can be intimidating. Gaining the respect of such individuals is a testament to my eagerness to learn. Their coaching and mentoring has been invaluable in helping me adapt, contribute and succeed.
Q: What is your biggest failure and what it taught you?
Gurchinoff: Failure is the path to growing and learning. I take every opportunity that has not worked out as an opportunity to ask myself, "What have I learned?" If I can critically think my way through these questions, I can learn from them and move forward.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Gurchinoff: You are the CEO of your life, a true business of one. Regardless of who you work for, stay authentic to your personal brand as that is ultimately what will leave the impression on those with whom you interact.
Q: What should the plastics industry do to expand its efforts in diversity and inclusion?
Gurchinoff: Educate and inform the upcoming generations about opportunities in plastics. It's typical for the industry to recruit from the same packaging schools. Unfortunately, with a liberal arts background, myself and so many peers didn't even know plastics was an option during career exploration. The industry needs to go where people of diverse backgrounds reside academically and socially in order to draw from those pools.
If the industry wants to remain current, it'll be important to recruit people that think differently from how the industry has always thought. It's critical that we embrace people for their uniqueness and create workspaces that allow people to show up fully as themselves without the fear of being seen, heard or ashamed when expressing new and different ideas.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Gurchinoff: A future aspiration is to own my own company. It's something that I've always wanted to do. I've witnessed some pretty incredible startups flourish into very successful companies. I enjoy leading projects, and after being in the workforce, I have a pretty good understanding of what employees are looking for in the type of company that they'd like to work for. I would love the opportunity to create that.