Nichole Freeman, 33
Corporate Marketing Manager, The Plastek Group
After joining Prischak family-owned Lake Erie Speedway in 2004 and working her way up through positions like food and beverage manager and officer manager/executive assistant, Nichole Freeman said she experienced "support and consideration that was provided to not only their business and decisions, but to the place that I considered my dream job."
When the opportunity arose to continue to work for the family, Freeman stayed and transitioned to Erie, Pa.-based injection molder and toolmaker Plastek Group. She joined human resources and safety in 2015 and is now corporate marketing manager.
"Plastek provided an opportunity for me to use my skills, educational and background experience and interests. … Being a part of Plastek and contributing my loyal, strong and positive work ethics to its success is important to me. These attributes of a position at Plastek and with the Prischak family continue to encourage and support my choices on my career path and as I continue to choose to make Erie my home during my adult life," Freeman said.
Freeman has a degree in marketing and management from Jamestown Business College in New York.
Freeman is involved with the Manufacturer and Business Association and Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors. She also assists with Manufacturing Day and student tours. Freeman continues her learning through professional development training and certifications, social events with guest speakers and webinars.
"Plastics is an essential business, and it holds more career paths than just a narrow vision of a factory worker, and many times, there are so many training opportunities," she said. "Take a tour, internship, apprenticeship or shadow/mentee opportunity of individuals in multiple roles. If there is something that intrigues you, try it and you may go farther and become more than you ever thought you could be. It's a whole new world of understanding the process of the plastics industry once you're on the inside."
In her spare time, Freeman spends time with her family and 9-year-old boxer Raena Marie, country line dances, fishes, goes on walks, and enjoys campfires and yardwork.
Donald Prischak, vice president of sales for Plastek, nominated Freeman for Rising Stars.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Freeman: Personally meet every employee, put a face to a name and get an understanding for what each person/department's responsibility is. Introduce myself, share with them a vision/mission/goal and thank them for being a part of the team, and that I look forward to working with them for great success [for] all involved.
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?
Freeman: Assist environmental teams at Plastek: Research employee educational techniques, incentive programs, literature, retrieve, record and submit numerical data to CDP and EcoVadis reports; find training resources for our EHS team.
Executed Plastek's 2020-21 Plastek Academy mission. As organizer of free webinars, that include presentations by suppliers, processors and consultants, which provide the plastics industry with information on materials and programs that can aid in improving sustainability goals in their daily operations.
Assisted in coordinating employee events: Employee and family summer picnic, employee service award banquets, food truck days.
With an extensive history working closely with and for the employees, as my involvement in the Plastek marketing and sales department continues, I look forward to networking with and participating in future plastics industry events.
Q: What has been the biggest impact/challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Freeman: The in-person accessibility to my team. Virtual adaptations are becoming more fluent with ease, but also sometimes involves scheduling and coordinating — no more just walking down the hall. While organizing is one of my strengths, it can be tricky and can sometimes create hesitation to move forward with a project that includes others, over bringing a project you can work on on your own to the forefront of the to-do list
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Freeman: My life has built me up to having a can-do attitude, and because I am told I take criticism very well, I therefore, never give up on a task.
Connecting with employees: Employees express to me that they can count on me to provide them with assistance, to take the time to understand and explain. Employees/customers return to my office for their needs. When I'm nearby, they always wave and say hello, and like me, they use my name. Making someone feel appreciated in some way is great customer service.
Staying organized: Becoming a master multitasker, and if not on the tip of my tongue, knowing where I can find the answers for someone when asked, or sometimes even before they finish their sentence.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Freeman: My dream job was to always be in the hospitality Industry, and I then narrowed it down to that being a key leader of operations for NASCAR. While that still is and would be a very different lifestyle than where I'm at today, again, the root of it all is hospitality in a series of events. From sports entertainment, banking, retail, human resources to marketing, for me, a common denominator has always been high-quality performance, hospitality and making an impact on and for individuals. Giving the right tools to do the job correctly and providing opportunity for one's experience in whatever scenario the best that it can be. I want to continue to make a difference and make a positive domino effect to the growth of — person, business, or task — whatever is in front of me and others.