Tom Pignatello, 26
Polypropylene Product Manager, Osterman & Co.
As polypropylene product manager for Cheshire, Conn.-based resin distributor Osterman & Co. during the coronavirus pandemic, Tom Pignatello has had to adapt to a new way of doing business, much like the rest of the world.
"I essentially went from an outside sales representative to an inside sales representative overnight," he said. "Despite the pandemic, working from home and no longer traveling to see customers for the time being, myself and Osterman have been able to effectively succeed in the 'new normal.'"
Pignatello said the biggest challenge has been working with customers to navigate the "uncertain environment together."
"We continue to operate in a time of so many unknowns, but constant communication with our customers and the mutually beneficial partnerships we have formed has allowed us to successfully get through these challenging times together," he said.
Pignatello is currently interested in COVID-19-related products and solutions.
"We have seen a number of customers adapt their business operations and create new products such as face shields, PC dividers, sanitary products, single-use products, test kits, etc. The pandemic has created demand for an entirely new line of products and an increased demand for products that were originally trending downward such as single-use takeout containers and cutlery," he said.
Born in Medford, N.J., Pignatello received a bachelor's degree in supply chain management from Rutgers University.
He made the Sales Circle of Excellence in his first year at Osterman in 2020, nearly doubling sales in his territory, and was promoted to polypropylene product manager on Jan. 1.
"I was interested in the industry because of the diversity in businesses and products. I really enjoy the range of customers I work with from small mom-and-pop businesses to Fortune 500 companies," he said. "I find it extremely interesting and engaging to be speaking with a customer who makes poly lumber one minute and then a customer who makes medical devices the next minute. No two days are ever the same, and there is always something new to learn."
Pignatello's outlet is triathlon training. He is currently training for a full Ironman in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, scheduled for June 2021.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Pignatello: My current challenge at work is getting up to speed in my new role as polypropylene product manager and helping our sales team navigate the unprecedented PP market we are in today. As a product manager, I work closely with our entire sales staff in supporting Osterman customers with PP supply. I am learning what makes each salesperson tick and familiarizing myself with our diverse customer base. When I was a sales representative, I was responsible for my own customers whereas now the size and scope is multiplied many times over. It is an entirely different world being on the product side.
Q: One of our criteria for Rising Stars is whether they are active in the plastics industry, manufacturing or their community. How are you involved?
Pignatello: Before the pandemic started, I was starting to get involved with an organization called Urban Promise, where I was mentoring inner-city high school students in Camden, N.J. The purpose of the mentorship program is to help kids with things such as their resumes, applying to college, career interests and guidance, and navigating life after high school.
Osterman also has the Osterman Community Foundation, which I try to be active in. It is an incredible foundation that provides financial relief to people in need. It is all about giving back to our communities where we live and work.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Pignatello: It is an incredibly fun, growing and rewarding industry to be a part of. If someone has an interest, I recommend jumping in feet first and trying it out. There are so many different routes you can go just within the resin distribution space alone from sales to logistics to product, so if you find you do not like one role, there is always another area within the business you could try. There's only [one] way to find out and that is by doing!
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Pignatello: It is difficult to tout one piece of advice as the best, but if I had to pick, it would be that discipline and consistency are the key to success. If you can keep showing up, consistently perform and have the discipline to do what needs to be done, especially when you do not want to do it, those actions will compound over time and you will eventually get to where it is you are trying to go.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Pignatello: I look up to my parents. As I get older, I have a greater and greater appreciation for how they raised me and everything they have taught me. I attribute any and all success I ever have to them. They have taught me several things, but most importantly, to do the right thing, be a good person, never quit and always finish what you started. These values are instilled in me and have certainly helped in advancing through my young career in the plastics industry.