Brittany Brooks joined Retal PA LLC after her previous employer closed down. She didn't have the exact experience needed, she said, but Brooks had an "immediate bond" with the CEO and HR manager, who saw her potential and appreciated her attitude.
"I was taken on when I needed it most. … We found each other, and it's paid off," she said.
She started as a quality technician for the packaging manufacturer in Donora, Pa.
"I could see that the plastics industry was a field where people judge it for the wrong reasons and only see the negatives, but it's very dynamic and progressive. We love using [recycled] PET, seeing how we can work with our customers to integrate our expertise into sustainable solutions," Brooks said. "There's a fabulous future for the plastics industry and I love being part of it."
Brooks is now a quality manager and is in charge of ensuring "we produce the best quality product 100 percent of the time" and keeping all safety standards and certificates. She is responsible for the safety of 65 people, including five who report to her directly in the quality department.
Brooks said she eventually wants to be a CEO: "I'm establishing myself in the plastics industry, and I can see that there are opportunities for growth as long as I keep pushing myself."
Graduating from college has been Brooks' greatest accomplishment; she is the first woman in her family to graduate.
"I grew up in a small town in Alabama, and my family was supported by the Head Start program, which is 'America's Poverty Fighting Network' that is 'helping people change lives,'" she said. "I'm proof that the American dream still exists."
Q: What's an accomplishment of yours that most people don't know about, either for work or in your personal life?
Brooks: I won three national titles and two international titles in competitive cheer at college, I speak Mandarin, and I've also done the world's tallest bungee jump. My brothers said I wouldn't do it… so I did.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Brooks: Understanding all the specific details of each audit. I am very comfortable with the testing and the quality elements, but I am focused on the paper trail and making sure everything is recorded correctly. When I do something, I do it fully. One nonconformity means I've failed, so I am determined that every audit will get a perfect score.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Brooks: I'm surprised by how many of our customers are keen to use greater volumes of recycled content, including big names, even though the legislation is not forcing their hand. I love it! It gives me confidence that the plastics industry in the U.S. is progressive and sustainable and that I have a long-term career within it. Let's make America green!