When Elizabeth Miakisz was looking for an internship, she was hungry to put the lessons she learned from her engineering classes to work in a more practical environment.
"My first role was an internship as a wastewater engineer for [a] chemical plant. I learned quickly that I didn't need to know everything to be successful, but rather work in a team environment to collectively solve problems," she said.
Miakisz started her engineering career in a two-year rotational program in manufacturing. She is now a senior manager of Selkirk Manufacturing for Sabic in Selkirk, N.Y., handling quality and service metrics.
In 2020, Miakisz became the youngest site leader in the 55-year history of the facility.
She previously led an early career rotational program and handled placement, development, mentorship and the talent review process for all engineers in the program. Miakisz also led a cross-functional team in multiple expansion projects for increased capacity.
Miakisz has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Clarkson University.
In a pre-COVID world, Miakisz would work 10- to 12-hour days, six days a week. She is now setting the example for her team that the most successful employee isn't working the most hours.
"Work-life balance is critical to the success of every employee. … We all have to make sure we are taking care of our mental and physical health first," said Miakisz, who discourages working at night and on weekends.
The "war for talent" is a critical challenge for Miakisz and her facility.
"My facility location has ample opportunity for engineers to utilize their skill sets in multiple disciplines and industries," she said. "Attracting and retaining engineers is a primary focus."
Miakisz has challenged herself and senior staff to think creatively to understand what the ideal applicant is looking for and to match those needs to the right roles.
"We continue to look at our recruiting strategy to ensure we are contemporary with practices and competitive with offer packages to attract the best talent," she said.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Miakisz: Successfully leading a large cross-functional team to commission and optimize a specialty product within the polymer asset of my facility. This was a multimillion capex [capital expenditure] investment translated from another facility with significant challenges in quality and throughput. Over two years, I led a team to trial, optimize and implement new procedures and assets to ensure stable operations of this new product line, which significantly contributes to the bottom line.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Miakisz: I am surprised there are not more companies tied to the plastics industry that rank higher in ESG [environmental, social and governance] as of the beginning of 2022. The plastics industry has a fiduciary responsibility to contribute to this global initiative, and we have a lot of opportunity. Understanding that there is significant financial investment required in most cases but with creativity and partnerships, the companies that are considered early adopters have already realized the benefits.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Miakisz: As my leadership bandwidth and responsibilities have grown, it is important to remember that relationships are imperative for success, but I am not paid to make friends at work. I've earned the opportunity to lead my facility and therefore need to always make objective, sound decisions for the business using facts and integrity is paramount, always keeping in mind the safety of our employees and contractors and fiduciary responsibility to our customers and community. I never compromise my integrity or ethics in any decisions that I have to make as the leader of my facility.