Gabrielle Schlumbohm, 27
Product Specialist, Entec Polymers LLC
Gabrielle Schlumbohm initially joined Entec Polymers in 2017 as a customer service representative because she enjoyed both the culture and the company.
"My dad used to quote, 'There is a great future in plastics,' from the movie The Graduate. Once I started working at Entec, I realized how large of an impact the industry has on not only my life but globally every human," she said. "Learning the different types of plastics and what applications they go into led me to understand how integrated and important it was for our society. I wanted to be a part of an industry that was an important factor in the world, and this is one of the largest."
Schlumbohm has a bachelor's degree in business administration/economics from the University of Central Florida and held a commercial project manager internship with Siemens.
She became a polystyrene product specialist in June 2018 and polypropylene product specialist in December 2018.
The biggest challenges from the pandemic she faces are supply chain constraints and market volatility.
"Between the labor, container, truck drivers, vessel space, raw goods shortages, it has been difficult to keep our customers running. Throughout the pandemic, it felt like there wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel. Usually, when times are difficult, there is some hope that at some point it will come to an end and things will improve. However, this time, it feels as though the supply chain is still not easing up and that is causing the workforce to be burnt out constantly," she said.
"The pandemic also opened my eyes to how globally connected we are as a supply chain. With the virus specifically, it also caused many people to grow fearful to interact with others. This created a large shift of virtual interaction, which is not as personal. My favorite part of my job is being able to visit our customers and suppliers, and I have not been able to do that since the pandemic hit," she added.
To learn and grow, Schlumbohm said she puts herself in challenges that are uncomfortable, as she believes that's how the greatest growth happens.
"In order to advance my career, I have uncomfortable conversations about how I can improve, more responsibilities I can take on and network with the highest-level positions within my company to ensure I am known. … I come to work every day with compassion and drive to not only be the best employee but work at the best company possible," she said. "Growing up … taught me that if you want something out of life, you must be the person to get after it. I never back down from a challenge."
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Schlumbohm: Graduating college at the age of 22, debt-free. Growing up, my parents did not have much money. My dad worked full time as a bartender at the airport while my mom stayed home to raise us as kids. My family of five grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in Orlando, Fla. Watching my parents constantly struggle helped me learn the value of the dollar. There were times when I wanted or needed something that my parents simply could not afford. Witnessing their struggle, I wanted to get a degree, become successful and help my family.
A few days after turning 16, I had my first official job at a local Nature's Table Café and bought my first car for $2,500. From working full time in high school and all throughout college, I budgeted and saved for all four years of college. I managed to make enough money to pay for everything without any student loans. I lived on my own at the age of 19 with two roommates and managed to save all my money to put towards my bills and school. Seeing the amount of debt that people collect throughout their college experience and how much they struggle to pay it off over the course of their career has made me extremely grateful for my ability to pay for school out of my own pocket. It has also led me to become successful in my career.
Q: What should the plastics industry do to expand its efforts in diversity and inclusion?
Schlumbohm: The industry is money-driven, which, throughout history, has been driven by male success. Men were the breadwinners of the household, while women were expected to stay home and raise the family. As our society is growing and developing, I believe in this industry, it is still dominated by men.
I have visited suppliers and customers across the United States, and I noticed it is a male-dominant workforce. I think the industry needs to make greater efforts to move away from "good old boy" practices and take into consideration allowing a more diversified leadership group in top-level positions and sales force members. From personal experience, I can say it has been difficult as a woman to move up into higher-level positions within the industry where I would be respected and valued, as opposed to moving to the position just to "appear"' that there is more diversity and inclusion.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Schlumbohm: I am surprised at how large the industry is ingrained in our society. I never would have imagined how many things are made from plastic. When I began learning about plastics and everything it is currently used for, it was a big shock. Additionally, how large of the supply chain the plastic industry affects. That was significantly seen during this COVID pandemic. Walking into stores where the shelves are empty was not something I thought I would see in my lifetime. With that, I began to realize the true scale of the plastics industry.