Kiana Anderson's interest in the plastics industry started around 7 years old, when her father was working toward his master's degree in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
"On Saturdays he would lock himself in the basement to work on his reports. Naturally, I was curious and wanted to hang out with my dad, so I would join him in the basement while he studied. He generously let me scribble on his notes while he was studying and even let me help type his final thesis, one letter at a time and very slowly," she said. "I'm not sure where he found the patience."
When he would come home from work, post-master's degree, Anderson's father would be excited about a project he was working on.
"Other days he would bring home samples for me and my brothers to learn about. I often asked questions and thought, 'Hey, this is pretty neat,'" she said.
Anderson studied applied mathematics and finance at the University of Rhode Island, and she is working on her MBA with a concentration in leadership at Bentley University.
She started as a cost accountant at Teknor Apex Co., and her career highlight so far has been transitioning from cost accounting to sales. As a sales and market development representative for Teknor Color Co., Anderson manages customer relationships, works in close cooperation with cross-functional departments, develops new business from product development to commercialization and conducts market research.
"I have been in my current role for nine months now, and I have enjoyed every minute of it," she said. "Despite joining the commercial team during a period of supply uncertainty, I look forward to waking up every morning and partnering with customers and my colleagues to source material, finding solutions for their supply or manufacturing needs and learning more about plastics and customers' applications."
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Anderson: My dad. Growing up I've watched him love what he does and I've seen him work tirelessly to achieve his career goals and selflessly support the family. He leads by example. Now that we are colleagues, I have a new level of respect for him. He offers me advice every so often in a very nonchalant way, and I listen. Each piece of advice that I have taken from him has benefited me in some way. I am very grateful to have a dad and a mentor like him.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Anderson: There are two molds that I am breaking. The first mold that I am breaking is a demographic mold. I am a young female in a male-dominant profession and industry. I work in a team of all men that are 20-plus years my senior. When I look at my sales colleagues in other divisions of my company, I can count only three or four other women.
The second mold is that of a traditional career path. Rather than following the normal career path that others before me have taken, I broke the mold by moving from accounting to a sales position.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Anderson: A current challenge at work is navigating the current supply chain with its raw material constraints. Raw materials sometimes show up unexpectedly or show up much later than expected. This makes it difficult to provide customers with sufficient notice if an order will be delayed. I always want to proactively communicate with customers, but the unpredictability makes this a challenge. This is not the fault of anyone, however, and we are all dealing with this same challenge up and down the supply chain.