Marie-Anne Côté graduated with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Laval University in Quebec City and earned a certificate in leadership and management skills from the Management Leadership Institute in Montreal.
She started in the plastics industry as an intern at IPL. Even though the drive was an hour and 15 minutes from home, what attracted her to the industry was "the manufacturing process — for example, mold precision and complexity, injection molding process, etc. — the amazing plastic applications in the day-to-day life and the power of recycling-reutilization of plastic."
She was officially hired in 2014 as a planning manager; promoted to production manager in 2016, with more than 300 unionized employees under her responsibility; and became plant manager in 2020.
Côté is now the managing director of the Environmental, Returnable and Industrial Solutions North America Canada for packaging company IPL. She is responsible for driving business strategy, operating performance, growth initiatives and day-to-day leadership of the business.
"I lead the senior leadership team in all areas, including sales and marketing, operations, procurement, customer service, research and development and HR. We currently have 52 injection machines ranging in size from 90 tons to 3,500 tons, 450 employees with US$140 million of annual revenue, which makes us the largest manufacturing site owned by IPL," she said.
Côté said she enjoys training and developing employees to build a team focused on a common goal: high team spirit and engagement.
"To be successful in this, I am available and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week for my team, conduct frequent follow-up meetings, give honest and transparent feedback, have regular communication, set clear expectations and take the time to train and develop our people," she said. "This allowed us to achieve great results and exceed expectations during challenging moments."
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Côté: A plant manager that we had when I started my career as a planning manager. He was calm, clear on expectations and easy to speak with. He would show total control even if in the background he probably had a lot of things to fix.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Côté: Retaining employees when the facility is located 45 minutes from the nearest city as well as competing against parapublic companies that offer personal advantages that are not possible when you are a manufacturer. This, in a world where plastic is generating debates around sustainability purposes as well can be challenging.
However, this is giving us the opportunity to use creativity and ability to work on the things we are empowered of. The ambition of IPL is to protect the environment and its people, and at IPL, we know plastic better than others and the focus on environmental protection is being shared across the company, creating a favorable work environment where people are always put as priority.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Côté: In my personal life, I am a shy/reserved person. In my professional role, I have to talk in front of large groups [and] do a lot of presentations to executive committee/government/etc. in a language that is not my mother tongue.