At age 26, Olivia Deaton became the first female production manager for Teknor Apex Co. Five years later, at 26 weeks pregnant with her second child, she was promoted to a larger division of around 300 people.
"I navigated the pandemic, with two small children, as a production manager of a garden hose manufacturing plant. This challenged every part of who I was," she said. "I was constantly juggling if I was doing the right thing for my family, my employees and for myself."
In June 2021, she became the product manager for the Consumer Products division of the materials firm.
"Product management has opened my eyes to the other side of business. It is helping me become a more well-rounded woman in industry," she said.
Deaton is responsible for the life cycle of all new and existing products for the division, including developments, improvements, enhancements and commercialization.
"Essentially, I am here to ensure that our customer pain points are addressed and we remain relevant in the marketplace," she said.
Deaton earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, with minors in biological science and mathematics, from the University of Rhode Island. She is pursuing her MBA.
Her first plastics industry position was a process engineer in the nylon plant at Teknor Apex. She was interested in the industry because of the career opportunities. "Plastics are everywhere," she said.
"My greatest achievement is attempting to change how [the] industry views young, working female mothers. I have not let a single opinion stop me from getting where I want to be, which is in the room where the decisions are made," she said. "I feel I have proven, to most, that I can get the job done."
Q: What has been the most unexpected thing you learned from the pandemic?
Deaton: I learned that I am able to balance a lot of different things at once. I also further realized that a person's capacity to "do hard things" is much greater than we are aware of.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Deaton: Work hard but also work smart. Learn some of everything vs. a lot about just a small area. Stay on top of new technology and markets. Learn to work with people, not around them. The relationships and interactions you have with people will become your best or worst tool.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Deaton: I want to be an amazing mom AND woman in industry. I plan to prove that it is possible to be both.