Cara Walton, 24
Client Engagement Manager
Harbour Results Inc.
Cara Walton was born in Burlington, Vt., to mechanical engineer parents who met 35 years ago while working for a plastics injection molder. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor's degree in economics.
She started as an intern in September 2015 at Southfield, Mich.-based consulting firm Harbour Results Inc. and became client engagement manager in June 2017. She also worked as a sourcing finance analyst for GE Appliances from November 2015 to January 2017.
"While Cara worked at GE Appliance as a sourcing finance analyst for GE, she did a lot of work with commodity and currency tracking and a great deal of this included plastics," according to Walton's Rising Stars nomination survey. "Growing up with a dad in the industry, she was always interested in the economics of plastics and manufacturing."
Walton's job is to "help plastic manufacturers in North America be more competitive."
"Every aspect of her role is to gather and distribute data and information that will help leaders in manufacturing companies do better," the survey said, completed by Grant John, president and CEO of Independence, Mo.-based resin distributor PolySource.
John of PolySource and Lisa Lehman of Redwood City, Calif.-based additive manufacturing company Carbon Inc. nominated Walton for Rising Stars.
Plastics News: Greatest achievement?
Walton: As a young female in the plastics manufacturing industry, it was important to position myself as an expert in the economy, trade/tariff and manufacturing marketplace trends. In her short career, through hard work, commitment to her clients and a ton of research and monitoring trends I have become a go-to resource for this information.
This was capped off by her 30-minute presentation at HRI's annual automotive tooling event where she presented a year in review for manufacturing to more than 300 mold/die/processors. Additionally, she has presented at other industry events and webinars including CAMM, OESA and AMBA.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Walton: Today, Cara is focused on influencing people across her organization. There are many new team members and she is working to keep communications channels open, training, supporting, eliminating barriers and everything she can do to help to shape the future of HRI.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Walton: The plastics industry is like a huge family. She is surprised at how people in the industry are genuinely interested in each other's success and always look to do what's right for their company, their peers and the industry as a whole. There are people she met when she was young through her father and they are still connected today — relationships are incredibly important.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Walton: Cara sees these as two separate questions. First, her mentor is Laurie Harbour, president and CEO of Harbour Results. She is a leader in a male-dominated industry. She continuously challenges status quo in herself, her business and her clients. She can manage a lot of challenges and still remain calm. She recognizes the importance of work-life balance. But, most of all, she is passionate about making manufacturing better.
Second, the person she looks up to is Elaine Buckberg, GM's chief economist. She is one of the first female chief economists in the industry. Cara follows her closely to understand how she takes economic theories and models and applies them to the automotive industry to provide insight and clarity. Additionally, she is a great speaker and represents GM extremely well.