Donna Stoughton got into the plastics industry while she was attending San Jacinto College in Texas and took a temporary accounting position at Bayport's American Hoechst Corp., which produced high density polyethylene resin for film, pipe, injection and blow molding.
"When I started, I knew nothing about the different types of plastics or how plastic products are manufactured. But after learning how clean and efficient the manufacturing processes are, and about how important plastics are to our lives, I was hooked," Stoughton said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey.
She transferred to New Jersey to take over the Northeast territory for HDPE sales.
In 1994, Stoughton joined Charter Plastics Inc. of Titusville, Pa. She is the vice president of sales and marketing for the plastic pipe manufacturer.
Stoughton is involved in the Plastics Pipe Institute, American Gas Association, American Water Works Association and ASTM International. She is the first woman to serve as the chairwoman of the PPI board of directors.
"It was an honor for me as I have a great respect for PPI, the PPI staff and for the gentlemen that had served in that position before me," she said.
David Fink, president of the Plastics Pipe Institute, nominated Stoughton for Women Breaking the Mold.
"Donna has made many contributions in support of advancing the plastics piping industry during her career," Fink said in an emailed statement. "Also, she held several key positions within the Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI) including several terms on our board of directors, she has chaired important committees and task groups, and has been instrumental in mentoring new people entering our industry."
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Stoughton: Finding balance between life and career. My ambition and love of projects has often put me into an overload position where I find myself spending a lot more time working than anything else.
I have been learning to better evaluate need over desire, learning to say no and learning to delegate more. By doing this I am finding that my stress level has gone down, I am more productive and have [an] overall better perspective on issues. And I am enjoying a lot more time spent on personal interests. It's a journey.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Stoughton: Don't assume that just because you are in charge you have the best idea or know the best way to do something. Talk to your team; listen to what they have to say. If you're talking, you're not learning.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Stoughton: For the plastics industry in general, I am surprised that plastics are generalized and painted in a negative light. Just one example being a commercial that calls plastics "our worse vice."
Plastics have changed our world for the better, and I believe a lot more work needs to be done by our industry to educate the public on how important plastics are in our lives.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Stoughton: Time is my biggest challenge. There are so many projects I want to take on and things I want to accomplish. But there is simply not enough time to do them all.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Stoughton: Well considering the fact that I love my job, I will keep this one. But I do hope to have more time in the future to work on some special projects that I have in mind for Charter.