David and Dorothy Chiorgno opened Pittsfield, Mass.-based Pittsfield Plastics Engineering Inc. in 1968.
Donna Virgilio is the daughter of David and Dorothy Chiorgno. She spent most of her career there on the administrative side: payroll, human resources, accounts payable and receivable, purchasing and more. The injection molder was purchased by investors in 1998.
Virgilio continued the administrative duties and eventually served as controller. Bruce Dixon, CEO and chief financial officer, came on board, and Virgilio served as a resource for shop floor and office activities. She ultimately became the vice president of operations, the position she holds today — a different environment from having attended cosmetology school out of high school.
"I was thrilled," she said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey. "To be hands on, working with the team on the shop floor, was exactly what I was passionate about."
Becoming vice president of operations has been Virgilio's biggest achievement, she said.
"I have a lot of ideas about how to improve operations and now I can share them," she said. "I like listening to and learning from the employees to see how we can improve."
Patrice Aylward, communications consultant for Absolute Haitian Corp., nominated Virgilio for Women Breaking the Mold.
"Stepping up to the vice president of operations position was my breaking the mold," Virgilio said. "I've learned that as a woman you can be a tough and demanding manager and still be a caring and understanding person. I expect a lot from my PPE 'family,' and they expect a lot from me. It's certainly a labor of love."
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Virgilio: My father and mother always said, "The customer is always right." It can be hard to satisfy everyone, but retaining customers is a worthy challenge. We strive to keep our customers happy, and we've had success doing so.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Virgilio: Same advice I give to myself: "Never assume. Always document what you want done."
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Virgilio: Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge. When it first occurred, I was proud of how our team responded. For team members who wanted to stay, we committed to keeping them safe, as an essential business. For team members who were not comfortable coming in, we understood. For those who could work remotely, we set them up to work at home. As always, we kept the line of communication open during this difficult time.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Virgilio: Today, I'm surprised more people do not look to toolmaking and process engineering as a career. Pittsfield was once a thriving town of injection molding companies. Today there are very few left, and we struggle to find people for these positions. We have started our own training program to address this issue.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Virgilio: My husband is my biggest supporter. I look to him to educate me about anything injection molding related. Whether it's machinery, material, you name it. He was in the business for over 40 years and has a ton of knowledge that he's always willing to share.
Also, our CEO first saw that I could make a difference on the operations side at Pittsfield Plastics Engineering. He has been someone I look up to. With his background in finance and mine in manufacturing, we complement each other and work very well together.