Jennifer Clark's first plastics industry job was with a major soda bottling company using high density polyethylene and PET, and she said she didn't know she was interested in the industry until she joined.
"Once I got deeper into it, I discovered that plastics was both a phenomenon and a touch of magic rolled into one," she said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey. "I use those words because we have to use magic and art to do what we do on a daily basis in order to succeed. That is the truth."
She took a break to enter the world of procurement, which brought her back to plastics and introduced her to blow molding.
Clark received a bachelor's degree in health care. She's now operations manager for Riverside, Calif.-based Western Case Inc., a blow molder that specializes in plastic carrying cases, traffic safety products, medical devices and labware, food and beverage containers, automotive goods and household goods.
"Professionally, my greatest achievement has been a continued and significant cost savings for our plant through both networking and procurement with raw materials," she said.
"[My] biggest failure was thinking I would get it right the first time, every time in this business," she added. "Experiencing failure has taught me to be resilient, understanding and patient when needed."
One future job Clark said she would like to have is one running a "larger facility, with larger capability with automated equipment."
"My personal mold that I am breaking is to attempt to achieve success as a female in the industry whilst teaching the next generation. I found it is easy to forget to water the garden while looking at the fruits of your labor," Clark said. "The next women should know more, fear less and be far more capable so that they too can teach the next generation of female plastics professionals. I hope to see brilliant, resourceful candidates in the near future in plastics."
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Clark: I would have a luncheon, give raises and upgrade equipment. Can that be done simultaneously?
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Clark: There isn't much that surprises me now, but when I started in the industry in 2013, I was surprised by the different applications, different blow mold grades, etc.
I was recently surprised by watching a three-story film machine run since my team isn't often exposed to different facets of plastic. When you are in a certain corner of the industry, I found that it is typical among the workforce to stay there.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Clark: To stop worrying about everyone's opinion and do what I feel is best. This works both professionally and personally for me.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Clark: My advice would be [to] grow thick skin, have an open mind and plan on being OK with failing at times. It is part of the business, at least in my experience.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Clark: My mentors are my parents. Their stories are captivating, and they show a strength in their time that is unmatched with my generation or any after me that I have witnessed.