Patricia van Ee has master's degrees in chemical engineering and business administration. She started as a chemical engineer at a specialty chemicals company in Europe but switched to sales.
"After a few years, I moved from an account manager role covering the U.K. and Scandinavia to business development in the U.S.," she said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey. "I managed two different U.S. sales teams and led a global group that innovated products and started business in high-end electronics applications.
"A year ago, I decided to make a big change and became senior vice president of sales and marketing at Inhance Technologies, a private equity-owned company that transforms specialty plastics and chemicals," she added.
Inhance is a Houston-based global provider of sustainable polymer materials science solutions for the consumer goods, industrial, health care, transportation and fuel systems industries.
"It's great to see how this mature plastics industry can quickly change to meet increasing consumer demands of recyclability and sustainability," she said.
Van Ee said her greatest accomplishment has been "building a business with a global, cross-functional team."
"We learned and grew together, overcoming cultural differences and resource constraints," she said.
Van Ee said the best advice she has received is also the worst advice: "Just accept it. It won't change and you'll only get upset."
"It makes me want to do the complete opposite," she said. "If things don't work well, we can't leave them as is just because it's easier. You have to go through pain and effort to make positive change happen, but it's always worth it."
Van Ee enjoys staying active, traveling with family — "we often take trips to go skiing, hiking and scuba diving," she said — hosting friends, cooking and watching football.
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Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Van Ee: There was a time in my career when I was working all the time and, in hindsight, heading toward a burnout. I made sacrifices in my personal life for work, which I regretted afterward. It made me realize that a good work-life balance is very important and better for employees and employers in the long run. It's crucial to catch an imbalance in time and make adjustments not only in the individual's schedule, but also within the organization.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Van Ee: The electronics industry has always piqued my interest. There are so many innovations in this space — a lot of which are enabled by plastics and polymers. Quantum dot films for ultrabright TVs, 5G cabling and thermal management materials in phones, for example.
I think India is doing very well as an emerging market. A lot of good-quality, high-end applications are being competitively developed there.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Van Ee: This industry is mature and very broad but can still be flexible enough to meet ever stricter regulations and increasing performance demands from consumers. I am proud to be a part of an industry that is able to innovate for high-end applications, while reducing its environmental impact. Inhance Technologies, for example, offers a recyclable barrier packaging technology that is fully compatible with any existing HDPE recycling stream.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Van Ee: My boss when I first started in sales management. A very experienced sales and marketing leader and a fantastic mentor to younger people. He coached well and promoted people even if it had a negative effect on his team. I learned something new from him every day.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Van Ee: Personal development and growth have always been important in my career. If I stop learning, I want to do something else. So it's not a specific job I'm after, but a continuous challenge. On a less serious note, I would love to have a side job as a sommelier at some point.