Carmen Becker joined Amcor Rigid Packaging's Specialty Containers unit as vice president and general manager just a few months before the COVID-19 lockdown.
Becker was getting to know her team during a time when they could not physically be together. It was also an especially busy time, as demand was high for the essential manufacturer producing items such as hand sanitizer, soap, cleaning products and pain relievers.
"Today we're facing those same challenges as we integrate back to the office while maintaining work-life balance," she said. "This last year has been difficult, and it's easy to lose touch with people, and that can lead to people becoming disengaged with the work we do and with our team.
"Through all the distance and demands on our time, we also have to build morale and create culture once again. That's a core part of the work, too, and it's critical that as business leaders, we remember that. It's not only about the numbers," Becker added.
As vice president and general manager, Becker is responsible for "the end-to-end success" for Amcor Rigid Packaging's Specialty Containers business, which includes profit and loss and the sales and marketing council.
Becker has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, Master of Science in materials engineering from Case Western Reserve University and Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business.
She started out working in steel mills as a metallurgist and eventually became senior financial analyst for General Motors Co. She transitioned to the packaging industry about 20 years ago as finance director at Tetra Pak. Becker spent three years in Sweden as the managing director of Tetra Pak's Carton Gable Top division for Europe and Central Asia, then she became CEO and president of Tetra Pak USA and Canada. She took on the vice president and general manager role for Amcor in early 2020.
"I use a lot of humor and as a single mom of three, probably understand more than most the importance of work-life balance. People might say that I don't fit the mold of most corporate executives, and that's OK with me. I hope my differences have set me apart in a positive way," Becker said.
"Authentic leaders build strong teams because their teammates can believe what they say. You might think to yourself that you don't fit into 'corporate culture,' but there's not just one way to do this job," she added. "You might be the next great leader because of the unique attributes you bring to the job."
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Becker: When I was offered the position in Sweden, I really wasn't going to do it until I talked to one of my co-workers in the U.S. He said to me, "What's the worst thing that can happen? Take the risk and if you hate it, you just come back to the U.S. and at the very least you will have gotten some international experience." He was right.
Getting global experience has been key in getting me to the place in my career where I am now. A lot of people are intimidated by change and refuse to step out of their comfort zone. I understand that. I felt that. But it would have been a big mistake to have stayed in my comfort zone. I'm not saying it was easy, but it gave me many more opportunities than I ever thought it would and it opened my eyes to a global perspective.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Becker: The plastics packaging industry is underselling itself. PET packaging is designed to be infinitely recycled and has the best possible options for improving everything about how we treat packaging that today just ends up in a landfill. At Amcor, we already make hundreds of packages from recycled resin. But the plastics industry needs to do a better job telling our story and standing tall. Our packaging is safe. It protects. It's lightweight and won't break or shatter. It's perfect for an on-the-go lifestyle. It's hygienic and resealable. These are advantages that no other packaging material offers.
The opportunity ahead of us is consumer education. Consumers don't understand all these benefits and they've been misled by others when it comes to the sustainability of other substrates. But consumers play an important role, too. It's up to them — up to all of us — to put the bottle in the recycling bin. At Amcor, we like to say, "We love plastic; we hate plastic waste." A big part of the solution lies in collection systems and consumer behavior. It's this challenge that inspires me and I'm excited to be working for a company that is committed to being part of the solution.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Becker: To anyone who might be debating starting a career in plastics, I would tell them to focus on the possibilities. The problem with plastics is largely a false perception — and it's not going to be an easy job to change that perception — but the industry is evolving and bringing amazing benefits to the planet by creating a circular economy. If you're the kind of person who wants to make a big difference, enjoys taking the path less traveled and is willing to work hard to get to the right solution, plastics is the right career for you.