It was a coincidence that Chantal van Sambeek landed in the plastics industry, she said.
She had almost finished her education in hotel management and was looking for a temporary job when she was hired as a customer service representative at plastics materials distributor Nexeo Plastics Inc. She said she was excited by the possibilities, applications for different materials, innovations and developments to tell customers.
"From that time, I started to learn about the world of plastics. … My passion for plastics started here and never ended. I graduated as [a] hotel manager, but I stayed in the plastics world," she said.
Van Sambeek is the Nexeos' technical services manager for Europe in Barcelona. She is responsible for a team of business development managers, application development engineers and technical support.
Her greatest achievement has been setting up a strong, connected, new European team with existing technical employees.
"Some of the engineers were used to work in a reactive way. The company was asking them to work proactively with pipeline management," she said. "A [change] in behavior is always a challenge, but working in a strong team [while] having fun makes it possible to achieve the targets."
She added that Nexeo is growing the engineering plastics share year after year.
"Today the team I am managing is growing. Many people [are] onboarding," she said. "The challenge is to keep the team connected like we are today. Diversity in the team and having fun will help us to get the results."
Van Sambeek said the mold she is breaking is to keep the customer's interest first.
"I constantly ask myself how can we help them to be successful and how can they differentiate themselves in their market segment," she said. "How can our products make their parts more valuable?"
Van Sambeek was nominated by Romelia Hinojosa, corporate communications manager for Nexeo.
Q: What has been the biggest impact or challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Van Sambeek: The biggest challenge was not to have face-to-face meetings with customers, suppliers and colleagues. I am known for passing my passion (positive energy) to the other side of the table. This is hard to do through a laptop screen.
Q: What is the most unexpected thing you learned from the pandemic?
Van Sambeek: To be more creative … to keep everybody connected through the computer screens. Having a glass of wine together, celebrating birthdays with many different hats. Christmas songs from all different counties, … playing games, etc.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Van Sambeek: I have been all my life in the same company. … Today I see many young people moving every two years from company to company. I would encourage young people to be a bit more patient and to learn, learn and learn. Develop yourself. Money is important, but knowledge will be even more important for your future.