When Courtney Shaw first entered the plastics industry, she said she was surrounded by men who had been in the industry for as long as she had been alive.
"The confidence I had in myself and my knowledge slipped frequently, and I struggled to find my voice," she said. "Now, only five years later, I'm more knowledgeable, I'm more confident, and those men come to me for assistance."
Shaw earned a bachelor's degree in plastics engineering and technology from Shawnee State University in Ohio. Her first plastics role was at machinery maker Milacron Holdings Corp. in Batavia, Ohio, for a summer internship working in the auxiliaries and big machines department.
Shaw, as an applications and systems engineer, works directly on machine and equipment development for customers.
"Through my knowledge, experience and expertise in injection molding, I am the go-to gal at Milacron for processing, part analysis, machine testing and injection molding machine configurations," she said.
Shaw said her greatest accomplishment so far has been creating an "innovative and more efficient digital platform to specify an injection molding machine, based on a customer's specific application."
"Using this program I created," Shaw said, "we have the ability to review every aspect of an application, part size and other factors to configure the best machine and machine options."
The best advice she has received is to think of herself as a lifelong learner — acquire new skills, study new topics, develop an open mind and keep a positive attitude.
"I've been blessed with being able to work in this thriving industry. I've worked with incredibly dynamic customers, developmental engineers, as well as material science experts that specifically work to achieve polymer and process perfection," she said. "I'm proud that I am able to provide significant input across all market segments to our customers."
Shaw was nominated by Lacy Wise, communications manager for Milacron.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Shaw: It's rare to see a female engineer in the plastics industry. It's even more rare to find one getting her hands dirty on an injection molding machine! At Milacron, as an applications and systems engineer, I truly have the best of both worlds.
You may find me in the office in normal business attire, finding new innovative solutions, technology and service, talking with customers and colleagues on an expert level. It's also not surprising to find me in denim, safety glasses and steel-toed shoes while covered [in] grease on the shop floor, at a machine, conducting R&D tests, installing molds or optimizing processes.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Shaw: People use plastic products every day, but it's surprising how rarely consumers think about the work and material that goes into them. The plastics industry has truly reshaped our lives in many ways, from revolutionizing medicine to providing clean drinking water or extending the life of fresh food.
I also find it surprising how such a large industry can also feel very close-knit and small at times. The people you meet today, you'll likely see again at some point in the future.
Q: What has been the biggest impact or challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Shaw: At Milacron, I thrive on in-person engagement; whether it be with a co-worker, a customer or a vendor, having that interaction is something I enjoy having the ability to do. With the pandemic, I have had to be creative to find new ways to connect, keep my spirits up and maintain my work relationships to the same level.