When Jennifer Forcellina took a job in inside sales at a small subdistribution unit of a compression molding manufacturing company, she didn't do it for her initial love of plastics; she wanted a job that offered medical benefits and helped her reach her goal of owning a home before age 21.
"I got handed a phone and pad of paper and was told to begin answering phone calls. It was intimidating at first, but I took it upon myself to learn the acronyms, materials, applications and overall plastics business," she said.
But now, as the regional sales director for Nexeo Plastics LLC, Forcellina has won numerous awards throughout her career, including the GE Inclusive Leaders Award, a President's Club Award and a Sales Excellence Award in 2019 and 2020 at Nexeo for her performance and contributions to the resin distributor.
"My greatest achievements have been moving from peer to leader roles and successfully growing the organizations," she said. "The first was turning around an unprofitable branch within more than 70 locations. In one year, I took it from a branch with negative operating margin to one of the top three profitable facilities within the company. I was able to turn things around because people bought into my strategy, we implemented a successful change management plan and we formed a team of people who wanted to win.
"The other achievement in this scenario is earning the district manager promotion at Nexeo Plastics. When I applied for the role, the hiring manager and hiring team identified another candidate as front-runner. After interviewing for the role, I was selected instead," she added.
Another significant achievement is that Forcellina graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor of Science in Management in her 40s. "I started and stopped a couple of times due to competing work goals and family responsibilities," she said, "but I was determined to earn my degree and not let a lack of degree hold back my career potential."
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Forcellina: I would like to say I have a groundbreaking vision, but our current CEO, Paul Tayler, did exactly what I would have done. He immediately addressed our people; took time to learn the roles, individuals, gaps; and identified where to invest based on the feedback and interactions. Today, we have many positive changes implementing and executing on our business plans. Most importantly, the people in the organization had a voice and are feeling the impact of these positive changes.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Forcellina: Plastics in its entirety is interesting to me, but I'm especially interested in sustainability and single-use plastics. We have a social responsibility [in] working to understand technology and [the] path most impactful. The focus of biodegradable, compostable, recycled content or plant-based polymers are emerging technologies we are currently concentrating.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Forcellina: I'm constantly surprised by the diversity of materials and applications for plastics from agriculture, transportation, packaging, automotive, building/construction, personal care and health care. Everything we do and touch has plastics. Plastics have improved our lives to some degree. In addition to the diversification of plastics and sustainability, the other fascinating thing is how polymers can be manipulated to achieve properties needed for end product.