As president of family-owned Paulson Training Programs Inc., Karen Paulson said the biggest challenge of her career has been navigating the "unknown and uncertainty" of a global pandemic.
"How was this global health threat going to impact and affect the company, our staff and our customers? The next question was, how can we still provide value to our customers under lockdown?" Paulson said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
Chester, Conn.-based Paulson Training, founded by her father, Donald Paulson, makes interactive plastics training courses and offers e-learning programs. Its products are used by plastics processors and universities around the world.
"While things seemed scary, I never panicked," she said. "I held fast to the fact that our company is resilient, that knowledge is power."
Paulson said her greatest achievement was that she, "as a newly minted — or molded — president, successfully shepherded the company through a global pandemic."
Paulson was named president in 2018 — the first female president of the 40-year-plus plastics training company. The first thing she did, Paulson said, was bring in her dog, Gracie, and appointed her the "happiness ambassador." Then Paulson met with every person on the team to understand their positions and roles in the company.
After all, you're only as good as the people who work for you," she said.
Paulson graduated from Quinnipiac University with a double major in mathematics and computer science. She started in the industry as a paste-up graphics person for Paulson Training's study guide and Leader's guidebooks.
Paulson handles financial performance, personnel decisions, sales management, product development oversight and strategic planning. Her current challenge is "international payment systems and subscription programs."
Her father is "hands down" someone she greatly admires.
"He created a company from his decades of scientific research and knowledge of plastics. The training products he developed has helped thousands of individuals and companies worldwide achieve successful livelihoods and businesses," she said. "I feel proud to be given the opportunity to continue that legacy. Education provides opportunity and advancement."
Karen Paulson was nominated by Michelle Paulson, director of marketing communications for Paulson Training.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Paulson: How so few women are running major companies, yet I've met so many women who are enormously capable. (Many I met while attending previous Women Breaking the Mold conferences.)
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Paulson: Online productivity tools like Trello. But more so, artificial intelligence is what most interests me. Machine learning can be scary, but it can also be a great tool to help strengthen your business. It's about decision-making and analytics.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Paulson: My dad would always tell us, if you want something, go get it. Don't let anybody tell you can't do something.