Lisa Mathena started her plastics career in 1998 as a customer service representative at LyondellBasell, "but to tell you the truth, I was not interested in the plastics world before I started at LyondellBasell," she said. Once she got into the job and learned more about the products and their applications, she "got hooked."
Mathena, product line manager for thermoplastic resins distributor Nexeo Plastics LLC in The Woodlands, Texas, was named Product Line Manager of the Year in 2018. In 2020, she earned the 2020 Executive Leadership Team Spotlight Award for her work on sourcing raw material for COVID-19 test kits in the middle of the pandemic and during shipment shortages and delays worldwide.
Mathena is finding challenges with supply and allocations.
"My suppliers are still struggling to get back to normal production after the [Texas winter] storms in February, and this poses huge supply issues for us. I have to work with suppliers to get the right products and then determine which customers get the limited supply," she said. "In distribution, it is a moving target. Not every customer buys every month, so I have to analyze who buys what amounts monthly and historically to determine customer allocations. It is more complicated on the distributions side due to the sheer number of customers."
One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic, Mathena said, has been relationships with colleagues that she does not interact with on a daily basis.
"Not being able to have those relationships and the lack of talks with colleagues at the coffee bar has made me feel isolated and lonely at times," she said. "Phone calls and [Microsoft] Teams calls are just not the same, and the lack of face-to-face interaction can really affect your mental health."
Mathena said the most unexpected thing has been discovering that she is not alone.
"I just have to reach out, so I have made it a point to talk to each member of my group at least once a month. I have been more deliberate in listening to both sides more and doing my own research," she said. "The pandemic has also taught me that I am my best advocate, and I need to be part of the solution not part of the problem."
Mathena has a bachelor's degree in administrative services management from the University of Houston and MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University.
Mathena was nominated by Romelia Hinojosa, corporate communications manager for GPD Companies Inc.
Q:What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Mathena: When someone tells me I can't do something, I find a way to do it. It may take me some time, but I always find a way. I'm the first woman in my family to earn an MBA, and I'm a second-generation American. My parents and grandparents had limited schooling, but I was determined to get my degree and was even able to earn an MBA.
I believe women can do it all. We can have a healthy family and a great work life. We find ways to get it all done. For me, it's managing my time. Find out what you can do, what you can go back to and, most importantly, figure out what's important to you.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Mathena: What surprised me most about the industry is that plastics are life-changing! Plastics go into more than just packaging and are more of our daily life than I had ever imagined. I find it amazing that a little plastic plate can cover a hole in a child's mouth due to a cleft palate and enable children with cleft palates to eat.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Mathena: I cannot imagine not working in the plastics or chemical industry. It is my life — maybe not so much the plastics or chemicals themselves — but rather the people who work in the industry. They are amazing. I love to read and love the smell of books, so maybe one day I will work in a bookstore or library. I think first I would have to learn to slow down. I'm not a person who can sit still for too long.