While completing her degree in education at Kean University, Theresa Healy joined Reedy International MA LLC in 1997 with the initial thought that it would just be a temporary position. Twenty-four years later, Healy is still at the chemical foaming agents and specialty additives provider, which does business as Reedy Chemical Foam & Specialty Additives, but as the business director.
"This is such a diverse industry filled with so many applications that it keeps it interesting all the time," she said. "It didn't take long before I became fascinated by the world of bubbles and how our foam technology can have such a huge impact in saving people time and money as well as the environment."
As business director, Healy is responsible for managing Reedy's Safoam business, including forecasting, sales, distribution, business development and key sales accounts. She works closely with many departments, from customer service and sales to production and quality control, meets with customers, assists with customer trials and provides technical sales support.
In her career, Healy has served on the board of director for SPE's thermoplastic materials and foams division, served as the sponsorship chair for the SPE Foams conferences, been awarded several sponsorships and awards through her participation and volunteer hours as the communications chair for her SPE division, assisted with patent research and co-authored a foams chapter in the Handbook of Industrial Polyethylene and Technology.
"My greatest achievement was to be able to take on an agency with little knowledge, build a business plan and strategy, and exceed the sales expectations," she said. "That was very rewarding to me.
"The other greatest achievement was being asked to write a chapter on foaming to help teach others," she added. "That was also a very rewarding and fulfilling experience."
Healy is also an active member of the Plastics Industry Association and an affiliate with PTAs at the local schools, and she volunteers with several groups, including Relay for Life.
"My biggest failure was going to school for education, working so hard to graduate top of my class with honors and then not pursuing that career path. I realize now that it was through this change of events that allowed me the opportunity to enter a completely new path in plastics where the applications and opportunities were endless," Healy said. "It is also through this different path that helped shape me to be the person I am today and I wouldn't have it any other way."
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Healy: I am a woman that started in the plastics industry in 1997 just out of college. I was on my way to pursue a completely different career path only to break the "mold." That mold was that you don't need to be a chemical engineer, chemist or even have a Ph.D. in this industry to pursue a career path in plastics. It truly takes passion, a willingness to learn, patience and determination to want it badly enough to pursue it.
When I first started, there were very few women in the industry, and I remember going to conferences and talks and feeling intimidated. I remember going to a customer trial a few years into my career and the engineer that I was meeting with looked down at me and said, "When is your technical guy going to show up so we can get started?" I remember responding politely, "Sir, that technical guy is me." It wasn't until I worked with him on the machine, explained my experience and background in foam, and showed him how our products worked that he apologized to me for assuming I wasn't technical enough.
At the end of the day, he thanked me profusely for helping him take 18 seconds off his cycle time, resulting in a huge savings. Of course, I didn't take it personally, but it did teach me that if I wanted to be valued in the role, I needed to overcome perceptions and prove my credibility, which earned me a lot of respect throughout the coming years.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Healy: The best advice I received was to work smarter; not harder. It seems so cliche, but it fits my role today. It is so important to figure out ways to do your job better and more efficiently with tools and technology. Time is finite, and there are only so many hours in a day to get work done. Figuring out ways to improve that is essential in growing as a person so you can focus on new opportunities.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Healy: I am most surprised by the resiliency of our industry. Just take the past year with all the increase in raw material costs, freight delays, coronavirus pandemic and the cancelling of our biggest plastics trade show. With all these negative factors, our industry remained stronger than ever.
There was story after story about how companies would have to modify or change tooling in order to make PPE or medical equipment to help out our medical heroes in times of need in very short notice. The industry banded together when most were skeptical if they would even survive these hard times. Many ended up stronger than ever before.