Tonya DeMarco graduated from the University of Rhode Island with bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and German studies and the University of Louisville with an MBA. Her interest in plastics began when she was an intern in the engineering department at Teknor Apex Co., where she performed a yield study on its plasticizer operation at its Brownsville, Tenn., site.
"This involved the task of climbing to the top of raw material tanks, sometimes in the middle of the night, to manually measure tank levels. Learning the plasticizer manufacturing process inspired me to understand how that raw material was used to manufacture flexible PVC compounds," said DeMarco, who holds two U.S. patents on thermoplastic elastomer technology. "This ultimately led to my first full-time role at Teknor as a process engineer in the vinyl division. I did not study plastics as an undergrad. However, the problem-solving skills I learned as an engineering student prepared me appropriately for that role."
In her current role as sales director at Avon Lake, Ohio-based Avient Corp., DeMarco coaches the sales and business development associates in the Advanced Composites business.
"We strive toward commercial excellence across our three business segments and focus on developing effective relationships at multiple levels of our customers' organizations. Our goal is to become trusted advisers and help our clients grow their business in a way that benefits both organizations," said DeMarco, who is based in North Carolina. "I thrive on using my technical background to help customers solve their most challenging issues. I also continue to serve as a business leader across the organization, coaching and training associates to develop sales skills."
In 2015, DeMarco was diagnosed with breast cancer. After the initial shock wore off, she said, she chose to manage the treatment stages as she should a project with a customer.
"As would be expected, I had a lot of support from family and friends during that time. What was unexpected, however, was the level of encouragement from my colleagues and leadership at Avient. I still keep the handwritten note from our CEO, Bob Patterson, pledging Avient's support," DeMarco said. "2015 turned out to be my most successful sales year at Avient yet, and I was inducted into the Chairman's Club for Sales Excellence. This experience taught me how resilient I am and that with the right team behind me, any challenge can be overcome."