Stumbling into Plastics and Staying

December 20, 2023

The wide range of industries touched by plastics has been eye-opening for Stephen. “I’ve become more aware of the importance plastic plays in our everyday life,” he said.

In 2017, Stephen Goff was a freshly minted Clemson University graduate searching for a job in which he could make use of his Mathematical Sciences degree; that job search resulted in an analytical sales role at a polyester company. Today, Stephen refers to that as his “accidental” entry into the plastics industry, where he has been ever since.

Today, having added a Clemson Engineering degree to his CV, Stephen is a process engineer with PolyQuest, the largest distributor of PET resins in the U.S. and Canada and, Stephen added, “One of the fastest-growing distributors of PP and HIPS resins, a dependable distributor of PE resins, and a value-added recycler of PET.”

In his role as a process engineer, Stephen drives efficient process changes by studying and understanding the entire market, from supplier to customer. “That includes freight, raw materials, and international supply chains,” he said. “I perform analysis to provide data-driven actionable insights, while also including market-based conditions.”

While all of that may sound theoretical to those who aren’t analytically minded, Stephen can see a direct line to significant impact through his work. “Through my involvement within the plastics industry, I can help drive resource efficiencies and sustainability initiatives,” he said. “I enjoy learning about the rapid growth of sustainability initiatives being taken across the industry and across industries.”

Discovering a purpose

The wide range of industries touched by plastics has been eye-opening for Stephen. “I’ve become more aware of the importance plastic plays in our everyday life,” he said. “Awareness of the presence of products from all industries, has led to me understanding the importance of manufacturing and distribution to our daily lives, as well.”  

Citing a personal-level example of that insight, Stephen points to his own eyeglasses, eyeglass frames, and contact lenses. “Without plastics, none of these products would be commercially available,” he explained. “Whether it’s the actual plastic frame, or modern silica contacts, or the manufacturing equipment used, plastic is essential in the mass production of modern goods. Without my glasses, I can’t drive or cook or safely cross the street at night. A world without plastic would literally be a blur to me.”

Discovering a community

Working for a company that offers the benefit of involvement with PLASTICS, Stephen has recently become a member of FLiP (Future Leaders in Plastics) the association’s initiative geared toward personal and professional development for industry professionals under the age of 40. In just his first year of involvement, Stephen reports having already experienced the benefits of being within the professional network of PLASTICS and FLiP.  

“The FLiP book club has provided great educational talking points to discuss with colleagues,” he said. “Attending the PLASTICS Fall Conference provided me with amazing networking opportunities and allowed me to be exposed to new areas of the industry.”

Networking and social interactions have been particularly rewarding for Stephen, in that they have allowed him to have in-depth discussions of particulars unique to the plastics industry with peers who are concerned about the very same day-to-day issues he is. “One of my favorite things is running into another plastics industry professional and getting to discuss the technical side of plastic manufacturing,” he said.  

Having had similar discussions outside his FLiP peer group, Stephen is impressed by how open more seasoned professionals are to hearing what he has to say, which makes him eager to see more young job seekers consider plastics careers. “The industry is rapidly changing, with an experience gap between our generation and the previous one, allowing for our voices to be heard and our ideas to be implemented,” he said. “The industry is in a state that will allow my generation to make a positive impact and have career advancement through the development of leadership skills.”

PLASTICS and the Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Committee are devoted to supporting and encouraging the next generation of plastics leaders who will play a crucial role in the innovation, technology and future of the plastics industry. FLiP’s mission is to provide young professionals under the age of 40 the exposure, education and resources they need to build lifelong careers in plastics. Want to join? Want to get your employees involved?  Email: [email protected]