The Many Hats of a Product Manager

June 26, 2023

Kali Kinziger is proud to work at Placon, a manufacturing company that also plays an active role in the solution to plastic waste.

Arguably the most important plastic product in Kali Kinziger’s life is her Nalgene water bottle. “I couldn’t live without it!” she said. That makes a lot of sense, coming from someone who describes her job as, “I think about plastic a lot, and talk about it even more.” So much talking makes you thirsty.

That’s a rather low-key way to describe Kali’s very busy job as a Product Manager at Placon, where they make thermoformed and injection molded plastic packaging for the food, medical, and retail markets.

Kali’s multifaceted role includes new product development projects in which she leads marketing efforts such as sales collateral, trade shows and events, advertising, and digital. She also leads Placon’s sustainability tracking and assists with initiatives such as customer presentations, the company’s Zero Net Waste program, and the Placon Sustainability Report.

The company won her over

Kali was already in the manufacturing industry when she started looking around for where to take her career next. “I applied at Placon after searching online,” she said, “I hadn’t known what they were but did my research through the interview process and the rest is history!”

Kali was particularly drawn to Placon’s recycling activities; their recycling center recycles 83 lbs. of inbound PET bottles and thermoforms per minute; that’s equal to diverting over 120,000 lbs. of PET containers from landfills each day. The opportunity to be part of a manufacturing company that also plays an active role in the solution to plastic waste sealed the deal.

An education, as well as a job

What has working in the plastics industry taught Kali? “I know what can be recycled now!” she said.  On a more serious note, she added, “I’ve become all my friends’ recycling guru and have a lot more hope for the next generations because I see all the work people are doing today to close the circularity loop.”

Kali is also serious about inviting other members of her environmentally conscious generation to join her in the industry. “Plastics is the sustainable solution and there’s so much more innovation we can make with it,” she said.

The excellent perspective from which Kali is learning about the industry has a lot to do with a mentor who shares the benefit of experience. “I’ve learned a lot about the industry and history of Placon and thermoform packaging from our CEO, Dan Mohs,” she said. “Dan’s father started the company and made many breakthroughs in our industry; I feel very fortunate to see plastics from his perspective.”

On the need to “get loud

She realizes that getting people to understand the positive benefits of joining the industry is an uphill battle in some ways, but Kali is also strong in her belief that the truth can win out.

“I think there’s a huge battle against other packaging substrates, such as with paper taking market share because they claim to be more sustainable,” she said. “It’s really disappointing to read all the misinformation out there about plastics and paper. But I think we can overcome it by telling our story. The science is with us. We need to get loud.”

Being part of the plastics community

Young people who join the industry as Kali did, with a PLASTICS member company, can also join her in enjoying the benefits of the PLASTICS Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) committee, a professional development initiative for plastics professionals under the age of 40. Kali just got involved with FLiP this year, but the benefits have been immediate. “Everyone is so inviting and welcoming, and I truly value the connections I’ve made. It makes the industry feel smaller.”

Kali’s message to under-40 professionals who are already working for PLASTICS member companies? “If you’re thinking of joining FLiP, DO IT! We’re fun!”

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]