Tue January 15, 2019

The FLiP Files: Jonathan Quinn

The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals who are active in PLASTICS' Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For this FLiP File, we spoke with Jonathan Quinn, market development manager at NOVA Chemicals – a Polyethylene (PE) resin producer. NOVA Chemicals produces the PE resin that is later used to make a number of different products, including food packaging, shrink wrap and caps and closures – just to name a few! Their mission? To make everyday life heathier, safer and easier with the products they supply.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

I have a picture of me in a box of resin at the age of two… so, I guess you could say I grew up IN plastics. All jokes aside, my father led a number of different packaging companies when I was young. Working in plastic seemed like a natural path for me since I always had a keen interest in the industry and had been eagerly conducting stretch and elongation testing (one of the many tests that can be used to measure performance) since I was five years old.

With the intention of working in plastics, I went to Clemson University to get a degree in packaging and business management. During my time there I held four different internships in the industry – the first at Berry Plastics and the others at various plastics companies in Europe.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

My greatest mentor has been my dad. His success in and passion for the industry is palpable and has clearly rubbed off on me! Another mentor I have is Greg Guard who I was introduced to during my internship at Berry Plastics. He has been a steady source of support throughout my entire career.

The greatest thing I learned from these two is to have a passion for people. The product can’t succeed without the people behind it – it’s critical that each person on a team feels valued.

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

I look at consumer trends and translate them for our customers. I help them understand what implications trends might have on their products and deliver recommendations to help them drive innovation that will enable them to achieve their goals.  

The move toward sustainability has added an interesting layer to my job. Many of the recommendations I deliver include ways to make a product more sustainable.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

 The people! I am always amazed at how great the people are that I work with both within NOVA Chemicals and throughout the industry.

What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

My love life! I met my wife while we were both working at a plastics company. Without plastics and packaging I would not have my wife (Molly) nor my daughter (Emerson) or my son (ETA March 2019).

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

Two of the greatest challenges facing our industry is negative perception of plastic and a shortage of younger talent. These issues go hand in hand, but thankfully there’s a solution – education! We need to help younger people understand the value of plastic through educational programs that focus mainly on the potential for reused plastics and how to properly recycle.

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

My underwear! Everyone needs underwear – and I guarantee you didn’t think of your undergarments as a plastic product, but if they’re made from synthetic textiles like polyester or Nylon.