Dale Jackman’s first exposure to the plastics industry was a summer job, shoveling chopped fiberglass into a hopper for an extrusion company. He stuck around and worked his way to a project manager position, having found an industry in which he wanted to build a career.

Today, Dale is a regional manager with Gardner Business Media, focused on Gardner’s Plastics Technology and MoldMaking Technology magazine brands, and he credits those project manager days with helping him prepare for it.

Dale enjoys life at Gardner on several levels. “Every day, I get to connect with the buyers and sellers that make up the plastics marketplace to help get their message out,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity to help educate the world about how plastics can be used responsibly to better our lives and communities. Plus, my career in plastics has given me the opportunity to travel all across the country, and across the world!”

Asked whether he has met any mentors along the way, Dale said. “So many! From the amazing people at my first job to everyone at Gardner who has taken the time to help me learn the ropes over the past decade. Ryan Delahanty at Gardner has been instrumental to my growth in the plastics industry over the past five years, and I cannot thank him enough.”

Standing up for the truth

Among the things Dale has learned in his travels is that there is a lot of misinformed thinking about plastics in the world, and he feels strongly about correcting those views. “One of the major challenges facing the industry is the global perception of plastics as the ‘bad guy’ of substrates when it comes to pollution and carbon footprint,” he said. “We all know that’s simply not true. As was discussed at the PLASTICS Fall Meeting in Asheville, we have to pinpoint what our messaging will be to help combat these misconceptions with facts.”

It's easy to hear the Millennial’s passion for ideas and beliefs in Dale’s voice, and he believes other members of his generation could find a home for their own passionate natures in the plastics industry. “I think Millennials should consider a career in plastics because of the amazing opportunity to be part of the solution,” he said. “We know the problems and perceptions that we as the plastics industry are facing, and we have the opportunity and obligation to figure out how to fix them.”

Finding kindred spirits

Dale mentioned above that he attended the PLASTICS Fall Meeting in Asheville, North Carolina. He wasn’t there just as a representative of his company, but also as a member of PLASTICS’ Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) committee. FLiP is a PLASTICS initiative that provided professional development and networking opportunities for plastics professionals under the age of 40.

“I joined FLiP in late 2021, so I’m not yet a year in, but it has been a great experience,” Dale said. “The networking has proved invaluable.”

Dale is particularly fond of the FLiP speaker series, in which an industry member or professional development expert shares expertise and offers guidance to those in attendance. He is also very supportive of the work being taken on by FLiP’s Community Impact Task Group. “The Asheville clean-up was a GREAT time for all those that missed it,” Dale said, in reference to a litter removal event FLiP held with the RiverLink organization during the association’s recent Fall Meeting.

Even in a world where he needs to counter a “bad-guy” perception of the plastics industry, Dale sees nothing but positive opportunity. “When I was younger,” he said, “I would ask my dad things like ‘Why aren’t there flying cars yet?’ and he would say ‘Because you haven’t made one yet.’” That attitude of respect for challenges and belief in possibility are just two of the traits that make young people like Dale “part of the solution.”

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: flip@plasticsindustry.org

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