The FLiP Files: Kristina Corona

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 to Kristina Corona, sales project coordinator at ENTEK, a company that manufacturers extruders –the machinery used to make plastic pellets and sheets that are eventually transformed into new plastic products. Think of an extruder like the Play-Doh machine you had as a child – the extruder takes plastic, mixes it together and pushes it out the other end in a new form (i.e. pellets or sheets).

If you’ve ever placed a large-scale order with ENTEK, you’ve probably had a conversation or two with Kristina. She brings each project to life, making sure the extruder build goes to plan.

How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

I found myself on ENTEK’s doorstep completely by luck. I had recently moved to Oregon (where ENTEK is located) and was testing jobs as a temporary worker until I found something that stuck. Little did I know that ENTEK and plastics would be it!

As a temporary worker, I had less than six weeks to learn everything I could about managing extruder projects. It was all new and there was a steep learning curve, which instantly excited me. After a short time as a temporary employee I was offered a permanent position and I quickly accepted.

Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

This is an easy one. From my first day, ENTEK’s Director of Sales Linda Campbell has been a shining light in my professional life. How would I describe Linda? She is an absolute force in paving the way for women in the plastics industry. Linda, who is on the board of Plastics News’ Women Breaking the Mold, genuinely cares about empowering other women and will do whatever she can to help advance the careers of women in plastics. I feel incredibly lucky to have been taken under Linda’s wing and it has encouraged me to do the same for other young women in our industry as well.

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

I’ll make it even shorter than a sentence – one word: coordinating. Every day I work with my team at ENTEK – made up of everyone from engineers to assemblers – and the customer to make sure the extruder project is tracking toward completion on time and on budget. It’s a lot of moving parts but I enjoy the fast-paced nature of my work!

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

While the latest and greatest technology we see every day working in plastics is fascinating, the people that work in plastics make me love my job. There truly is a kinship between people that work in plastics and I am reminded of this every time I attend an industry event like NPE: The Plastics Show or send an email to someone who I may not know personally. All of the interactions I’ve had are incredibly pleasant and make me realize the unlimited potential I have in the plastics industry.

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

I would compare working in plastics to putting glasses on for the first time – I see things so differently now! Being abreast of the manufacturing process makes me realize the steps that go into making even the simplest products. The other day I picked up a plastic cup in the store and thought to myself about the process that went into making it. I certainly wouldn’t have done that before working in plastics!

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

It’s no surprise that plastic is facing a reputation issue as a result of the movement toward sustainability and being green. Unfortunately, many don’t understand that plastics provide many sustainable benefits and are often the more environmentally friendly choice when compared to alternatives.

I truly think the industry will overcome this challenge and improve the reputation of plastic by using technology to boost the sustainability and recyclability of its products.  We have the tools and it’s about putting them to good use. 

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

We have an opportunity to change the way we use, reuse and think about plastics. Plastics provide opportunities in healthcare, food packaging, building and construction and consumer products. It’s our chance to adapt plastics to meet the needs of our changing world and we need the next generation’s ideas to help do it!

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

Polyethylene beads. My youngest son is on the autism spectrum and last year I made him a weighted blanket that acts like a hug. The polyethylene beads are inside the blanket to give it the weight it needs for his comfort. We keep the blanket at his school as a tool to de-escalate him in certain situations. It has been incredibly helpful!