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 Louis Lee, international business director at ALAC International, Inc.

-Where do you work and what’s your title?

I work at ALAC International, Inc. as its international business director.

-Tell us a little about what your company does.

ALAC is a chemical and polymer distribution company with businesses in both domestic and foreign markets.

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

By a stroke of luck at the right time, a petrochemical manufacturing company needed a person who could communicate in both Spanish and Korean and hired me.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

Although I haven’t had formal mentoring, many of my bosses in the plastics industry have inspired me and I have worked hard to emulate them throughout the years.

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

I travel about half of the time to meet with clients and principals in person. To maximize the time I spend working with people in different time zones, I start my day with clients from the East Coast or Europe, then with Midwest or Latin American clients, and end my day with the clients on the West Coast or in Asia.  

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

The plastics industry is large enough to have something for everyone. It is a vital and global industry advancing the needs and comforts of everyone. The industry is rooted in the science of materials and is continuously improving with technology.

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

Although I didn’t have a passport until my first job in plastics, my career has taken me to 18 countries and 42 U.S. states, which caused me to need a second passport with extra pages before the first one expired.  My career and travels have also helped me find a new passion: learning Chinese.

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

Unequal policymaking among states and nations has driven manufacturing in general (and especially in plastics) farther away from dense population centers, which hurts the branding with jobseekers. The industry can do more to drive towards a nationally or globally adopted framework of policies on taxes and safety standards.

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

The future for the plastics industry is bright because of two reasons:

1.  It is directly tied to the revolutionized energy sector—everything we take from oil and gas that we do not burn for energy is used to synthesize a polymer or is refined into a chemical.

2. Plastics are always evolving in ways never imagined.

Whether it’s biodegradable tableware, strong lightweight plastic cars, cool technology, or more traditional applications, plastics applications are very interesting!

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

My laptop. It is a masterpiece of plastic, metal, glass, silicon, and software.