Lucas Shaffchick says he couldn’t live without the plastics in his fishing gear, “especially my plastic worms.” But as much as he loves fishing, plastics have had a much greater and important impact on his life.
Back in 2011, Lucas was a guy with a Computer Science degree, working in retail as a personnel and inventory manager. He wanted a change but wasn’t sure what that change would be. At the suggestion of his father-in-law, CEO at Shawnee Chemical Company, Lucas gave the PVC (vinyl) industry a try and found a career he loves.
It also gave him the benefit of membership in PLASTICS, where he became one of the original members of Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a professional development group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.
The connections Lucas has made through FLiP have been invaluable. “I’ve learned a lot about other sides of plastics by meeting great people who work with other materials,” he said. “We really only deal with PVC.” Now, when he works with customers who compound other polymers, Lucas better understands their businesses.
Today, Lucas is Shawnee Chemical’s Customer Service and Sales Manager, working with customers and the Shawnee sales team on all things resin-related, whether the solution is PVC resin, additives, UV stabilizers, anti-microbials, optical brightener or plasticizer.
While Lucas makes sure everybody gets the support they need, he is quick to credit the whole Shawnee team. “We have an immense amount of experience for a several-person company,” he says. “Shawnee works with customers to solve complicated issues.”
Asked what he loves most about his job, Lucas said, “It’s been amazing to travel across the U.S. and Canada and meet such a diverse group of people.” The job has made the people at home happy, as well. “My time with my family has been freed up, as I can work from anywhere,” he said. “We can be walking a nature trail and I can take a call and help someone without any hiccups.”
Whatever part of the business Lucas discusses, the conversation always comes back to appreciating people. “Many have taken the time to teach me things,” he said. “From Shawnee alone, there’s my father-in-law Dave Peters, Rich Bradley, senior sales manager, our account director Tim Regueiro and senior account manager Andy Wolfe. He’s retired now but Andy was really generous about sharing his thirty years of experience.”
Lucas speaks fondly of mentors outside the company, as well. “And then, there are the customers who helped me learn,” he said. “It really is an amazing industry with so many kind people. As I visited more and more customers, so many went above and beyond to make sure we were on the same page.”
Asked what disappoints him about the industry today, Lucas went straight to an issue that PLASTICS is up against every day. “The overall stigma of plastics is the biggest challenge,” he said. But he added that PLASTICS has been doing great work educating the public and getting the truth about plastics to government officials through efforts like Washington Fly-ins.
Lucas also sees that stigma preventing other young people from considering careers in plastics. “There’s a huge lack of new blood in the industry,” he said. “A career in this industry isn’t perceived as the job to have when you grow up.” And he wishes people would take an honest look beyond all the activism and misinformation, “It’s an industry that is constantly growing. If you’re a chemist or engineer, it’s a great way to help shape the future with new technology.”
Once young people learn about the opportunities available in the plastics industry, Lucas hopes their companies will give them the benefit of PLASTICS membership, through which they can become part of FLiP, just as he did.
Particularly helpful to Lucas was his experience in the FLiP Mentorship program. “I was part of the first group to do the mentorship program,” he said. “I got to connect with Aline Alroy of HITECH, who may not have known my polymer, as we were in different plastics, but understood the perils of being a small business. We had several conversations and taught each other a lot. I would highly recommend the mentorship program to anyone who joins FLiP.”