The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals that are active in PLASTICS' Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For our next FLiP File, we spoke to Dean Dodaro, Sales Engineer/ISO Coordinator, Polyvel, Inc.

Where do you work and what’s your title?

I work at Polyvel, Inc where I’m a Sales Engineer.

Tell us a little about what your company does.

Polyvel makes additive masterbatches for various polymer processing applications including recycling, medical, food packaging, as well as finished compounds. Additive masterbatches are pelletized concentrates that add functionality or change the properties and characteristics of plastics. For example, we have peroxide concentrates that are used to raise the melt flow of polypropylene, antifog masterbatches that combat condensation in hot food take-out containers, fragrances for trash bags and lubricants to reduce friction between moving parts.

How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

I went to school for chemical engineering in New Jersey where there are several large petrochemical plants and pharmaceutical companies. However, I really enjoyed material science and when I found out a classmate had interned at a small polymers company, I was immediately interested. I worked 10 hours per week there during my senior year and was hooked. I started full-time two days after graduation.

Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

There is a trio here at Polyvel that had major impacts on me over the past nine years: John Bassetti, Director of Sales; Jeff Daecher, Director of Business Development; and Brian Tidwell, President. Their combined experiences in sales, engineering, and management, which they shared with me, really shaped my appreciation for this industry.

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

Polyvel is not a large company and everyone is rubbing elbows every day with multiple sides of the business. In a single sentence? I split my time between technical service, product development and sales support.

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

Our company serves a variety of processors making everything from obscure to commodity products out of plastics. I really like seeing the versatility of plastics as a material. From durable to disposable, there are incredible ranges of characteristics and properties than can be tweaked in polymers.

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

I definitely champion for plastics when it comes to burying misconceptions about safety, recyclability and the ‘green-washing’ of some marketing strategies. More than a few times I’ve been asked, “Can I eat off of this?” or “Can I put this in the microwave?” Being able to speak to the reason those Sun Chip bags were so loud, or why “BPA-Free” seems to show up on labelling so much has also crept into my daily life. I have young children now and even spend the time showing them all the interesting things (at least interesting to me!) that plastic can make.

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

Recruiting and retaining talented new employees is difficult on all sides of the business. This becomes more challenging in the production environment when new hires don’t have any incoming knowledge. The learning curve can be steep and intimidating, so having a welcoming culture within our organization is crucial. The changing regulatory landscape is also a constant battle for a company such as ours that handles a wider than deep raw material inventory and customer base. Each regulatory request tends to require a customized response and it requires a growing amount of resources to assure compliance.

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

By and large I believe that our industry will continue to be supported by an extremely high plastic consumption rates. Plastics will be heavily utilized in growing and globalized development areas such as sustainable energy consumption (and generation), water-purification and light-weighting of vehicles. Basically, this is a very healthy industry that will require fresh minds for years and years to come.

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

My eye contacts, without a doubt.