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First Ever Female Duo Leads Marketing Efforts for NPE2024

Welcome back to the Plastics Proud Blog where we talk all things Plastics Industry! For our latest blog, we interviewed two very interesting plastics-industry women, Annina Donaldson and Tammy Straw. Annina and Tammy are the Chair and Vice-Chair of the NPE2024 Sales & Marketing Committee. They are also the first ever all-female duo to run an NPE Committee in the show’s 75 year history! Thank you to Annina and Tammy for agreeing to speak with us for the Plastics Proud blog.

Maxi-Blast's Annina Donaldson- Chair of NPE2024 Sales and Marketing

Entek's Tammy Straw- Vice Chair of NPE2024 Sales and Marketing

How did you both get into the NPE Marketing Committee and become the Chair/Vice Chair of NPE2024? Did you get voted in or was there an interview process?

Annina: The positions on NPE committees (Operations, Content, Sales & Marketing) are volunteer positions with a 3 year commitment since NPE is an every 3 year trade show. In order to serve, an individual’s company must be a member in good standing of PLASTICS.

Committees are to represent the entire supply chain-materials, processors, equipment, as well as have a diverse makeup of members-age, gender, roles, etc.

In 2015, for the NPE2018 cycle, I was asked to join the Sales & Marketing committee as a member. At the time I was active in the under 40’s professional group of PLASTICS (FLiP). After the 2018 show, I was approached by the Chair of the committee to become his Vice Chair for NPE2021. The Vice Chair usually assumes the role of Chair but is allowed to choose who he/she wants as Vice. I followed this progression and moved into the Chair position for NPE2024. It was then my decision to choose a Vice Chair and I asked Tammy Straw to join me.

Tammy: I had exposure to the NPE committees when one of my mentors was NPE Chair back in 2012. When he retired in 2016 he submitted my name for consideration for the NPE 2018 cycle. During that time period I worked with Annina on the committee, and then last year she asked me to be her Vice Chair for the next show cycle.

Do you think attendance for NPE2024 will be impacted by COVID-19? The last NPE in 2018 had around 56,000 attendees. What are your goals for attendance and what are you doing to bring attendance up?

Annina: NPE covers every aspect of the plastics supply chain, including consumers. It is our job to promote every aspect, but to the right people. I can say that COVID has impacted both exhibitors and attendees of NPE since comfort levels and restrictions vary widely from person/company/country. My hope is that people remember the value of meeting face to face and the excitement from attending NPE in person.

Tammy: In my experience post-Covid, many people are happy to be meeting face-to-face again. We did what was necessary remotely during 2020-2021 but now we are ready to continue building relationships in person and doing so at the largest industry event in North America makes sense.

One of our goals is to make sure the people who have entered the industry since the last show in 2018 understand the significance of NPE. It’s not just a tradeshow. It’s a giant teaching and learning opportunity better than any classroom. As a committee, it’s our job to communicate that NPE2024 is where they can see, touch and learn about the newest technology across the entire plastics industry.

You both are the first female duo in this position and as we know, the Plastics Industry is lacking women in general, especially in leadership positions. What do you think we need to do as an industry to get more women into leadership positions in the Plastics Industry?

Annina: We need to show that women do exist in the plastics industry and that there are plenty of opportunities for women to be successful. Neither Tammy nor I like the spotlight, but when asked to showcase ourselves as the first female leadership team for an NPE committee, it was an easy “yes.” If we don’t share our story, then we aren’t helping get the word out there to young females that we belong in this industry just as much as our male counterparts. Events like the Plastics News Women Breaking the Mold are also great examples of highlighting women in the plastics industry.

Tammy: Exactly. Supporting attendance at events such as Women Breaking the Mold is important. When women see women achieving great things professionally it is very empowering. Instead of holding them back because they are female, we need to cheer them on.

Based on your experience, what is your advice for women about employment and career advancement opportunities in the Plastics Industry? Can you mention some of the challenges you’ve faced being female, and how have you overcome those?

Annina: For a woman looking to enter or advance in the industry I would tell her “give it time, change doesn’t happen overnight.”

I started off in the plastics industry in 2006 as a 24-year-old female replacement for my father who was retiring. Immediately I had my age and gender going against me. Oh and my education had taught me all I needed to know in business. Or so I thought. Instead of trying to work with the guys in the factory, I was working against them with an offended attitude because they didn’t treat me the way I thought I deserved. When I finally stepped back, assessed the situation from their point of view and admitted I didn’t know everything, I took off the heels and began spending more time in the factory learning from them. I knew things had changed when one of my employees said something along the lines of how impressed he was with my effort. It meant a lot to hear, especially since I was clearly failing at packaging our product!

In the past 16 years I have seen tremendous growth and change in the dynamics of this industry. I believe it has fallen to both men and women to be more inclusive by not only listening to one another, but recognizing each other’s strengths. It took the Chair of the NPE2021 Sales & Marketing committee to recognize my abilities, not as a female, but as a leader, to ask me to be his Vice Chair knowing the role would then become Chair. For that I am super grateful.

Tammy: I just celebrated 23 years in the industry last week and I can say with certainty that things have changed for the better since 1999! I can’t tell you how many times I was called “sweetie” and “honey” and asked to speak to the man who knew about replacement parts when I took a call. Fortunately we’ve come a long way from that, but we still room to improve.

My advice is to find a person who inspires you – male or female – and ask them to become your mentor. Make sure to learn as much as you can from them, and truly listen to their feedback. More than likely you will find that they will become your biggest advocate.

Thank you so much to Annina and Tammy for giving your thoughtful answers to these questions for the Plastics Proud Blog. All of us here at iD Additives can't wait for NPE2024!

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