If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had to explain your career to people a hundred times. You’ve probably heard things like: “You do WHAT with plastic?” or “That is made from Plastic?” or “Why do these plastic parts look so ‘Plasticy’?” I also get the “Did you ever see that movie with Dustin Hoffman….what’s it called…Mrs. Robinson?…you know the one…where the guy says ‘I have one word…Plastics!” We work in a wonderful field, don’t we? I never thought the world of plastics would take me where it has.
I grew up in Leominster, Massachusetts – a small town of about 40,000 people that has been coined the “Pioneer Plastics City.” There is a rich history of plastics in Leominster – plastic is to Leominster what steel is to Pittsburgh, rubber is to Akron, cars are to Detroit, beef is to Chicago, and country music is to Nashville…you get the point. I did have a choice as to what career to enter into…but not much of one. Plus, plastics made things possible…and who doesn’t want to make things possible? I knew I would work with plastics, but how?
I also had a knack for taking things apart, putting them back together, taking something else apart…making my bike go faster and my radio louder, in short, all of the things that make people say “You should be an engineer!” Well that about sealed the deal. PLASTICS ENGINEER! That’s what I’ll be! And low and behold the premier college for Plastics Engineering is a 45-minute drive from Leominster: The University of Massachusetts – Lowell. I applied, got accepted, and was off to the races. It was at UMass that I really started to develop what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to do it. Upon graduating, I accepted an offer from Visteon (an enterprise of Ford Motor Co.) in 2000 and started working at the Saline Plant making instrument panels for most Ford vehicles. It was exciting, new, challenging, and massive!
I enjoyed working at the Saline Plant, really, I did, but I also knew that I couldn’t work in a plant long term. It was not for me. I needed to get out a little bit more and not have a typical work day. About that time I was recruited for a Technical Service position that seemed to be a perfect fit for me and my personality. I really enjoyed it. For a person with technical AND people skills, the desire to solve problems, and the need for a sense of “adventure,” Technical Service was the ideal job. I got to travel around the country solving problems, helping people, and preventing problems. Man, it was great. That position kind of morphed into Technical Sales, then Business Development. I have now been working in Business Development for about 6 years, and it’s not as easy as it may sound…
I think as an Engineer. We are trained to be problem solvers and be analytical thinkers. We strive to find the CORRECT solution to the problem. However, sometimes in the “Real World” we have to keep our mouths quieter than we would like. We are put in situations where solving the problem could hurt sales, so we find ourselves in a dilemma and that, quite honestly, is the worst part about An Engineer’s Life. I always try to be diplomatic and help out my customer as much as I can, but I can never forget who I work for and who signs my paycheck.
Now, my life as an engineer today is quite unique. I work for Marubeni Specialty Chemicals. We are global traders of all things, from meat to plastics, oil to cars, clothes to hexamethyldisilazane… In addition, we are more than just global traders and brokers: we also act as major financiers, investors, and large scale organizers. We play a vital role in the logistics of transactions, such as the global movement of products. We assume and manage risks involved in transactions and act as business consultants, using our vast trade experience in new business development. We also provide many specialized services, including sales support, transportation, insurance, storage, financing and leasing, engineering and construction service, and traffic and logistics planning. If you didn’t notice, that was copied from our website but, in reality, we can and do get involved in all things that we find value in, so it’s really a great environment for people who are creative, energetic, love to travel, and have a drive to find solutions to all sorts of problems.
My current career takes me away from engineering a little bit, and that’s ok. I get a chance to work with all sorts of people all over the world, and having the engineering background has enabled me to have conversations with people speaking in totally different languages using drawings and hand gestures alone. I have sat in many meetings in situations where there is an urgent problem needing attention and engineers from around the world collaborate and solve the problem. Words are not needed when the fundamentals are understood. A picture really can say a thousand words in a situation like that. I think that is one of the things that I marvel at the most in my career. It’s something that I take with me every day. I really enjoy the communications, the problem solving, the possibilities that plastics offer. It changes every day: sometimes for the better, sometimes not…but it is fun, exciting, and as an industry we Plastics Engineers have a real chance to make a difference in this world. One of my priorities in the coming years will be to help change the negative perception that many people have about plastics and the plastics industry. We have gotten a bad rap – some of it deserved and some of it not – so that’s where I want to focus. We have a lot of great things going on in plastics so let’s get the word out and let’s also fix some of the not-so-great things that are going on.
About Anthony Gasbarro
Anthony Gasbarro began his career in the automotive plastics industry in the year 2000 as a Process Engineer working for Visteon Corp. where he was responsible for implementing step-change technologies in instrument-panel injection-molding methods. In 2003 he joined Advanced Composites as a Technical Engineer and then later became a Business Development Engineer. Currently, Gasbarro is a Business Development & Engineering Manager for Marubeni Specialty Chemicals where he is responsible for expanding a global technology portfolio of material suppliers, Tier 1s, and OEMs. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell with a B.S. in Plastics Engineering, Gasbarro was the Student Chapter President of the SPE at UMass-Lowell and has been active in SPE since 1996. He also is the Immediate Past Chair of the Automotive Division of SPE and the current ANTEC Technical Program Chair for Automotive, as well as the Automotive Div. Membership Co-Chair.