The following article originally appeared in 'The Metal Packager'. You can also click here to read it.
In this instalment of our series celebrating women in the manufacturing industry, Jenica Eisenbach, global technical service director at PPG’s Packaging Coatings, shares with Iris Arsic how she got “hooked” on the industry. With over 18 years of experience in beverage, centered around packaging and coatings, Eisenbach shares some of the key takeaways from her career and what it takes to rise to the top.
Through these stories, our goal is to help facilitate meaningful conversations and shine a light on the achievements women are making from the shop floor to the C-suite. While progress has been made in increasing female representation in manufacturing careers, there’s still room for improvement.
A report on key themes driving trends in the US manufacturing sector (https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/manufacturing/articles/importance-of-manufacturing-infographic.html) by Deloitte found the number one driver for US manufacturing is talent. It states: “Innovative advances in manufacturing will require higher technical skills, creativity, and problem-solving”, yet “companies are struggling to attract and retain top talent”. Women are one segment of the workforce that will help close this skills gap and talent shortage.
What sparked your interest in the sector?
I entered the industry because of my love of science and food, landing a job out of college at one of the largest beer companies in the world. I was hooked when they told me I’d receive free beer each month!
What were the challenges you had to overcome and some of the most rewarding moments of your career?
I faced many challenges. I’ve climbed many mountains to get to where I’m now and have learned several lessons. One of the biggest transitions of my career was when I decided to take a salaried management position after being an hourly union quality technician. It wasn’t common at the time to cross the line. I wanted to make a difference in the company and take a path to leadership. Having the perspective of doing all the jobs allowed me to create a more efficient and self-directed workforce. I offered the quality technicians the knowledge to identify quality concerns and the stop-work authority when concerns were valid. This empowered the teams to be proactive and present and gave them pride in upholding the integrity and reputation of the product to their customers.
One of the most rewarding moments of my career has been being a part of this PPG team. The culture of this company is like family – people genuinely care about each other and work hard to support each other for the company’s common goals. I’m proud to be a part of this team and am rewarded daily when I work with them.
You joined PPG last March. What attracted you to the company?
Two things attracted me to PPG. First, the potential of the company is limitless. While packaging coatings is my world, it’s a fraction of the PPG world. So there are lots of opportunities to learn and grow. Second is the presence of strong women leaders. When I interviewed with PPG senior vice president Amy Ericson, I knew PPG was a place where I could be challenged and inspired. Amy is a strong, intelligent and purposeful leader. I knew she would be a role model, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with her.
What do you enjoy most about your role now?
Having been on the customer side for so long, I understand our company’s and customers’ needs. I most enjoy being able to help support our customers. I’m now in a position to help them overcome the challenges commonly faced, like workforce turnover, knowledge gaps, efficiency struggles and sustainability targets.
What challenges do you face now?
One of the biggest challenges we face is the evolving regulatory and sustainability changes. We need to meet these challenges while continuing to deliver high-performance coatings. We’ve to stay diligent and closely partner with our customers to develop coatings for the future. For example, we’re successfully transitioning canmakers to our interior beverage non-bisphenol PPG Innovel PRO coating to ensure they stay ahead of global regulations.
PPG was recognised as one of “America’s Best Large Employers 2023” by Forbes Magazine for the second consecutive year. What steps is PPG taking to create a workplace that is both diverse and inclusive?
PPG is actively working to maintain and continue to grow a workforce that is both diverse and inclusive – something that doesn’t happen overnight without strong leadership across all levels of the company. We have strong Employee Resource Networks (ERNs) and executive leadership sponsors who champion each of them. Our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) team has developed multiple learning resources for our employees and is continuously seeking best practices throughout the industry. I am also a DE&I ambassador for Global Packaging Coatings at PPG. I’m proud to say that we want everyone to feel like they can bring their best and true selves to work daily.
Do you see meaningful progress being made on gender equality in the industry?
Absolutely! I started in this industry almost two decades ago. At that time, there were a limited number of women across all levels of the company and only one or two in leadership roles. Seeing more women holding leadership and executive roles across the industry is highly refreshing. It’s even more encouraging that our senior leaders work hard to lift each other up and send the elevator back down for other women leaders to rise up.
Do women need to be “more like men” to move up on the career ladder?
No, I don’t believe women need to be “more like men” to climb the ladder. To get there, you need to be a confident leader with the drive and the will to reach the top. Despite gender, successful executives possess these characteristics in their pursuit of success.
What advice would you give young women to pursue a career in this field? What are some of the most effective ways to encourage them to do so?
Every industry and company is different. The rise to leadership requires you to understand your company’s solutions and their impact on customers and end consumers. In addition, you’ll need to be able to receive feedback, both positive and negative, and translate that into what you need to excel in. My advice is to learn as much as you can. Learn from people across all levels of your organisation, learn from experts, and learn from your mistakes.
Describe yourself in three words: Optimistic, protective, resilient
Your favorite leisure activity/activities: Anything on the water – beach, lake, ocean, river – I love boating with my family.
One thing on your bucket list: To learn how to make croissants from scratch.