Persistence prevails when all else fails, and being the change you want to see, were key take outs of this year’s Women in Packaging (WIP) Next Gen Leadership panel.
The four panellists – Azadeh Yousefi, Jessica Ansell, Caitlyn Richards and Nina Nguyen – were all finalists in this year’s Young Packaging Professional of the Year Awards, and are currently engaged in the fields of design, marketing, purchasing and business ownership respectively.
The theme of persistence has been central to Azadeh Yousefi’s career, which began in Iran where she struggled to get a foothold in the packaging industry.
“I studied industrial design at university and through that I learnt the essence of packaging.
“I couldn’t get a job in the packaging industry because it is male dominated,” said Yousefi.
After completing her masters, she became a lecturer at the Tehran University of Art. Searching for ways to work on packaging, she discovered the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP)’s Master of Food and Packaging Innovation with University of Melbourne and made the decision to relocate and forge her career.
Now a packaging designer with Production Packaging Innovations, Yousefi said it has been people’s generosity with sharing their knowledge and their willingness to give her opportunities that she is so grateful for.
Be the change you want to see
For Pakko founder and CEO Nina Nguyen, the box life chose her.
When Nguyen’s parents asked her for help on resolving structural problems with the boxes their produce was transported in, it was the beginning of a packaging passion. Frustrated with packaging she imported, Nguyen decided to take on the design herself, a decision which led to the establishment of cardboard packaging company Pakko.
“I guess the box life chose me and I fell for it – what I love about this industry is there's so much to learn from designs, pre-press, production manufacturing, to the different types of materials... it's just endless,” she said.
The importance of role models
Earlier in the session, WIP keynote speaker Louise Weine outlined how engaging and supportive leaders acting as role models was key for success in the workplace.
O F Packaging marketing manager Jessica Ansell came from a background of history and ancient world studies, stumbling into the industry after additional studies in marketing and communications.
Joining O F Packaging with little experience, Ansell said having a strong supportive role model in colleague Hannah Fyson helped her acquire skills and increase her confidence.
“My colleague Hannah took me under her wing and answers all of my questions every day.
“Coming into an industry that you may not have had much experience in, having a team willing to share knowledge, allow you to make mistakes, and give you opportunities makes all the difference,” Ansell said.
Always ask questions and lean on your network
In her role as Coles’ group responsible sourcing manager, Caitlyn Richards works every day on increasing the sustainable packaging share within the retailer and its own brand supply base.
Working at a large organisation presents its own challenges and benefits, Richards said, saying she learns something new every day and that should be the case no matter how long you have been in the industry.
“Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you need some help, recognise when you want some extra support, whether that’s internally or externally, and get to know the people you work with,” she said.
“You never know when your careers might cross paths, I definitely encourage people and particularly women, who might be less inclined thinking they don't want to take up someone’s time. I find most people are want to be supportive and helpful,” said Richards.