Plastics industry profile: Jodie Morgan
The CEO of Ontario-based clean technology leader GreenMantra Technologies discusses her career and some lessons learned.
For all of the unprecedented challenges the plastics industry has had to face over the past year, the news isn’t all bad. For example, according to Jodie Morgan, CEO of Brantford, Ont.-based clean technology leader GreenMantra Technologies Ltd., this is an actually ideal moment for women to enter the sector. “There’s no better time to be doing it,” she said. “The plastics industry is growing and creating a lot of opportunity for women.”
And Morgan’s own story is proof of this.
ON A JOURNEY
Having earned an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Delaware, Morgan’s career began when she first went to work in engineering, sales, and marketing roles with ICI Americas, a specialty chemicals company. She then worked with SPI Holdings, a private-equity backed company; Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals, a biotech company; and Pinova Holdings, a specialty chemicals company based on renewable and sustainable resources that’s now part of Firmenich SA. She joined the board of directors for GreenMantra in 2017, and was appointed CEO of the company in January 2018.
Given her experience with both specialty chemicals and sustainable technology, it’s been a good fit – GreenMantra produces value-added synthetic waxes, polymer additives, and other chemicals from recycled plastics, for use in various applications including roofing and paving, plastics processing, and plastics composites. “The company struck a chord with me,” Morgan said. “The people are passionate, the chemistry is elegant – which appeals to the engineer in me – and the business model provides an opportunity to create value for customers and do good for the world. It’s a trifecta.”
And it also suits Morgan’s own professional needs. “My passion is working with companies that can grow and thrive because their foundation is strong, and their mission is compelling,” she said. “Growing a company can be challenging, and you need to build a strong team to be successful. High-functioning teams have participative leadership, open and clear communication, well-defined goals, and diversity. It’s a journey to build this type of organization and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it a couple of times in my career. GreenMantra is well on the way becoming the third company to reach that milestone.”
In a leadership career that stretches back over 30 years, Morgan has learned both what to do and what not to do in business. “I’ve learned to treat all employees as volunteers,” she said. “Feel fortunate that people have decided to spend their time working with you and remember that most of them have other options – that’s the kind of respect everyone deserves.” On the flip side, Morgan said, she found out the hard way that partnerships formed to attain a short-term benefit might not go the distance in the end. “My biggest failure was moving into a joint venture focused only on how the new organization could solve a short-term issue,” she said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t find alignment on the long-term vision or how to achieve it, and the JV dissolved without reaching its full potential.”
And on the topic of reaching full potential, Morgan also believes that most parts of the manufacturing sector still have work to do to create a gender-diverse workforce. “The plastics industry is no exception, but I’m encouraged to see an increasing amount of diversity, especially in parts of the sector focused on sustainability and innovation designed to give plastic a second life,” she said.
Which is why Morgan sees the plastics industry as a more viable career choice for women today than ever before, pandemic or no pandemic. “While there is still work needed to make the industry inclusive, things are tremendously better than when I began my career,” she said. “When I was in fifth grade, my teacher told me girls could not be engineers. When I went to university in the 1980s, there were only four women in my class of 150. And when I started to work, I would go to meetings in clubhouses where women were not allowed to walk through the front door; I had to enter through a flight of stairs in the back. Every generation will face its own challenges. I encourage a young woman to accept that there will be challenges, balance her emotions, and persevere until she achieves a position to do what she wants to do. Success is worth it.”