Brad Gasque didn’t exactly expect to land in the career he did. Today a technical service consultant at DuPont Advanced Printing, all Brad knew at an early age was that he liked problem solving.
En route to DuPont, Brad transferred from another school to Clemson University, interned at sgsco and RR Donnelley, and worked at the Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics. Along the way, he found an application for that childhood desire to fix things—a predilection many young people have and one which can be used just about anywhere—in the flexographic industry.
“When a customer is having issues and the plate seems to be the source, I come in and help them resolve the problem,” he says of his 9-to-5. “There is something about the challenge to finding a solution to a problem that I really enjoy.”
Here, Brad talks to FLEXO Magazine about his career path, his experiences and observations and how they informed the road he’s traveled so far, and what the next generation can bring to companies today.
FLEXO Magazine: Where do you work and what’s your title? What was your career path to where you are today?
Brad Gasque: I work for DuPont Advanced Printing as a technical service consultant. My career path started back in high school when I realized I was a “gear head” and enjoyed problem solving anything with a motor. There is something about the challenge to finding a solution to a problem that I really enjoy.
I originally started college as a mechanical engineering major, as I was told that would be the best fit for a problem-solving kind of mindset. After shadowing a group of engineers for a few days at a Michelin plant, I quickly realized it was more number crunching in a cubicle than it was problem solving. I ended up transferring from NC State University to Clemson University, where I received my B.S. in graphic communications.
While at Clemson, I was fortunate to have two internships. The first was at sgsco in Atlanta, GA, where I enjoyed learning more about flexo and color management. The second was at an RR Donnelley offset-litho plant in Durham, NC, where I learned a ton about prepress, and that I did not like sitting in front of a computer all day. After graduation, I was hired by Clemson to manage the Advanced Flexography Lab in the Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics, where I taught labs, industry seminars and conducted R&D projects.
After working at Clemson for four-and-a-half years, I left to pursue a job with DuPont. I have been with DuPont for three years and continue to learn more and more about this exciting industry.
FLEXO: What does “technical service consultant” actually mean? What’s a typical work day look like?
Gasque: It means that I support the DuPont Cyrel product line, including plates and equipment. In North America, DuPont has seven members on the Technical Service team. When a customer is having issues and the plate seems to be the source, I come in and help them resolve the problem. I also host training sessions with customers to teach them anything from plate handling to press optimization. Something else that has kept me busy over the past few years is converting customers over to the new EASY plates.
FLEXO: Going to school to study a field and actually working in that field are always two very different things. When you were in school, how did you envision working in the flexographic industry would be, and how has it been different?
Gasque: Many of the faculty members in the graphics communications program at Clemson came from the flexographic industry, so they teach from their experiences, giving the students insight to the industry. I also had two internships, which allowed me to get a glimpse of the industry. However, working in production is very different than school. In school, you learn all the theories and processes that should be followed, but sometimes production throws all of that to the side.
FLEXO: After graduating, you worked for a time at Clemson as a research associate. What was that like, working closely with students?
Gasque: My time at Clemson was nothing but great. The students give off an energy that you don’t find in many workplaces, so it was an enjoyable environment. Every student with whom I worked, I wondered what they might accomplish in their career. Maybe they would develop a technology that changes the industry forever. It is exciting to see many of them in the flexographic industry today doing big things. I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the undergraduate and graduate students that worked as lab assistants at the Sonoco Institute. They made long days in the lab so much fun, and I will forever be grateful for those times.
FLEXO: What’s something that has surprised you—good or bad—about working in the flexographic industry?
Gasque: I am sometimes a bit surprised that, with all the resources and tools this industry has for process control, there are still some facilities that do not seem to try to control their processes. I often see tools and devices for process control hidden in drawers or covered in dust because they are not used. I think that since flexography was considered more of an art for so long, that it is difficult for some facilities to transform it into a science. The great thing about these facilities is that they have an opportunity for improvement.
I am also amazed that with a massive industry like package printing, the core of it is like a small family. It is cool to walk through stores and see all the print around me and know that I get to rub shoulders with everyone at industry gatherings who makes it happen. This is a special industry with great people.