Surveys, studies and polls routinely ask the same question: “What do young people think?” Specific to flexography, FTA answered that question last year with its Generational Study, picking the brains of young people new to the industry, students on the cusp of joining it and veteran workers who know it well.
Now, in a new recurring feature, FLEXO Magazine will ask that broad question—and detailed follow-ups—to members of FTA’s Emerging Leaders Committee, a group comprised of focused, driven, inquisitive and eager-to-learn flexographers.
In this, the inaugural Q&A, FLEXO talks to Jason Cagle, application development specialist at MacDermid Graphics Solutions, chair of the Emerging Leaders Committee and recipient of the 2018 FTA President’s Award.
FLEXO Magazine: Where do you work and what’s your title? What was your career path to where you are today?
Jason Cagle: I work at MacDermid Graphics Solutions as an application development specialist. MacDermid scooped me up right out of college, so I didn’t have a traditional career path that led to where I am today. I started my career while a student at Clemson University, working at the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics as a research assistant. I started working at Clemson after my freshman year and continued to work there for the rest of my studies at Clemson. I credit a lot of my success today to that opportunity and the people I worked beside (you know who you are… thank you). During my studies, I also had the opportunity to intern for MacDermid as well as Esko. Both internships groomed me for the position I am in today.
Between working at the Sonoco Institute, interning at MacDermid and Esko, and being involved in every project I could get my hands on within Clemson’s Graphic Communications organization, I was able to set myself up for entering the flexo industry.
FLEXO: What does “application development specialist” actually mean? What’s a typical work day look like?
Cagle: An application development specialist is responsible for supporting MacDermid Graphics Solutions’ customer, co-supplier and internal application development efforts on a global basis. My typical day requires me to work with R&D, field service and sales personnel to ensure both customers’ and MacDermid’s interests are served, while helping to develop MacDermid’s exclusive line of products. This can be anything from assisting R&D with running print trials, consulting customers in complex situations that allow them to increase their print quality, or assisting in implementation of emerging technologies at customer partnerships.
FLEXO: Going to school to study a field and 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?
Cagle: Because I had the opportunity to collaborate with companies while working at the Sonoco Institute, I was able to gain some valuable insight on the flexographic industry before fully entering it. Though, the industry is a lot more fun than I had imagined. I’m continually amazed at how much of a close-knit community we are, especially on the supplier side. We are constantly looking out for each other and people are always willing to help. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
Also, being straight out of school, I was worried I wouldn’t receive much respect when visiting customers. I was preparing myself to be hit with the, “Son, I’ve been working in the printing industry longer than you’ve been alive” line, but that hasn’t been the case. For the most part, companies accept my presence because it gives them a fresh, new opinion.
FLEXO: What’s something that has surprised you—good or bad—about working in the flexographic industry?
Cagle: It has surprised me how much packaging our product touches. It’s cool to be able to walk into a supermarket and look at packaging on the shelf and say to myself, “I helped make that look better than what it used to look like at XYZ converter.” I know that sounds super geeky, but hey, I’ll admit it—I’m a printing nerd.