FTA Emerging Leaders Committee Member Matt Furr on Being a Millennial in Flexography

An openness to change, the need to feel challenged in one’s current job, growth opportunities within a company—these are just a few of the ideas millennials working in flexography feel strongly about, strive for and are driven toward, according to Matt Furr, FIQ color specialist at Esko. These simple concepts mean companies, when looking to hire younger talent, don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

“I don’t think HR managers or company executives really have to think outside the box to hire young talent,” Furr says. “Millennials—along with any other generation—want retirement investment options, college savings plans and upward mobility.”

In the second installment of the new recurring feature that focuses on members of FTA’s Emerging Leaders Committee, FLEXO Magazine talks with Furr—also a speaker at Forum 2014—about his career path and learning in the classroom versus learning in a pressroom, the differences between younger and more seasoned workers, and the importance of networking.

FLEXO Magazine: Where do you work and what’s your title? What was your career path to where you are today?

Matt Furr: I currently work for Esko as an FIQ color specialist. Esko hired me during my last year at Clemson University to be an application engineer.

FLEXO: What does “FIQ color specialist” actually mean? What’s a typical work day look like?

Furr: I work directly with Esko customers to implement and optimize prepress and plate making systems, including HD flexo screening, expanded gamut (EG) printing, contract proofing, Esko’s Digital Flexo Suite, CDI imaging systems and XPS exposure units. I’m responsible for ensuring Esko products are implemented in a way that allow my customers to maximize the quality and efficiency of their prepress and plate making departments.

Every week is different. I spend anywhere from two days to eight weeks with a customer to help implement their system. Each day could be spent running press profile characterizations, optimizing a CDI, printing HD benchmarks, building prepress workflows, or training how to use our artwork editors and plugins.

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?

Furr: The graphic communications program at Clemson requires each student to complete two internships. Both experiences were hands-on intersections between graphic communications and packaging science that allowed me to implement the skills I had learned in the classroom.

I don’t think HR managers or company executives really have to think outside the box to hire young talent. Millennials—along with any other generation—want retirement investment options, college savings plans and upward mobility. My generation has a reputation for job hopping and I think this is attributed to the variety of options and structure available in the job market.

My first internship was at Southern Champion Tray—a paperboard packaging manufacturer. I worked primarily in the prepress department setting up files for both flexo and offset presses. I learned a lot about contract proofing, preparing a 1-up file for print and working with structural designs.

My second internship was at MacDermid Graphics Solutions. This internship taught me about process controls, plate making, screening and fingerprinting. My internships showed me both the production and supplier side of the industry. While Clemson equipped me with a technical foundation, my internships enabled me to put that knowledge into practice in both environments.

FLEXO: What’s something that has surprised you—good or bad—about working in the flexographic industry?

Furr: I’ve always been surprised at how small the industry feels. Despite the wide range of what is being produced, it’s neat to see there is a fairly small and well-connected community behind it. I enjoy running into familiar faces at industry events or even on site with customers.