FTA Emerging Leaders Committee Member Meghan Mullaney Discusses Succeeding as a Millennial in Flexography

FTA Emerging Leaders Committee member Meghan Mullaney didn’t plan to pursue a career in flexography, but an internship opportunity changed her path.

Now, Meghan is a marketing associate at MacDermid Graphics Solutions who stresses the importance for Millennials to learn everything they can about the industry through internships, as well was from what more seasoned workers can teach. In addition, she says Millennials have a lot to offer the flexographic industry as well, and that they want the same things out of a career that the older generation wants—advancement in an environment that is welcoming and positive.

Here, Meghan talks about her career path, how she ended up in flexography and why she’s glad she did, and how young people can succeed in the industry.

FLEXO: Where do you work and what’s your title?

Meghan Mullaney: I work for MacDermid Graphics Solutions in Atlanta, GA. My job title is marketing associate.

FLEXO: What does “marketing associate” actually mean? What’s a typical work day look like?

Mullaney: As a marketing associate, I am responsible for assisting in the development and implementation of an integrated marketing communications plan that supports the overall global business strategy. A typical day for me varies, as I deal with multiple departments within the company—sales, global marketing team, application development, etc. Because we are a global company, I have had the privilege of coordinating global internal events, tradeshows and industry events. In addition, social media and sales support are two aspects that are included on a day-to-day basis.

FLEXO: A more common career path for Emerging Leaders Committee members—and, in general, for young people in flexography—is to study package printing in school and then focus on one particular area once they graduate and begin their careers. You are sort of the opposite: You studied marketing and then found your way to flexography (specifically, to MacDermid), right?

Mullaney: Yes, I was offered a marketing internship opportunity, and it happened to be in flexography. Even though I was not familiar with flexo, this opportunity intrigued me as I hoped to gain marketing and business experience in any field. I jumped at the chance to learn something new in an industry I did not know much about. The college internship exposed me to aspects of marketing I would not have learned otherwise.

FLEXO: The flexographic industry is known for being close-knit and not unlike a family. Does your path to it make you feel at all like an outsider?

Mullaney: No, not at all, on the contrary. Being a marketing associate, I have had the privilege to assist and sit in on many different departmental projects. That is something I enjoy most—interacting with many different types of people, at different levels, on a day-to-day basis. Everyone I have encountered in the industry is welcoming and eager to share their knowledge. They know I am receptive to their questions, and they are equally receptive to mine, which only ties us closer together.

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

Mullaney: As an outsider to the industry, I did not realize the full span flexography has on the consumer world. Flexography doesn’t affect just one aspect of consumerism. Even though we are a B2B company, our final products can be seen daily in the retail and corporate world—be it labels, flexible packaging, corrugated, etc. The finished printed products are seen by consumers on a daily basis, even if they are not aware of it yet.

FLEXO: When someone who is not a flexographer asks you about the industry, how do you describe it?

Mullaney: This is one of my favorite questions I receive when I tell people I work in the flexographic industry. Being a recent outsider to the industry serves to my benefit when answering this question as I can closely relate to an outsider’s point of view. My typical response is this: Imagine walking down a supermarket aisle and seeing the vivid colors and graphics on potato chip bags, water bottle wraps, and cracker boxes. Most of these packages are produced via the flexographic printing process. Ink is transferred from a photopolymer printing plate, onto a substrate, which then creates a printed package, with the goal of catching the consumer’s attention in order to sell more products.

FLEXO: How did you go about learning the intricacies of plates and their role in the flexographic printing process?

Mullaney: I was fortunate enough to not only have wonderful in-house mentors, but I also had the opportunity to attend one of Clemson’s flexographic printing courses. Walking through the step-by-step processes, and seeing firsthand plates on press was very beneficial for me to help connect the dots. Also, being able to visit customer sites and attend industry tradeshows exposed me to different aspects of the flexographic printing market.

FLEXO: One of the biggest takeaways from the FTA Generational Study was a large majority of students studying package printing—83 percent—felt completely unprepared for a job. How did you feel when you started at your first job?

Mullaney: Interning before my first full-time job helped me immensely, and I would recommend an internship to anyone who is in school or recently graduated. Seize every opportunity that comes your way to learn. Even though I was not experienced, being exposed early on to the daily operations of a business, smoothed my transition from college to a business career. My mentors allowed me to see the intricacies of their daily jobs and how they tackled complex projects.

FLEXO: What do you think is the biggest misconception about young people in this industry?

Mullaney: In my opinion, the biggest misconception about my generation is that we do not want the same things out of a career as the other generations—this is incorrect. Both young and veteran workers strive to advance in their careers in an environment that is welcoming and positive. Young people in the industry will remain loyal to a company and career where we feel like we are consistently challenged and appreciated.