Meet Meghan Barrera – presented by PwC

Manager, Global Marine Sea Stock Segment & Business Execution, PPG, Chemical

What do you enjoy most about working in manufacturing? I enjoy having the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people every day to solve problems as a team. While I enjoy the challenge of problem solving, working with a group of people to find a particular solution is what I like most. Pulling together a group of people who have different backgrounds and perspectives allows the group to develop a better solution than we would have made individually—and personally allows me to broaden my own perspective.

What attracted you to a career in manufacturing? When I was choosing to study chemical engineering, I wanted to ensure my degree would give me a wide variety of potential career paths. One of those paths for chemical engineering was manufacturing. I was not familiar with what that entailed when I first learned about it—I originally thought that it would mean doing calculations behind a desk. I soon realized that a career in manufacturing could be exciting and diverse…and most certainly not only doing “calculations behind a desk.”

Although data and numbers are important, a career in manufacturing involves applying those numbers to solve problems, whether that problem is making a process in a plant run more efficiently, finding a way to create a solution for a customer, or finding a way to distribute products more efficiently. One of the most exciting aspects is that there is always a new problem to solve, as manufacturing involves finding ways to continuously improve the business.

Besides problem solving, I quickly realized a career in manufacturing involves teamwork each day and the ability to work with various types of people in functions, suppliers and from a variety of locations around the world. Collaboration among team members is critical in manufacturing, and this is something that I always enjoyed most in school when choosing a career. Finally, the numerous career options in manufacturing also attracted me. Starting off as an engineer in a manufacturing plant could transition to material planning or supply chain functions, Environment, Health and Safety roles, or to sales or marketing roles. By successfully solving problems in a role, it could allow me to transition to many other areas in a company.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about creating their future in manufacturing? I would recommend that someone who is considering a role in manufacturing to learn as much as possible about what career options are available to them and the variety of types of jobs that are available in manufacturing. I would recommend that they talk to people in the industry, doing informational interviews, job shadowing them, and then participating in internships to gain as many types of experiences as possible. Most professionals are happy to talk to students about career opportunities and about what they do each day.

In addition, I would recommend getting involved with different student activity organizations and taking leadership roles in them. Those experiences will strengthen skill sets, such as leadership, teamwork, time management and conflict resolution that will help them be successful in their careers. It will also help them learn what they enjoy most and can help guide them to a career path.

What put you on a path to a modern manufacturing career? I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh. My dad was in sales, and my mom was a teacher. Growing up, I always enjoyed science and math. My parents encouraged me in those areas and supported my participation in many extra-curricular activities. From junior high until I was a senior in high school, I participated in the PA Junior Academy of Science competition, and my dad was my main mentor in that program. My parents also drove me to multiple Saturday science activities and to summer engineering programs 7 hours away! They always had the attitude that I could be anything I wanted to be and encouraged me down the pathway of science, math and engineering. At the same time, I was always interested in non-science activities, and participated in competitive dance and cheerleading as well as many other activities. By giving me a well-rounded background, they gave me the confidence to pursue an engineering degree.