Women In Plastics: Lisa Jennings

Plastics News
July 22, 2015

Lisa Jennings

President and CEO, PMC Smart Solutions LLC

Lisa Jennings, 43, is president and CEO of Cincinnati-based injection molder PMC Smart Solutions LLC. She loves her job at the family-owned company, she says, and, like many of the women profiled for this report, enjoys exercising.

Jennings received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and business from DePauw University in 1993, and an MBA in finance from Washington University in 1999.

Q: What are some of your career highlights?

Jennings: I worked as an intern for Emerson Electric during my time as an MBA student. My experience there helped me realize that my preferred niche was rooted in midsize, entrepreneurial companies, rather than in larger, publicly traded ones. In 1999, I made my leap to PMC. I started with the company as a financial analyst, and from there, I served as vice president of sales and marketing before taking the helm as president in 2010. In my time as president and CEO, a significant highlight has been PMC Smart Solutions’ registration as a woman-owned enterprise effective January 2014.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

Jennings: In 2006, PMC made the strategic decision to pursue the medical device market. I was leading exploration of the market and interactions with initial potential customers. Our leadership team and outside advisory board agreed that our future success was dependent on focused leadership to strategically develop this new market. I was challenged to dedicate more than 70 percent of my work to the medical device market, while continuing to support the rest of PMC’s core business with the remaining 30 percent of my time. I dove in with a combination of fear, excitement and the spirit of entrepreneurship. The result of this effort: more than 30 percent of PMC’s business today is in medical devices, and we are excited to continue bracing for growth.

Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

Jennings: In 2000, we made the decision to open a facility in Tucson, Ariz., to support the cellular and commercial electronics industries in California. Immediately after opening the plant, a massive portion of our electronics business shifted to Asia. We’d missed the pulse of the market’s domestic manufacturing efforts, and we felt the sting of having to re-evaluate. That said, we were secure in the knowledge that we’d taken the venture on in a financially managed way. We were able to sell the facility to another plastics processor at minimal loss.

Q: What is your current challenge at work?

Jennings: Time. I love the work I do, I love the people I work with and I want to have ample time to give to every person, to each issue. Making sure that I have enough availability to spend time with all of the things that need me and all of the things that I’d like to be a part of is a daily juggle. I work very hard to ensure that I’m available and able to help.

Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?

Jennings: Without giving the impression of a cliché answer, I’d tell you that the digital sharing of information is a big interest of mine. Moreover, it’s important to our business. We live in a digital world that’s in perpetual communication with itself, but PMC’s regulated industries tend to be safety-critical and high-risk — traditionally, slower to adopt change in the hope of managing risk. That said, our customers are more and more often facing regulations that require the communication of a component’s history and make-up electronically and at a moment’s notice.

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?

Jennings: Technical, manufacturing and engineering organizations are actively seeking smart, capable businessmen and women.

Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?

Jennings: I admire Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, as well as Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel and Silver Star. I heard her speak at the 2011 Cincinnati YWCA Career Women of Achievement Awards. Reading her books leaves a deep impression, but meeting Walls in person and hearing her speak inspired me to think about the greater context of the world. She reminds people that beauty, success and good are in the eye of the beholder.

Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?

Jennings: I’m in the job I really want, and I strive every day to have a healthy work-family balance. I’d like to continue to meet, know and encourage women who are actively doing the same.

Q: What do you do to relax?

Jennings: I spend time with my family, exercise, read and enjoy doing things outdoors.

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