You could say that Lisa Barrieau danced her way into the packaging industry. Right out of high school, she landed a job with a professional ballet company, launching her seven year career dancing with Milwaukee Ballet, Minnesota Ballet and Atlanta Ballet. After ballet, and a career of waitressing in fine dining restaurants, she decided to enter the customer service field because she loved working with people. She joined Felins as they were looking to fill a temporary customer service position and fell in love with the company and the world of packaging. Once she got into the industry she learned that she wanted to explore different aspects of the business. Now, she’s the sales manager for the food industry segment of Felins.
What are some challenges you face as a rising star and how do you overcome them?
Obstacles that I had right off the bat were that I didn’t want others to feel like I was behind because I started when I was 25. I took notes, asked questions and did research because I didn’t want to fall behind. Moving into the sales position for food, I wake up every day and read about new regulations and trends in the industry. With there being so much to learn in this industry, I learned that it was ok to say, “I don’t know, but let me get back to you.” You have to become an expert in these regulations that are always changing, and while that was a challenge, it continues to motivate me.
How do you help your company innovate?
I don’t want to just be a sales representative, I like being able to take apart a machine. Understanding your company’s equipment helps you sell the equipment more effectively. When someone is wondering why your equipment is the right solution for them, if I am able to show them physically what differentiates the machine, it helps the selling process. You also feel a little bit more invested and connected to your company and their products if you know and understand what you’re selling.
As a woman in manufacturing what resources do you use to help connect with other women?
I am working with engineers, marketing and operations in various food facilities, and have found that there are both women and men in these various roles. I have gone to the Packaging & Processing Women’s Leadership Network events through PMMI, and find it to be an excellent event and have found true benefit in them. I love learning about the experiences that have made other women in manufacturing stronger, and it makes me feel like I can accomplish what they have too.
What are some packaging trends you have been eyeing?
With the food industry, some of the larger trends are transparency, sustainability and convenience. More and more customers are willing to purchase a product that has a good brand story and clean ingredients. Consumers want to build a relationship with their food. We live in a busy world, and the younger demographic is moving fast. We have been able to help our customers unitize and label single serving food products without the use of heat or adhesives, using minimal materials. On the operations side of manufacturing, it’s hard for our customers to find and retain labor for the end of the line, to do the jobs they need to fill. We are capable of helping our customers mitigate the skills gap through automation.
What does winning this award mean to you?
I am completely honored to have been nominated for the award. I have always wanted to make sure I know more than the day before, and I never wanted to appear to be someone who wasn’t knowledgeable. Through this journey, I have wanted to become a key player in this industry. I am graduating from business school this spring, and while the balance of school and work has been overwhelming at times, I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn so much in such a short amount of time. I am very honored to be recognized by such a fantastic organization in PMMI and I look forward to what the future of manufacturing holds.
As a way to recognize young talent making their mark on the packaging and processing industries, PMMI set out to find 10 rising stars. OEM Magazine spoke with each On the Rise Award winner to find out where they think the industry is heading, how they have overcome obstacles in their careers and how the industry can better accommodate incoming generations to bridge the skills gap. Learn more about PMMI’s On the Rise Awards, and see the other winners.