Ozlem Akdogan has been leveraging her TAPPI membership and new connections in the paper, pulp, and packaging industry to gain knowledge in a wide variety of topics. Learn what she's been doing to advance her career, and the valuable lessons she's learned so far working in the paper industry.
What are your job responsibilities?
I am mainly responsible for the design, development, application, and testing of paper coatings. Although my official title is Product Development Engineer, I work in other areas of the company, as well. I feel fulfilled when I am able to contribute to different parts of the organization, and love working in a collaborative culture.
How did you end up in this industry?
I was working in Illinois as an R&D Chemist, and I received a call from a recruiter. He asked me if I was interested in a new role on the East Coast. I was newly married at the time and my husband was living in New York, so it sounded like a good opportunity. We talked and he invited me onsite to an interview. It turned out that the person recruiting me was the owner of the company. He was interested in developing sustainable and eco-friendly coating technologies for various markets. While it seemed challenging, it felt like it would be a good fit. I accepted and started building the lab for paper coatings from scratch. I am still here two years later.
What prompted you to join TAPPI?
I was like a sponge when I started my current role. I was looking for a reservoir of information that I could use to expand my knowledge, and that’s how I found TAPPI.
What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
That is a very hard question, but I think it is the fact that I truly found my passion and calling in life in designing and developing bio-based polymers for different applications at a young age. It not only an accomplishment but a blessing.
What is it like being a young professional in this field?
It is very challenging. However, we are relatively blessed that TAPPI offers a platform where we can connect with more senior professionals. I am not going to overlook moral support, either. It is just as important as technical support. Especially if you are a woman in a male-dominated industry.
What is a lesson you have learned that you would want to pass on to others?
I think one piece of crucial advice I have received is, “Stay connected to your core values.” I want to emphasize that, as well. It is important for us to remember to react mindfully in moments that feel wrong, unethical, or unfair. I know that is hard to do. If you come across a situation like this, it helps to change your position. If you are sitting, stand up, or vice versa. Take a deep breath and maybe even a 5-minute walk outside. But please, speak up! Never, ever keep it to yourself.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Hiking is my forever go-to. I also enjoy cooking, playing sudoku, and daily meditation.
How has your TAPPI membership benefitted you or your career?
I am meeting so many talented people through the Young Professionals and Women in Industry Divisions. Listening to their experiences and connecting with them on a personal level is broadening my perspective in this industry; not just technically but overall. I participated in TAPPICon virtual recently and I loved when Thalia from Domtar said “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” It resonated with me. Also, I joined the Introduction to Pulp and Paper Technology Course last year with my team through TAPPI. It was a good overview, and we gained a lot of knowledge about the paper and pulp process.
Just for fun:
What’s your favorite food?
Stuffed eggplant. We call it “Karniyarik” in Turkey. The exact translation in English is “split belly."
If you could pick a theme song for your life, what would it be?
Nina Simone-Feeling Good
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