There’s no denying that nowadays sustainability is a key factor in many young professionals’ career choices. TAPPI Member Lena Sharesky is no exception.
It’s one of the main reasons she’s currently a Sales Representative for Packaging Corporation of America. “There are just so many creative ways that the paper and packaging industry is introducing sustainable alternatives into the business/consumer pipeline and PCA is right there leading the way,” she said.
According to one of the industry’s leading trade organizations, America’s forest products industry indirectly employs approximately 950,000 men and women with sustainability as a key principle: producing recyclable products from a renewable resource. For a generation of new professionals, does protecting and preserving the environment get any better than this?
As a student at Monmouth University in New Jersey (where she graduated with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration), Lena was actively engaged in numerous extracurricular and community-based efforts – a tradition she continues today both through her alma mater and TAPPI. A member since 2018, she currently serves as the Director of Events for the Young Professionals (YP) Division, and is an active participant on the TAPPICon 2021 Steering Committee, helping to plan program offerings for YP attendees. She was also a participant in TAPPI’s Mentor Match program, and is actively engaged in creating numerous YP Webinars and standalone social programming focused on connecting YPs around the globe.
Q. What prompted you to join TAPPI?
A. When I began my career in the corrugate industry, I looked for opportunities to network and gain industry knowledge as my background thus far was primarily in digital marketing. During my search, I came across TAPPI and because of its program offerings and networking opportunities, I felt it would be a great asset as I began my career in the industry. That certainly turned out to be true.
Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI.
A. I currently serve as Director of Events for the TAPPI YP Division, but I am also involved on the TAPPICon 2021 Steering Committee where I help manage events planned for all YP attendees. I also participated in and helped organize the Generational Workforce session at the 2020 PIMA Virtual Conference held in September. Focused on retaining young industry talent, attendees left the session with data and ideas that could be applied personally or within their own companies.
Q. How has being a member of TAPPI Membership assisted you professionally?
A. I have benefited learning from other individuals in the corrugate and related paper/packaging industries. It’s especially important and valuable during the early stages of your career to gain as much information as possible. For me, especially this year dealing with the effects of COVID, which is new territory for all of us, learning from others and their experiences has been very beneficial.
Q. What has been your experience using TAPPI resources?
A. TAPPI Connect and the Mentor Match program have been great. I’ve been able to glean insight from others as it relates to building soft skills. As a protégé in Mentor Match, I was able to connect with an experienced professional outside my industry who provided me with a broader viewpoint which helped as I navigated the beginning of my career.
I also use TAPPI publications to stay informed about what is going on in the paper/packaging industries as a whole. This helps me apply that knowledge both internally/externally, and provides additional benefits.
Q. What is a fun fact about you and/or any personal hobbies and activities?
A. Fun fact: I was Miss Maryland High School America 2013.
As far as activities, outside of work I enjoy staying active through working out, doing yoga, getting outside to enjoy the nice weather and traveling to new places (pre-COVID of course!).
Through my alma mater, Monmouth University, this will be my third consecutive year serving as a mentor for the Student Enrichment & Engagement thru Mentoring Activities (SEEMA). The Leon Hess Business School program provides selected students an opportunity to apply career development skills beyond the classroom while building relationships with their professional mentor.
In addition, I am also the U.S. Advocacy Volunteer Coordinator for Days for Girls International, an organization dedicated to increasing access to menstrual care and education and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for menstruators.
Q. Favorite paper product and thoughts on most significant breakthroughs in our industry?
The advancements in using paper products to eliminate the use of plastic is a significant contribution and one of my personal favorite packaging products. From creating paper bottle alternatives to redesigning beverage packaging to eliminating plastic rings, the paper and packaging industry as a whole is highlighting their dedication to sustainability, as well as their commitment to forward thinking as they develop these innovative solutions.
Q. Closing thoughts on TAPPI membership?
A. TAPPI has allowed me to build relationships outside of the corrugated industry which has been extremely beneficial. Through the Mentor Match Program and through serving as Director of Events on the TAPPI YP Board, I’ve networked and learned from peers and experienced industry professionals in various meetings. I’ve also learned from keynote addresses at TAPPI virtual events, all of which have helped me to grow as an individual. I am looking forward to continuing to build these relationships and begin meeting everyone in-person at various conferences and events once it is safe to do so.