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unPACKed podcast: From Temp Worker to Packaging VP

Hear the inspiring story of one woman's rise from temporary help all the way to packaging vice president at CCL Containers.

This episode of unPACKed with PMMI dives into the remarkable journey of Kim Kizer in the packaging industry. Kim's story is a testament to the power of hard work, determination, and breaking through barriers. In a candid conversation, we'll explore her path from a temp worker to a vice president at CCL Containers, defying expectations and embracing leadership in a traditionally male-dominated field.

To subscribe, rate, review, and find more unPACKED podcast episodes, visit pmmi.org/podcast or find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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Transcript

Sean Riley:

Welcome to the podcast, Kim Kizer. Let's talk a little bit about how you got started in the packaging industry, Kim. What was the decision based on? I know I didn't grow up as a little kid thinking, "Yay! I want to go into packaging. It sounds super interesting." It wasn't even something I really considered or thought about. So I'm curious what your decision was based on. What were your expectations and goals? Maybe you had some role models that led you into the industry. Could you touch on some of those things?

Kim Kizer:

Truthfully, I don't have an education as far as college. So everything that I have done in my career has just been based on hard work and perseverance, and with a few mentors along the way. So what really got me into it is I'd had my second child, I was 32 years old, didn't really have a career, so I decided to go off and find some work outside the home. I started out in this industry as a temp and started in the filling industry side of the business. At that time, CCL Container owned the filling side of the business. I'm now in the can manufacturing side.

And I mean, it's a lot of perseverance. I wanted to be self-sufficient. I didn't want to have to depend on somebody else to take care of me or my children, so that was really what really pushed me forward to do something with my life, if you will. I basically have climbed the ladder slowly over the last 30 years. I like to mentor people. I like to be that person. I don't necessarily think you have to have an education to get into leadership roles. I just think you have to have the drive to do it.

Sean Riley:

I love that. That's really inspiring. It's quite a tale of showing that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work your way through a company versus the, "I have to go get five degrees and start out at a certain level," or something like that, so that's real inspiring to hear, Kim. So I guess with that in mind, could you describe what your journey has been like because you went from a temp to a vice president. I mean, that, in of itself, is amazing. Were there important experiences or milestones, or maybe memorable achievements that you can remember?

Kim Kizer:

Yeah. By the way, since then, the company has divested that and we no longer own that filling side. I was with the filling side of the business, managing a very large CPG in the consumer space. After I accepted the role out of the temporary position, I can remember my boss at the time, when I was a temp, he asked me one time. He pulled me into his office and he said, "Why do you work harder than my regular employees?" I'm like, "I don't know." So he wanted me to continue on as a temp, and I told him no. I said, "If you want me to work here and give my 100%, then I need to be part of the team." So with that very great guy, he is a mentor of mine, he actually gave me an opportunity.

I started out in purchasing, and then I went from purchasing into a customer service role. That was about eight to 10 years of that. And then once we divested that division of the company, they offered me an opportunity in a sales position on the container side of the business. And again, that's aluminum aerosol cans. So they gave me an opportunity, I come in as a junior sales rep. I've been doing this now about 20 years. And about seven years ago, they offered me the vice president's job. I think the difference for me is I know some people say this, and I know it sounds like a cliche, but if you find something that you really like to do, it's not a job. And that's how I always was. I mean, the first couple years it was because I was juggling a family. I had a young family, a husband, and trying to figure out where I'm going in my career.

But it's not a job to me. It's something that I enjoy doing. I'm 61 years old. I still enjoy it. I expect I'll be here for quite some time as long as they'll have me. And a lot of great mentors along the way. I probably have two or three that stick out in my mind. I couldn't have done it without them. I had a mentor in purchasing. The guy that gave me the opportunity in the very beginning, he was a great one. Then, I had one in customer service. And then, I did have one when I decided to go into sales. And my greatest mentor was the VP of sales that hired me into this container side of the business. He's the best. I try to emulate him. He was really, very good. He has since retired. But yeah, that's my journey and I'm hoping that I can bring up the next generation. I don't want to work as hard as I did when I was 30.

Sean Riley:

Yeah. Who does? So with that in mind, as a successful packing executive, what is your secret to success? And I feel like I know what the answer's going to be, but I'd like to hear you say it.

Kim Kizer:

It really is just a lot of hard work. It's a lot of dedication. What I have found is you got to work hard when you first come into a role. You got to show that you will go the extra mile. You got to do those things. It's hard work. I mean, there's no other way to put it. And just always being there and doing all the things that nobody else wants to do in the beginning. But you get recognized for it, or at least I have. And I think other people in the packaging industry have also been recognized as well, some of my other colleagues, but in other industries. We're a fairly close-knit industry and I think there's a lot of opportunities in packaging if you want to do that.

Sean Riley:

Yeah, I would agree. And I would agree on it being a close-knit industry. But one thing that also stands out, and it shouldn't, but it does because of just the way manufacturing is in general, is you are a woman. You're a female. And it's not always the most welcoming of industries. I think it is, but I think it's not necessarily ... People don't portray it that way. So people think it's, "I'm going to be working in a greasy, old factory-type environment." So packaging, and processing for that matter, kind of get lost in as a place where women can come in and really make their mark. So what do you think are some of the qualifications and the abilities necessary for a woman to have to stand out and be successful in the packaging industry?

Kim Kizer:

Well, I think the biggest thing is you got to have a lot of confidence. Regardless of what your knowledge is of the industry, I always say you fake it till you make it. That's what I often tell a lot of the guys that work for me. You might not always be right, but if you're always willing to be there, try to find answers for them. You just have to be confident in what you do, and then the rest of it will come to you. There's two things that I always say is you do the right thing and you be confident about it. It'll take you a long way, and I found that that's what's happened with me.

I think back 30 years ago, where I started out ... I mean, before I started out, even in this industry, you work in restaurants, you do things like that. I'm not saying it's not a career, but it wasn't a career for me, where I could be self-sufficient and take care of my family. And that's really what drove me for that. And the background behind that is when I was young, my mother, a divorced woman. She is my biggest mentor. I look up to her. She's my idol. She had four children, we were on welfare, we lived in public housing, the whole nine yards, and she pulled herself up out of it. She went on to be an executive at Pfizer and the rest is history. And so I try to make her very proud, and she's still with us today so that's good. So she has been able to see my successes.

Sean Riley:

That's awesome. That's great to hear. So you're now a successful woman in packaging. So what are some words of wisdom that you would share with women who see themselves potentially being a leader, or in a leadership position of a packaging company like you?

Kim Kizer:

Again, it's just confidence. You got to go in, you got to learn the business. You got to understand what the customer is looking for or what the end user is looking for. And sometimes, that's internal customers, too, to your own company. So you got to be conscious of who you're trying to support and develop. And how you do that, you can't meet a stranger. I mean, you just can't. You got to be able to talk to people whether they know more than you or not. That's how you learn. And so I think that's the biggest thing is just keeping your knowledge base open and bringing all the input that you can, and just have a lot of confidence and perseverance. I know I keep saying that, but it's true.

Sean Riley:

No, I agree, and I think that's a great way of framing it. I'm curious, did you run into issues where maybe men looked down on you or gave you a harder time as a woman in this type of industry, or not?

Kim Kizer:

Oh, they absolutely did.

Sean Riley:

Yeah.

Kim Kizer:

I absolutely think that I was probably overlooked at the VP level for about five years before they finally did it because I was a woman.

Sean Riley:

Right.

Kim Kizer:

Unfortunately, packaging, it tends to be a man's world. Although, I think women are starting to break through that glass ceiling, if you will. Women can be just as smart. And again, they don't have to have a lot of education. You just got to know what you're trying to move forward. It's like rolling a ball uphill. Sometimes, you got to be smarter than a guy. Sometimes, you got to know more than they know, and that's what I prided myself on is to get to the next level. And fortunately, for me, my leadership, they were able to see that and, again, they promoted me about seven years ago.

Sean Riley:

That's terrific. So a question I like to use to kind of close out some podcasts with people who have been in the industry is you're a veteran of this industry now. What do you see as trends in packaging in general. And even further, what do you see with aluminum packaging in particular? Just some things that you could see in the next maybe five, maybe 10 years.

Kim Kizer:

I think that packaging in general, with the new generation, I think they want these packages to be more interactive, if you will. I mean, the new generation is a very visual kind of generation. With all the iPhones and all the gaming and all that kind of thing, I think it needs to be interactive in some way for the new generation coming on. And then the other thing that I think is that the next generation, they're very conscious of the environment so they want sustainable packaging. So right now for aluminum, kind of getting into that segue, we are replacing quite a bit of plastic with sustainable packaging of aluminum. Aluminum is completely recyclable right now. It's not cradle to cradle. It's cradle to grave in my industry. But 90% of the aluminum that's ever been manufactured is recycled into a different portion. Let me kind of give you an example. The aerosol cans that we manufacture today are an aluminum water bottle that it goes back into appliances, it goes back into cars, it goes back into those kinds of things.

Sean Riley:

Okay.

Kim Kizer:

So there is a recyclable stream for that. It may not come back in into aluminum cans, although we're trying to get there. There's a few hurdles to get there. But it is recyclable, and that's what I think the new generation is looking for.

Sean Riley:

That's awesome. Yeah, I would agree that the top topic is sustainability. We really can't have one of these podcasts where it doesn't come up, or do a story in a magazine where it doesn't come up because it is sort of the 1A issue right now.

Kim Kizer:

Right.

Sean Riley:

Well, with that one, I just want to thank you so much, Kim, for taking time out of your day to come on here and really share your story with us. I think it's going to be pretty inspirational for a lot of people.

Kim Kizer:

I appreciate it. I always like to put the message out there and try to help those who think they can't, can. You can do it. People can do what they put their heart and mind to. They really can.

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