SPOTLIGHT: Paula Hajakian
Tapping into the many powerful resources TAPPI offers is really second nature to member Paula Hajakian. An avid learner (and former tap dance teacher), she also excels at sharing her knowledge with co-workers and fellow TAPPI members.
Ever since first joining in 1989, Paula says she has relied on events like PaperCon and a myriad of classes to help her, as well as others with whom she works, to operate more efficiently and effectively. “TAPPI is always on the cutting edge and is able to offer superior guidance, especially when it comes to new technologies,” she says.
For the last 10 years, Paula has been with USG Corporation and currently serves as Technical Manager for paper and board. She is responsible for new product development and rollout, new technology development, plant technical support, project management, and training. An industry veteran, she also spent time with Rock-Tenn (now WestRock) as a Six Sigma Black Belt, plant manager, paper mill superintendent, and technical director. In addition, she also worked for Beveridge Paper Mill, Simkins Industries, Newark Atlanta Paperboard, Akzo Chemicals, and DeSoto Incorporated.
Throughout her career, Paula has remained actively involved with TAPPI. She co-authored a piece for TAPPI Journal, and has also presented several courses. In addition, she currently serves as Chair for the Papermakers Committee (since 2014), and is a member of the Water Removal Committee where she serves as subcommittee Forming and Pressing Chair, and on the Women’s Committee as Chair of the Benchmarking subcommittee.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts – Lowell with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, Pulp and Paper Engineering option, Paula joined TAPPI after pursuing her degree. She saw membership as an opportunity to gain further knowledge into her chosen field. Today, she sees the same opportunities for growth and advancement for the industry’s newcomers, the leaders of tomorrow.
“I am very excited to see the offerings that TAPPI has for students and Young Professionals,” she said. “Joining TAPPI as a student and continuing that relationship as you develop your career opens doors that might not otherwise exist.”
Q. Why did you decide to join TAPPI?
A. My first experience with TAPPI was at PaperCon in 1987 from a chemical vendor perspective. The amount of information to be gained through the technical sessions was impressive. In addition, peer discussions were invaluable. Every year I attend is always a learning experience.
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?
A. The amount of knowledge gained through TAPPI courses has helped me help others. Organizing and facilitating webinars has been a learning experience as well. We have some very knowledgeable people in the organization. Their willingness to share their experiences is much appreciated.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.
A. I have always enjoyed dancing and rollerblading, but traveling and home improvements have been more recent pursuits. Children, of course, always keep you busy!
Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?
A. I taught tap dancing for 17 years in the Chicago and Boston areas.
Q. TAPPI celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015. Would you provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry? Also, what is your favorite paper or packaging product?
A. I would say automation has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in our industry. The ability to monitor and control the process at a safer distance from rotating machinery has improved the quality and consistency of paper, as well as the safety of employees. Right now my favorite paper product is gypsum liner. The ability to create new gypsum board products with the help of papermaking capability provides a quicker time to market. Press board and coated recycled are also near and dear to my heart.
Q. Closing sentiments?
A. The conferences and training sessions have been great resources for ideas and improvements within our mills. The division and committee meetings are very helpful for getting specific guidance on any papermaking challenges or opportunities for new technology. I am excited to see the offerings TAPPI has for students and Young Professionals – besides the growth opportunities for everyone.