Young Managers – Mikaela Harding, Pulse Roll Label Products


Credit: This article was published in Labels & Labeling magazine, issue 4, 2018

Mikaela Harding, product manager at Pulse Roll Label Products, completed her studies five years ago and has quickly become immersed in the world of print and ink

In 2013, I completed a Master’s degree in Chemistry (MChem) at the University of Surrey. After completing my studies, I was unsure about what I wanted to do, what opportunities were available and which direction to go in. I felt a little lost and somewhat uninspired about my next career step.

Like many others I am sure, my entry into the printing ink industry was somewhat accidental. When searching for entry-level laboratory positions, I came across a temporary role to build the PantoneLive color libraries. I have always been passionate about color, and interior design, so the idea of printing and matching colors and inks appealed. I applied, was offered and accepted the position, and became immersed in the world of print and inks. As PantoneLive was being developed to be rolled out across the print industry, I received training on numerous printing processes such as flexo, litho and gravure using solvent-based, water-based and UV inks. This is where I was introduced to digital color management.

Once this contract ended, I decided to seek a similar role in the printing industry to utilize my color management training. I moved to an in-plant ink technician role with a water-based wide web manufacturing company. This provided valuable experience in ink room management, where I was able to use these digital color measurement tools in practice.

With a desire to develop my career in color management further, I joined Pulse Roll Label Products as trainee technical service manager in September 2013. Today, I manage our narrow web product portfolio, which includes UV flexo, UV screen and water-based flexo inks, varnishes and coatings. Digital color management plays a significant role in the concept of our PureTone UV flexo ink system.

I’m a proud member of Finat’s Young Managers Club (YMC). Last year I become a YMC board member and am now actively involved in helping to develop emerging management talent in the global label industry. I’m passionate about encouraging and developing the next generation in our industry and want to raise awareness and get people interested in and engaged with what we do. That’s exactly what the YMC is all about and the main reason I joined. I’m glad to see more attention being paid to training, educating and developing talent in the global market and am proud to play a part in supporting that. Initiatives such as YMC, the new #Labelicious campaign from Finat, the Label Academy, the Women in Packaging UK network group, to name just a few, are all brilliant ways to engage with and support the development of people in our industry.

The future

Like many young managers, it’s important for me to work for a company that recognizes the importance of training and personal development for its employees. Pulse Roll Label Products is an accredited Investor in People and through the company, I am currently undertaking an Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) course as part of an Emerging Leaders Program. I’d highly recommend that companies consider management training and encourage their young managers to join groups like the YMC to get more involved in our industry.

It can be challenging at times to be a female junior manager in a ‘technical’ or ‘lab’ role in what is often a male-dominated environment. I am however seeing more women in our industry appointed in senior roles, which is encouraging. I am lucky to work for a great company, be surrounded by many inspirational men and women of all ages around the world, who are extremely supportive and who all contribute to creating the dynamic industry that we work in.

Companies need to continue to invest in R&D, new product development and technology. Working in partnership across the whole supply chain will become even more important to ensure the highest levels of print quality and more efficient production workflows will ensure companies remain competitive and survive, and thrive, in the future.

More and more of our customers are developing environmental strategies as sustainability becomes an increasingly important driver. As ongoing discussions around reactive monomers and photoinitiators continue, new technologies such as electron beam curing may well play a key role in satisfying environmental objectives as well as food packaging compliance.

There’s no hiding from the fact that raw material shortages, rising prices, chemical reclassifications and increasingly stringent legislation contribute to the challenges we face daily in the ink making and package printing sector. However, we are also part of a growing global market with UV flexo, narrow web, tags and labels, and other emerging applications such as shrink sleeves, offering exciting opportunities for innovation and new developments. We need to ensure that we have attracted, developed and retained the next generation of young managers to continue this growth to create a sustainable future.

Read this article in Labels & Labeling magazine issue 4, 2018 and online at http://www.labelsandlabeling.com/opinion/young-managers-%E2%80%93-mikaela-harding-pulse-roll-label-products