Plastics is a flexible industry, as Kraig Scharn ’20 happily discovered.
As a plastics engineering major in the Francis College of Engineering, Scharn got hands-on experience with all the latest manufacturing, design and testing technologies — in the lab and through an internship at Waddington North America and a co-op job at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
While he enjoyed what he was learning, the Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native realized he didn’t like the idea of being “stuck” in one place.
The summer before his senior year, Scharn landed a three-month plastics sales co-op position with Entec Polymers, a resins distributor and custom compounder of engineering polymers based in Orlando, Florida. The experience opened his eyes to an alternative career path: hitting the road to meet customers in a sales role.
“It’s not the traditional route for a plastics engineer, but they like us to have that plastics background. It seemed like a good fit for me,” says Scharn, who accepted a sales trainee job offer from Entec before returning to school in fall 2019.
“It changed my mindset my senior year. I was able to tailor my classes more to the commercial side of the plastics industry, which was really nice,” says Scharn, who took courses in patent law and business law for engineers.
Any qualms Scharn had about his decision to pursue sales were short-lived. He attended a panel discussion hosted by the Career & Co-op Center featuring alumni working in fields outside of their majors — including a plastics engineering alum who went on to work on the business side of the industry. “That settled my nerves,” he says.
Scharn also considered the example of one of UML’s most successful plastics engineering alumni, Barry Perry ’68, ’15 (H).
“I got to meet with him a couple of times over the years, and we got to bond and talk about his career path,” Scharn says. “He started his career in manufacturing before going into sales.”
That wasn’t Perry’s only impact: Scharn received scholarships from the Barry W. Perry Plastics Engineering Endowment Fund, as well as from the Mark & Elisia Saab Family Scholarship Endowment.
“Being supported by scholarships from the Perry and Saab families each year was huge,” says Scharn, who worked as a resident advisor and studied abroad for a semester in Chile. “It’s definitely made me think about, as I go through my career, planning to give back to the school at some point and help someone else someday.”
Scharn’s career is already advancing. In March 2021, he was promoted to junior technical service engineer at Entec Polymers’ Charlotte, North Carolina, location.