Having experienced the disruption that occurs during a major acquisition – for example Dow purchasing Rohm and Haas in 2009 - what was that like for you? And what did you learn about managing through that challenging process that might be helpful to others who find themselves in a similar situation someday?
I always thought I would spend my entire career at Rohm and Haas. It was a great company and I had been there for about twenty years working in Analytical Research, (7 years) Product Development (7 years) and Regulatory Affairs (6 years until the acquisition – I am guessing you can sense a pattern here…..I was a victim of a “7 Year itch”.) I did make the conscious decision to remain in the regulatory arena after that, and continue working in that sphere today, as it satisfies my desire to work in a fast-paced- environment which crosses research, logistics, compliance, manufacturing, health and environmental safety.
When Dow acquired Rohm and Haas I was quite surprised and partially terrified. In short time, my colleagues across the aisle quickly reached out and we begin working together. Our styles were different but our core values were very similar. At the end of the day, I realized we simply had different workflow processes in place and needed to come to common solution, which embraced characteristics of both companies. We did this successfully.
My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to simply keep an open mind and LISTEN. Be willing to share your “great ideas” but be respectful of others, and do all you can not to feel frustrated. I was once given great advice by one of my former VP’s – give yourself 100 days – you find things are not so bad on the other side of that timeframe.
How did your parents influence your leadership style?
My father was a quiet man with a dry humor and work ethic like no other. I am fairly certain he did not miss a day of work in 40 years. He was a leader in our church community and local politics. He led by example. I will always be a “working manager” (not a micro-manager) because I prefer to lead by example, and I suppose I get that from my dad.
My mother raised 8 children, worked at home as a seamstress and eventually went back into the workforce as an administrator at a home for orphaned children. She did this in the evenings so she could take her parents to doctor’s appointments, etc. during the day. She could also fix a flat tire and wallpaper the house before making a 3 course dinner every night. I like to think I have inherited her “bias for action”.
Here is one of the keys findings from the fifth annual Women in the Workplace study conducted by Lean In and McKinsey: “We often talk about the “glass ceiling” that prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions. In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is much earlier in the pipeline, at the first step up to manager. Fixing this “broken rung” is key to achieving parity.” Based on your volunteer work with ACS, and your own experience, what’s your assessment of that analysis?
I quickly became a group leader in my first position at Rohm and Haas and many of the managers in my department were female. So my personal experience runs counter to that study. In addition, I have encountered many female colleagues as senior level managers. However, in my experience, it is still rare to see many females at the executive level.
What was your involvement with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)? And do you think it is achieving what it was designed to achieve?
My first experience with GHS occurred in 2006 and involved creating compliant labels for a sub-set of products on the Japanese market. The team received a Vice-President’s award for our efforts. Since then, I have implemented GHS globally at Chemtura and continue this work at LANXESS Solutions. I do think the United Nations did the world a great service when they began recommending guidelines for Hazard Communication and Labelling as far back as 1996.
While not all countries adopt the same building blocks for classification (NIRVANA), the basic framework does make it easier to communicate more consistently within and across borders. This generation of researchers and plant employees (and consumers) will be safer because of it.
You have been a prolific volunteer for ACS. Is there a particular volunteer role or cause that you have found to be most rewarding?
I truly enjoyed chairing the National Chemistry Week events in the Philadelphia Section for several years. We made sure to host events that touched all stakeholders in the chemical enterprise and gave all local section members an opportunity to celebrate their profession.
Through your volunteer work over many years with ACS, you have spent lots of time with undergraduate and graduate students. What changes, generally, do you see in the chemistry students of 20 years ago vs. today?
The students I encounter today are more confident and knowledgeable about potential career paths today than they were 20 years ago. I think the ACS deserves kudos for that. I never considered an “alternate career in chemistry” until I joined this organization.
What do you think about a culture that makes heroes of actors, recording artists, and athletes but has little love for scientists who develop medicines to keep us healthy, innovative solutions to keep us fed, new energy sources to transport us, advanced materials to keep us comfortable, and new approaches to improve the environment?
I do believe chemists are heroes and The ACS Heroes of Chemistry Award banquet is one of my favorite events each year. I might add that whenever anyone asks “what do you do” and I reply, “I am a chemist” I have never had a negative reaction. Most people say, “wow, that’s great”. I also believe many people appreciate what chemists do, but from a distance. Laboratories and manufacturing sites have secure doors for very good reasons. So I think it is difficult for the general public to fully understand what it takes to develop medicines, keep us fed and transport us. We just have to continue to spread the word, make the message relevant and continue to love what we do, that’s the love that matters to me.
As a decades-long Philadelphia sports fan, what moment brings back the best memories for you?
No contest, the Sixers winning the Eastern Conference Finals on June 3, 2001 with my favorite player, Allen Iverson, leading the way. I was at the game, second row, center court, howling at the top of my lungs…what a great night!
Anne DeMasi has been in the chemical industry for over 30 years, with experience in research, product development, regulatory affairs and hazard communications. Prior to working with LANXESS Solutions, DeMasi was employed with Rohm and Haas for nearly twenty years before Dow Chemical Company acquired the chemical manufacturing company in 2009.
In addition to her professional experience at Dow and LANXESS, DeMasi has been a highly active volunteer for ACS nationally and locally in the Philadelphia Section. She has been involved with the Committee on Corporation Associates since 2006 and currently serves as the Program Chair for the BMGT technical division. Her acknowledgments include the Philadelphia Section Service Award, the Ullyot Award for Meritorious Service, and the Younger Chemists Committee’s Outstanding Event.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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