A Closer Look at L. Todd Becker

L. Todd Backer, Vice President of Polyethylene Sales, Nova Chemicals, Inc.

A Closer Look at L. Todd Becker

In each issue, FlexPack VOICE® hosts a question-and-answer segment with an industry leader. In this issue, we talk to L. Todd Becker, vice presi- dent of polyethylene sales at NOVA Chemicals, Inc., and a board member of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). In his role, Becker says he leads the global sales team “to focus on, understand, and serve our customers to further their and NOVA’s success in line with our business objectives.”

He developed an interest in math and science in high school and became intrigued by manufacturing and “making things,” Becker says. “As I was growing up, nine different family members worked for Kodak in Rochester, New York, so that likely influenced my interest in manufacturing.”

He went on to study chemical engineering at Purdue University, where he also took business electives to develop his interest in the commercial/business side of manufacturing. After graduating, he took a process engineering role with DuPont at a plant producing ethylene and copolymer polyethylene products, some of which are still used in flexible packaging.

Following several roles in operations, he moved into a product manager role at company head- quarters, providing a pathway for his career with multiple sales, marketing, and general business leadership roles.

“I have always found the uses of polymers intriguing and how they can benefit our quality of life in so many ways,” he says, adding he is fascinated by efforts to create circular solutions for the products to reduce the environmental impact. “I see great promise in what can be done to reap the benefits while providing solutions.”

FLEXPACK VOICE®: What would you tell someone who is thinking about a career in the industry?

L. Todd Becker: I would tell them that there are limitless opportunities and tremendous challenges that need their focus. There has never been a better time for an individual or team to come up with solutions that can leave a positive lasting legacy for the industry, for society, and the planet. The opportunities to contribute to the circular economy and sustainability arena are truly boundless. There is great progress being made that can and will liter- ally change the course of history. We need brilliant, focused, and passionate minds to help develop these solutions and propel them forward. You can be the difference maker—why not start now?

FPV: Is there a particular experience that stands out in your career?

LTB: I have had three major pivots in my career: moving from operations into a commercial role, taking a direct field sales role, and pursuing an opportunity at NOVA Chemicals after nearly two decades at DuPont. All three entailed risk and uncertainty, yet each also opened so many doors and provided opportunities, challenges, and rewards that have been incredibly professionally fulfilling—and even more importantly, have led me to a much happier life. One should not be afraid to take some risks and embrace uncertainty. It can lead you to places and experiences you never imagined possible. The personal growth, development, and fulfillment that can result are priceless. On the. not-so-good side, I once worked for a manager who treated people poorly. It showed me what should never be tolerated, clearly demonstrating the difference between “management” and leadership. It motivated me to always try to lead in a way of treating people with respect and integrity, no matter if there is agreement or a different viewpoint. A leader can be strong and straightforward while also being respectful, courteous, and thoughtful.

FPV: Who were your mentors?

LTB: I’ve had so many, both at DuPont and NOVA. I am fortunate in that regard. My current leader, John Thayer, the senior vice president of sales and marketing at NOVA Chemicals, is the best pure leader of people I have ever worked for and just a great human being. I am fortunate to have worked with and for him. He is a great example of providing strong leadership, never shying away from difficult decisions or situations but also always doing so in a respectful, thoughtful, and caring manner while also explaining “the why.” He is a great role model for all of us, and I strive to do similarly every day.

FPV: What advice would you give to a hiring manager?

LTB: There are often some prerequisites that are required concerning education and/or experience. Once those are considered, then finding someone with drive, motivation, and a curiosity to always learn and grow is critical. It’s hard to miss when your teammates have “fire in the belly,” a positive focus, and a passion to learn, grow, and deliver results.

FPV: What is your company doing to encourage recruitment and retention?

LTB: A workforce that fosters diversity and builds engagement and a sense of belonging helps to attract and retain top talent and improve overall business performance. We aim to be an agile, high-performing team and create an environment where employees feel they belong, are engaged, and represent the communities where we live and work. This means that we strive to improve our recruiting and engagement practices to support an inclusive culture where everyone feels they can be their authentic self.

FPV: What do you like to do for fun?

LTB: I grew up in suburbia, but I’m a country boy at heart. I love the outdoors—hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, backcountry adventures, hunting, and fishing. My wife, kids, and I are currently using our vacation to explore several U.S. national parks. And it has been a great learning experience for all of us and just lots of fun to see the wildlife, vast landscapes, and differences in geography and climate. My parents live in the farmlands of the biggest agricultural county in their state, so I am also a bit of a “hobby farmer” with a focus on wildlife conservation. All of this has put an even bigger spotlight for me on the importance of creating a circular economy for plastics and flexible packaging so that we significantly reduce the environmental impact while continuing to meet the critical needs of society.

FPV: Any other thoughts?

LTB: Gratitude. I am so thankful for all the brilliant, kind, and caring people who have taught me, challenged me, and expanded my horizons in so many ways. I am excited about what lies ahead and continuing our journeys together. Also, FPA is an extraordinary association that truly works on behalf of and for all members of the flexible packaging value chain. I’ve been attending meetings and conferences for nearly 15 years and have been a board member for the past eight. It has been a great experience, and I have learned so much and remain passionate about the current areas of focus as we navigate both opportunities and challenges within this industry together.