For each issue since its inception nearly two years ago, FlexPack VOICE® has hosted a ques-tion-and-answer segment with an industry leader. In this issue, we interview William E. “Bill” Jackson, the chief technology officer (CTO) at Amcor Flexible Packaging and an execu-tive board member of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). We explore his science background and how his career eventually took him into the flexible packaging industry.
Jackson’s career progression demonstrates how a technical-based or science-based background can lead to a variety of career opportunities. In 1984, he received his bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster in Ohio and then earned his M.S. and Ph.D. at Stanford University in California in 1991. At the time, Jackson says, he briefly considered a career in academia but opted to join an industry where he could best apply his knowledge to real consumer and industrial products.
For each issue since its inception nearly two years ago, FlexPack VOICE® has hosted a question-and-answer segment with an industry leader. In this issue, we interview William E. “Bill” Jackson, the chief technology officer (CTO) at Amcor Flexible Packaging and an executive board member of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). We explore his science background and how his career eventually took him into the flexible packaging industry.
Jackson’s career started with Shell Oil Company as a chemist, where he supported oil explorations in the Gulf of Mexico. He also worked with General Electric when it was led by the late Jack Welch, the legendary CEO who ran GE from 1981 to 2001. Fifteen years with GE took him to China for three years, an experience he describes as exceptional.
“I had the chance to immerse myself in a whole new culture and to learn to adapt on my own,” Jackson says. “It was a great experience, and it has had a profound impact on my life. Not only did I travel extensively throughout Asia, but I got the chance to reflect upon the U.S. from a different point of view by living overseas.”
Another career highlight was developing a multimillion-dollar diamond gem business for GE that involved using high-pressure and high-temperature technology to better enhance the color and quality of natural gem diamonds from Africa. The process was perfected to the point where these rare diamonds generated significant industry and consumer attention in retail, Jackson says. The diamonds were natural, he stresses. “We were using a combination of pressure and temperature to improve them,” Jackson explains. “We were able to better align the natural internal carbon atoms a little bit to make the diamonds transmit light even better.”
After GE, Jackson joined Dow Chemical as general manager, global technology, for Dow Building and Construction—a multibillion-dollar global business focused on products for the building industry. His product lines included Great Stuff™ and Dow STYROFOAM™ “blue” board for insulation. In 2013, he made the move to the flexible packaging industry when he was hired by Bemis Company as CTO and senior vice president. Bemis was acquired by Amcor in 2019.
FlexPack VOICE®: Talk a little bit about what got you into the flexible packaging industry and why you chose it as a career path.
William Jackson: At Dow Chemical, I lead global R&D for the building and construction business, and I got a call from an executive headhunter in Chicago who said that Bemis was looking for CTO candidates. Bemis was a Dow customer, but I wasn’t in the flexible space. But the industry looked interesting—touching on consumer products and technically sophisticated films that serve a variety of applications. And, of course, the CTO role was quite interesting to me. The rest is history. I made a conscious decision to join the packaging industry as a career choice, and it has been a lot of fun.
FPV: Do projects stand out since your move to the flexible packaging industry?
WJ: Currently, at Amcor, we are launching next-generation more sustainable products for all of our current product offerings. It is one of the most significant and grand initiatives I have ever led because of the scale of change that we are bringing to the entire industry.
FPV: Have you had mentors in your career? And what is your view on mentorships?
WJ: I had some mentors over the years that I really looked up to, and they influenced me quite a bit. But you can’t force a relationship when it comes to mentorship. It has to be a good fit between someone who is willing to put in the time to mentor and who has an interest in the person being mentored. The mentee in turn has to have an open mind to what a mentor can offer. These partnerships can be productive if both parties have an intrinsic desire to keep it going. The best relationships are the ones that seem to happen naturally, and they can go for years and years.
FPV: What advice would you give to a hiring manager who is seeking people to fill various positions?
WJ: Don’t compromise on talent. Get someone who can fit into a higher order talent succession plan, and don’t compromise on talent because you are under pressure to try to fill a position in the short term.
FPV: Anything that you would like to say about what you do when you are not working?
WJ: I am an ultra-marathoner. I do trail races, mountain trail races, sometimes 100 kilometers or 100 miles, and I go backpacking. I am more of an outdoor person.