Tapping into the many powerful resources TAPPI offers is really second
nature to member Paula Hajakian. An avid learner (and former tap dance
teacher), she also excels at sharing her knowledge with co-workers and fellow
Ever since first joining in 1989, Paula says she has relied on events
like PaperCon and a myriad of classes to
help her, as well as others with whom she works, to operate more efficiently
and effectively. “TAPPI is always on the cutting edge and is able to offer
superior guidance, especially when it comes to new technologies,” she says.
For the last 10 years, Paula has been with USG Corporation and
currently serves as Technical Manager for paper and board. She is responsible
for new product development and rollout, new technology development, plant
technical support, project management, and training. An industry veteran, she also spent time with
Rock-Tenn (now WestRock) as a Six Sigma Black Belt, plant manager, paper mill
superintendent, and technical director. In addition, she also worked for
Beveridge Paper Mill, Simkins Industries, Newark Atlanta Paperboard, Akzo
Chemicals, and DeSoto Incorporated.
Throughout her career, Paula has remained actively involved with TAPPI.
She co-authored a piece for TAPPI Journal, and has also
presented several courses. In addition, she currently serves as Chair for the
Papermakers Committee (since 2014), and is a member of the Water Removal
Committee where she serves as subcommittee Forming and Pressing Chair, and on
the Women’s Committee as Chair of the Benchmarking subcommittee.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts – Lowell with a B.S. in
Chemical Engineering, Pulp and Paper Engineering option, Paula joined TAPPI after
pursuing her degree. She saw membership as an opportunity to gain further
knowledge into her chosen field. Today, she sees the same opportunities for
growth and advancement for the industry’s newcomers, the leaders of tomorrow.
“I am very excited to see the offerings that TAPPI has for students and
Young Professionals,” she said. “Joining TAPPI as a student and continuing that
relationship as you develop your career opens doors that might not otherwise exist.”
Q. Why did you decide to join
A. My first experience with TAPPI was at PaperCon
in 1987 from a chemical vendor perspective. The amount of information to be
gained through the technical sessions was impressive. In addition, peer
discussions were invaluable. Every year I attend is always a learning
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in
your career pursuits?
A. The amount of knowledge gained
through TAPPI courses has helped me help others. Organizing and facilitating webinars has been a
learning experience as well. We have some very knowledgeable people in the
organization. Their willingness to share their experiences is much appreciated.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside
of TAPPI and your professional life.
A. I have always enjoyed dancing and rollerblading, but traveling and
home improvements have been more recent pursuits. Children, of course, always keep you busy!
Q. Can you share a unique or fun
fact about yourself?
A. I taught tap dancing for 17 years in the Chicago and Boston areas.
Q. TAPPI celebrated its 100th anniversary in
2015. Would you provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most
significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry? Also, what is
your favorite paper or packaging product?
A. I would say automation has
been one of the biggest breakthroughs in our industry. The ability to monitor
and control the process at a safer distance from rotating machinery has
improved the quality and consistency of paper, as well as the safety of
employees. Right now my favorite paper product is gypsum liner. The ability to
create new gypsum board products with the help of papermaking capability
provides a quicker time to market. Press board and coated recycled are also
near and dear to my heart.
Q. Closing sentiments?
conferences and training sessions have been great resources for ideas and improvements
within our mills. The division and committee meetings are very helpful for
getting specific guidance on any papermaking challenges or opportunities for
new technology. I am excited to see the offerings TAPPI has for students and
Young Professionals – besides the growth opportunities for everyone.