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Can the SDC Influence Your Career? Insights from an Alumna

Robin Matusik smallBy Robin Matusik
Package Engineer, Hasbro Toys

Find a job that you would do for free and figure out how to get paid for it. That should be everyone’s life goal. It’s amazing how risks lead to paths, and paths lead to roads that eventually bring you full circle.

I always liked the creative design of packaging; it’s what initially drew me to the major. But after doing my first co-op (a structured program with specific requirements for the student and the employer) at a pharmaceutical company, I realized that the pharmaceutical segment of the packaging industry was not for me. And that I had to re-examine my future career options.  

The 2005 PPA Student Design Challenge (SDC) was my first ‘real’ design experience. It’s one thing to design something for a class project, but another when it is a national contest. The competition and recognition makes it so much more real! My group of three Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) students entered the competition and placed first in its inaugural year.  

With the SDC entry in my portfolio, Shorewood Packaging in Newport News, VA gave me the co-op opportunity and taught me package design. I spent six months learning the skills and thoroughly enjoying my job each day. It confirmed that packaging design was what I wanted to do.

After graduation, I accepted a third co-op at Hasbro Inc, because I couldn’t find my ‘dream’ full-time job and wanted to be doing something that I enjoyed. The co-op turned into a full time position, and 9 years later I am still doing package design at Hasbro. I am a package engineer for girls’ brands and love the day-to-day challenges. I tackle the crazy asks and work in a creative team environment, something the SDC gave me a glimpse of a decade ago.

The story starts to come full circle with the Hasbro co-op program that I head up. While at the RIT career fair this past winter, I bumped into my former SDC mentor, Bill Wynkoop. He asked if he could pass my contact info along to PPA, as it was the 10-year anniversary of the challenge. We shook hands, talked for a while, and I continued my days of interviews, hiring our next years’ co-op students.

PPA eventually contacted to do a phone interview for an article. I answered questions, we chatted, and by chance, this year’s challenge theme was toy packaging. The pieces all started to align, and I was invited to be a guest judge. From SDC winner to guest judge in 10 years… Not bad!   

Of those hires that I made while in Rochester, one of them entered the 2015 SDC. That student is now co-oping at Hasbro and sharing a cube wall with me! It makes me smile to know these students are on a similar life journey.

I sit here 10 years and 6 months later writing this blog: realizing how small the packaging world is, how important connections are and how impactful mentoring is. As it turned out, the SDC was that connection into the packaging world that started my career and my packaging passion.