Megan Stallings

Megan Stallings

Working outside the box

As an undergrad, it took an informational leaflet placed in a napkin dispenser in Dietrick Hall to get Megan Stallings (’15 B.S.) to consider the packaging systems and design program in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. “I saw a flier that said, ‘average starting salary $80,000 and 100% job placement five years in a row’ and I said ‘sign me up!’” Stallings said. “That’s what I had come to college for, to get a job, and I’ve absolutely loved it.”

Stallings works for Packaging Corporation of America, one of the largest producers of containerboard and corrugated packaging products in the U.S., in its Morganton, North Carolina, plant. Her work with the company started with an internship at their Roanoke sheet plant while she was an undergraduate, which led to a full-time position as a sale representative. In her current position as a quality facilitator, she oversees third-party certification for quality and product safety management systems in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization.

“The packaging industry is about more than boxes,” Stallings said. “I have friends who work for Newell Brands, Amazon, and Exxon-Mobil who have come out of the packaging program at Virginia Tech. It is a program that really sets you up to do a lot of things. It’s not as specialized as people might think — you can work for anyone and you can work anywhere in the country, in a field that is growing and changing.”

Stallings is helping to encourage other women to join the profession. She recently participated in a “Women in STEM” panel discussion hosted by Virginia Tech in Durham, North Carolina, and had been involved with Kids Tech University, a Virginia Tech program that aims to get kids interested in science and technology fields.

“I think these kinds of conversations are incredibly important,” she said. “The opportunities are endless if you’re willing to pull on your steel-toed boots and throw your hair up. Women are needed across the field, and at Packaging Corporation of America we employ some awesome women.”

Stallings cites internships as being crucial entries into the field. “I was an intern for the college’s Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design my first summer at Virginia Tech. I did a lot of packaging testing and continuous improvement projects. I was able to get an understanding of a lot of different types of packaging, as well as some hands-on experience in the industry.”

“As far as advice goes, if you are someone who is interested in being creative and doing structural or graphic design work, packaging systems and design is a great field to join,” Stallings added. “If you’re outgoing and want to work in sales, it’s a phenomenal field. And if you’re looking for leadership or management roles or if you want to be on the academic side, this field is a great place to work.”