When Amy Zettlemoyer-Lazar stood up in front of more than a 1,000 anxious packaging professionals at the 2006 Pack Expo Intl. show to reveal Wal-Mart’s Sustainable Packaging Scorecard, she faced the horde with aplomb. As Sam’s Club director of packaging at the time, Zettlemoyer-Lazar presented a keynote address with Sam’s Club then svp of marketing, research and insights, Matt Kistler. Together, they walked attendees through the mega-retailer’s sustainable packaging strategy and how the scorecard would work. Knowing full well the ramifications and scope of what they were introducing to the packaging community, this dynamic duo patiently listened to the audience and answered questions on the spot—as well as for many months afterwards.
Her work with the Wal-Mart Sustainable Value Networks earned her the Sam M. Walton Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008. While this and other achievements while at Wal-Mart from 2005 to 2012 were pivotal points in her career, they were not the only milestones. After an internship at Kodak, Zettlemoyer-Lazar spent her early career at major consumer packaged goods companies Kraft Foods, E. & J. Gallo and The Clorox Co. While at Kraft Foods in the late 1990’s, she filed two patent applications that were instrumental to the development and launch of DiGiorno Deep Dish Pizza. And in 2009, she earned the Distinguished Alumni for CAST (College of Applied Science & Technology) from her alma mater, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
She is now the director of Quality Assurance, Sustainability and Process for HAVI Global Solutions (HGS) in Europe, with responsibility for leading packaging product development, innovation, quality assurance and sustainability to drive value and growth for customers across Europe.
As part of our continuing coverage of the Leading Ladies of Packaging, Zettlemoyer-Lazar tells Packaging Digest about overcoming challenges and enjoying achievements.
What was a defining moment in your career and what did you learn from it?
Zettlemoyer-Lazar: The most defining moment in my career happened while I was working at Sam’s Club and when sustainable packaging started to gain momentum. I had the opportunity to create a packaging department in Sam’s Club and lead the Wal-Mart Packaging Sustainable Value Network. It was an amazing opportunity to work with 300 of the best individuals in the North American packaging industry to help shape the direction of Wal-Mart’s sustainable packaging strategy. I learned that you can’t please everyone all the time, but you need to focus on driving the biggest benefit for the organization while minimizing issues for other parties involved. Clear communication with a long-term strategy allows everyone time to plan and react.
What has been your toughest challenge, why that and how have you overcome it?
Zettlemoyer-Lazar: My toughest challenge continues to be balancing being a military spouse and mother to three little boys while pursuing my career. When my personal life has posed challenges to my work—for instance, our family moves every three years for my husband’s career—I’ve always brought solutions to my employer. I’ve also learned that there are trade-offs and you cannot have everything all the time. My career plan is to focus on the long game and not the short game. My choices are based on building a stable base with great experiences and sometimes that means lateral moves instead of vertical moves.
What has been your most rewarding achievement and why?
Zettlemoyer-Lazar: Helping my team succeed—knowing I’ve helped them achieve their own goals—and exceeding customer expectations are incredibly rewarding for me. Also, knowing that the packaging I have helped design has increased sales or changed customer opinions is a wonderful feeling and demonstrates the value of the work we do.
What advice do you have for other people (female or male) who aspire to be a captain of packaging?
Zettlemoyer-Lazar: Focus on roles in organizations where you can have a big impact. Understand your impact to the business, your team and the customer and help your manager articulate it to his/her leadership—if you can’t make the connection, neither can they.