Woman of the Quarter: Meena Banasiak
The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and Women in Business are excited to honor Meena Banasiak – Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility for PHOENIX Packaging, as a 2021 Woman of the Quarter.
Woman of the Quarter Q&A
Q: Describe your business and what you do.
I work in manufacturing as the Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for PHOENIX Packaging here in Naperville. We make injection-molded closures for food, beverage, and many other consumer, chemical, and agricultural products. Chances are pretty good that you have one of our caps in your household somewhere!
Q: What do you love most about your work?
I love that I get to be a technical leader and take care of people. So much of what I am responsible for fundamentally rides on our employees’ commitment to their work. I can’t expect the workforce to commit to technical excellence without making sure that company leadership first demonstrates an ongoing commitment to an inclusive and collaborative culture. The more we take care of our people and celebrate the value they bring by fully engaging in their roles, the more successful we can expect to be overall.
Q: What led to your career path?
I started working for General Mills right out of college as a Quality Engineer. It was not a profession or field I had ever heard of, but they wooed me in pretty quickly during a conversation at a campus job fair. During my time there I got to oversee the quality, food safety, and regulatory compliance of amazing products and brands like Nature Valley granola bars, Big G cereals (Cheerios!), and Green Giant frozen vegetables (now owned by B&G Foods). I loved having a job that was technically challenging and demanded great integrity. After spending nearly 11 years with the company in various roles, I came upon an opportunity to bring my food manufacturing experience upstream to the packaging industry by taking a Director of Quality position with PHOENIX. Now, three years later, I’ve advanced into an expanded executive role to continue leading the quality department and also define a framework and strategy for CSR for the company.
Q: What advice do you have for other women in business?
Find a need and meet it. Be the one to show people something they didn’t realize they were missing. Be the one to look at a problem or a gap square in the face and provide the leadership to solve it. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re fully capable of until we’re faced with a challenge to test our strength. I say, don’t wait for someone else to test you – be courageous enough to create those opportunities for growth on your own.
Q: Name someone in your life who inspires you and why.
Honestly, in the last two years I’ve been reading a ton of works by so many Black authors and academics and I’m inspired by every single one of them: Ibram X. Kendi, Eddie S. Glaude, Ijeoma Oluo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jason Reynolds, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nnedi Okorafor, Michelle Obama, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Shayla R. Griffin, Angie Thomas, Trevor Noah, James Baldwin. They have opened my eyes and mind to events and concepts that I had never previously known, considered, or understood and it is truly helping me to become a better person while also deeply shaping the behaviors and values my husband and I want to model for our children.
Q: What other passions or hobbies do you have?
Lots of things! I really enjoy baking, cooking, and keeping my kids interested in a variety of cuisines. I’m a pianist and vocalist and I spend a lot of time helping my children cultivate their own musicianship. I love reading, creative writing, and curling up on the couch with my husband to watch a movie. I’m also fond of running, hiking, and cycling and I aspire to complete a triathlon someday.
Q: Aside from the Chamber, how do you stay connected within the Naperville community?
I am so blessed to be a Board member at Loaves and Fishes Community Services. Their mission of providing healthy food and impactful programs to promote self-sufficiency is something I am deeply passionate about. Serving and volunteering with an organization that works directly to improve the lives of people in our community makes my own life so much more fulfilling. I’ve also volunteered with the Alive Center and for various programs at Mill Street Elementary, and as a family, we love attending events hosted by Anderson’s Bookshop and North Central College.
Woman of the Quarter Bio
Meena Banasiak is Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility for PHOENIX Packaging in Naperville, IL, and a Certified Quality Engineer through the American Society for Quality. Prior to moving into the food packaging industry, she spent over 10 years working for General Mills overseeing quality, food safety, and regulatory programs in food manufacturing. She was recognized twice as a Leader in Excellence by the General Mills Diversity Network and was also named a 2020 National STEP Ahead Award Winner by the National Association of Manufacturers. Meena serves on the Board of Directors for Loaves and Fishes Community Services and is a supporter and volunteer at the Alive Center. In 2020 she received the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce 4 Under 40 Award and actively participates on the Chamber’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Meena resides in Naperville with her husband, three children, and dog. In her free time, Meena enjoys running, baking, and creative writing.