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Introducing Pulp & Paper Canada’s inaugural Top 10 Under 40

Congratulations to our first annual Top 10 Under 40 contest winners

June 17, 2020  By Kristina Urquhart

Last summer, when Pulp & Paper Canada asked senior-level mill leaders about recruitment and retention practices, 61 per cent said there aren’t enough applicants for new roles. Forty-three per cent said general perceptions about the industry were a challenge in finding new workers.

Several respondents said that promoting pulp and paper sector to young people is key. One way to do that is to showcase successful stories of young professionals already working in the industry. So we’re pleased to present the winners of our first-ever Top 10 Under 40 contest!

The people listed here are our industry’s shining stars. They represent a range of roles, from operations and sales on the mill side to technical support on the vendor side. These leaders-in-the-making all share several things in common: a strong work ethic, initiative and curiosity, and a commitment to training and safety.


Know a future leader? You’ll have the chance to recognize them in the 2021 contest. Nominations will open later this year.

Congratulations to the 2020 crop of winners!


Associate process engineer, Lake Utopia Paper, J.D. Irving, Ltd., Utopia, NB

At just 25 years old, Brad Stoddard has already taken on a leadership role at J.D. Irving, Limited’s Lake Utopia Paper. He’s been with the company in a permanent role only two years, and also served four co-op terms at J.D. Irving while completing his studies in chemical engineering at Dalhousie University.
His manager Rick Wasson reports that Stoddard has acted as technical lead on many projects, including a sulphur burner replacement and making improvements to the bark boiler to reduce fossil fuel use.

“[Stoddard’s] efforts have led to an energy model that allows the mill to be able to optimize fuel choices,” says Wasson. “He has helped to lead efforts to take the mill from 20 to 70 per cent renewables.”

As the mill representative for the PAPTAC Atlantic Branch and a Lean Six Sigma White Belt, “Brad is a serious, committed professional dedicated to driving the mill forward,” says Wasson.

“Whether dealing with technical challenges, helping the operations team to deal with issues, or driving projects, Brad is always advocating to do the right thing.”


Paper machine coordinator, Domtar, Windsor, QC

In pulp and paper, there’s always something new to learn – and Jonathan Paquet is always ready and willing, says a colleague at Domtar Windsor.

That’s only one of the reasons why Paquet deserves a spot in the Top 10 Under 40, says Harshad Pande, Domtar’s director of research and development.

The 38-year-old has been noticed among colleagues as someone who is continually eager to share knowledge or to upgrade his own technical and leadership skills. Over the course of his 12-year career, Paquet has been expanding his expertise on a wide variety of projects ranging from environmental certification and water reduction to sludge dewatering and deinking.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Laval University, Paquet spent seven years in production engineering at Cascades before joining Domtar in 2015. He currently helps to produce uncoated freesheet on Paper Machine 8, one of the company’s biggest paper machines.

Paquet is dedicated to “safe, sustainable and innovative practices while on the job, whether working at the winder section or at the Paper Machine 8,” says Pande.

“His calm and assertive approach to solving challenges in day-to-day operations of the machine has contributed towards improved productivity and a better-quality product.”


New product development manager, Domtar, Espanola, ON

In three years with Domtar, Emily Dou has contributed to the development of more than 50 specialty papers, including food packaging and medical papers. In her role as new product development manager for the Espanola mill’s specialty papers area, Dou also supervises 10 technicians on development projects, leads trials on the paper machine and conducts investigations into customer complaints about paper performance.

Dou, 34, graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2016 with a PhD in wood science, writing her thesis specifically on the bioconversion of kraft pulp to dissolving pulp. Previously, she’d earned a Master of Engineering, majoring in pulp and paper making, at the South China University of Technology.

“She is very passionate about product development, performance improvement and meeting customer needs,” says Xuejun Zou, Dou’s frequent colleague at research firm FPInnovations, where Dou participated in a Zero Plastic Waste workshop.

Finding alternatives to plastic is important to Dou, who, along with Domtar’s research team and industry partners, is currently focusing on developing sustainable paper and packaging solutions.

Managing all of this comes naturally to Dou, says Zou. “She has demonstrated strong work ethics, capability for quick learning, willingness to take [on] new challenges and passion for sustainability.”


Senior key account manager, Solenis, Burlington, ON

“Most readers here will admit that they have had ‘one of those days’ in a paper mill where there are just too many things to do and not enough time to do them. In Jeremy’s case, his first day on the job turned out to be ‘one of those days,’” says Jeremy Saunders’s former colleague Shawn Watkins.

“Jeremy immediately dove into the work within five minutes of starting, and by the end of the very long day, all of us were left with zero doubt that a great hire had been made.”

The 32-year-old Saunders has worked for Solenis for the past six years, bringing what Watkins deems an “unparalleled” technical knowledge of the chemicals and tissue industries to clients in the pulp and paper industry.

“When it comes to mentorship, Jeremy doesn’t try to teach what he knows; instead he listens in order to understand where he can guide and offer assistance to each individual mentee,” says Watkins. “Jeremy will never give you the impression that he knows it all, but he will always share the knowledge.”

An East Coast native, Saunders graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a chemical engineering degree, and is well versed in process optimization, control and engineering.

“His passion for the craft as well as his work ethic will surely carry him toward a career where he will be seen as one of the top tissue experts in the world,” says Watkins.


Maintenance superintendent, Canadian Kraft Paper, The Pas, MB

Working in a traditionally male-dominated industry hasn’t been without its challenges for Laura Pettit, but the maintenance superintendent at Canadian Kraft Paper (CKP) has “worked hard over the years to gain the respect of her team and that of her co-workers,” says Andre Murphy, CKP’s mill manager.

“Laura is looked upon as a respected and trusted leader, and as a technical resource for the entire operation.”

That extends beyond the reliability and maintenance realm to overall health and safety, says Murphy. “She does not hesitate to encourage others to engage in the overall safety focus at the mill site and will often take the time to coach others with a positive and informational approach to achieve results.”

Pettit, 34, comes from a forestry family – her father once worked at CKP when it was owned by Tolko.

She joined CKP in 2007 as a summer intern in the machine room and was recently promoted to maintenance superintendent at CKP after spending 13 years in quality control and reliability engineering. While at the company, Pettit earned her professional engineering designation and completed the 4th class power engineering certification.

Much of her career has been devoted to improving the mill’s quality control program, which Murphy says has translated to benefits in the management and reliability of equipment at the plant.

“Laura has a drive for continuous improvement and her desire to effect and inspire change is evident,” says Murphy. Her commitment to the company’s success has led to her involvement “with the many planned capital improvements, upgrades and maintenance projects that will serve the long-term viability of the mill in northern Manitoba. “


Team lead, woodlands operations, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc., Boyle, AB

“Supportive” was a word that came up several times in Shane Gray’s nomination by fellow colleague Najmus Saqib Khan.

Khan says that in Gray’s eight years at Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Alpac), he’s proven himself to be a caring leader and a trustworthy employee.

In his role as woodlands team lead, Gray, 29, supports a team of foresters managing Alpac’s forest management agreement (FMA) area. Khan says that Gray’s coordination of the team highlights their strengths to improve overall performance.

“He ensures the team is managed with a coaching approach,” says Khan. “[Shane] is very friendly, inclusive and goes above and beyond for the team whenever a situation arises.”

Gray completed two strategic leadership courses alongside Khan, who witnessed Gray to be dependable and willing to take a stand on principles.

“He has been very much result-oriented and focused on achieving assigned targets in a most efficient and effective manner,” says Khan. “He has proven to be one of the best forestry professionals and with continued [drive] to acquire and learn more.”


Account executive, Canfor Pulp Products, Vancouver, BC

Helping others is second nature for Annie Wang, account executive at Canfor Pulp.

At work, she frequently participates in training new employees and coaching others. Outside of the office, she’s a registered volunteer for the Pacific Blue Cross and helps to raise money for local charities.

Wang’s ability to work with others and her desire to optimize process are what make her excel in her role at Canfor, says her manager Dawning Zhang.

When the pulp group was implementing a new computer system last year, “Annie displayed perseverance and initiative while collaborating with cross-functional teams during transition to ensure the customers’ needs [had] been taken care of,” Zhang says.

Wang, 27, joined Canfor Pulp as a global account coordinator in 2017 after graduating from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in wood product processing and a minor in commerce – her second in the subject. She also graduated from Beijing Forestry University in 2013 with an undergraduate degree in wood processing and wood products.

In 2019, Wang took on a new role as account executive at Canfor, temporarily moving to the Shanghai office for five months to help implement the new computer system and handle customer needs.

During her time with the company, Wang has handled Canfor Pulp global clients in more than six countries, and does it all with “positive energy and a can-do attitude,” says Zhang.


Structural designer, WestRock, Montreal, QC

Though he’s relatively new to WestRock, Nicolas-Patrick Thérien is already making a big impact.

He joined the company in July 2018 as a structural designer after working at Artika as a packaging specialist and at Lovepac as a packaging designer.

Colleague Jean-François Tailly says that Thérien’s positive attitude and willingness to learn about packaging make him a joy to work with. “He is the kind of generous person that you need in your team and who motivates you to work harder every day,” says Tailly. “With only four years of experience in our industry, he is now managing our technical department on his own and does a fantastic job.”

The 29-year-old Thérien graduated from the Université de Montréal in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design.

“Nicolas is one of the most dynamic and helpful [people] that I’ve had the chance to work with over the last 25 years,” says Tailly. “His accomplishments are all about the way he acts with his peers, how respectful and helpful he is, no matter the situation.”


Director, environment, Mercer Celgar, Castlegar, BC

Vanessa Terwoort “is an outdoor enthusiast and accomplished mountaineer and environmental sustainability means a lot to [her],” says her colleague Andrew East.

Terwoort found a niche in the pulp and paper industry that allowed her to focus on her passion – after earning her diploma in chemical technology from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, she was an effluent treatment specialist at Catalyst Paper. She then spent five years working in the mining industry before returning to the pulp and paper industry at Mercer Celgar in 2013 (then Zellstoff Celgar).

Right from when she joined Celgar as environment manager, she started making an impact, helping to improve the way greenhouse gas credits are calculated by Environment Canada and the Forest Products Association (FPAC).

“Since then, Vanessa has partnered with Celgar’s operations team and has pushed for excellence and increased awareness around proper environmental practices in alignment with operations’ productivity, efficiency and cost targets,” says her team members in their nomination.

The 39-year-old Terwoort has taken on increasing responsibility at the mill, becoming environment director in early 2019. Her next steps include mentoring Celgar’s new laboratory supervisor to lead the environmental department.

Her team is looking forward to seeing Terwoort grow and contribute to Mercer Celgar’s corporate goals.

“She is a dedicated and tireless young leader with a passion for the environment, ensuring Celgar leaves as small of a footprint on the world as possible.”


Mill manager, Irving Tissue, J.D. Irving, Ltd., Saint John, NB

Whether it’s working full-time at J.D. Irving, Ltd. (JDI), furthering his education or focusing on his family, “Chris Clark is a driven individual, who pours hard work into everything he does,” says his friend Keegan Drummond, account manager at Source Atlantic Limited.

Now a mill manager at Irving Tissue, Clark, 31, got his start with JDI at high school graduation, when the company offered him a scholarship to put toward his studies at New Brunswick Community College (NBCC).

Clark completed two work terms with JDI before obtaining his Power Engineering Technology diploma from NBCC in 2008 and joining the Irving Pulp and Paper Team full time.

While there, Clark spent evenings earning his bachelor’s degree in applied management from the University of New Brunswick. In 2016, he moved on to JDI’s Irving Paper – and began studying again for his Ivey Executive MBA, which he completed in in 2018.

Clark applies the same drive to his extracurricular activities, says Drummond. While studying for his MBA, Clark also trained for the Ironman triathlon and completed it the same month he graduated. “I am truly interested to see where he will go from here,” Drummond says.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada. Read the digital edition here.

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