A Conversation with ... Amanda Beach, Columbia Chemical
You could say the Beach family is made of overachievers. The parents met while working at NASA; one daughter is a gemologist, and one of their sons is an aerospace engineer. We caught up with another one of the daughters, Amanda Beach of Columbia Chemical (Brunswick, Ohio), who has a degree in physics and was recently named a technical sales and service rep for the company in Chicago, where she was recently appointed the Secretary/Treasurer of the NASF’s Chicago Midwest Chapter.
Products Finishing: What is the biggest change for you, going from a company that specializes in paint coatings to one that focuses on zinc plating?
Amanda Beach: The biggest change was learning to troubleshoot problems in a production setting. I spent a short amount of time in paint formulations research before entering the plating world. Being in the lab is a very different, controlled setting. Learning how to take everything into account in a plating shop and see the process as a whole is the most different and interesting part about the plating side of coatings.
PF: In the plating industry, how does a degree in physics compare to a degree in chemistry?
AB: I think physics and electrochemistry encompass one another. I won’t be able to answer questions on the specifics of product formulation (which is why I’m not in R&D). When it comes to solving problems out in the field, I believe any kind of science or engineering background will give the necessary skill set. A problem-solving mindset is learned through education. Because of my background, I also apparently solve math equations in a different way from my coworkers in the lab, which they affectionately refer to as “sputnik math.”
PF: You are the Secretary/Treasurer of the Chicago NASF branch. What motivated you to get involved in branch activities and to hold office?
AB: I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2014 as the merger of AESF and CMFI was progressing. I found the meetings to be a wonderful way to get to know the industry in Chicago and put faces with names. It is an honor to have been nominated to the board of the merged NASF chapter and to have the chance to work with such knowledgeable board members. I look forward to the new ideas, education and shared information that will come from the merged organizations.
PF: You are currently earning a CEF (Certified Electroplater-Finisher) certification. Has this process opened your eyes to some of the things that platers deal with on a daily basis?
AB: Studying for the CEF is an excellent reminder of all of the factors that go into successful finishes for a better understanding of the big picture of a plating shop. Platers deal with many more issues than can be obvious at first glance or meeting. It has allowed me the opportunity to learn more in depth about the process beyond the chemistry.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
AB: I will always remember a t-shirt that I saw at a creative writing competition when I was in grade school. It read “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” My physics mentor and friend at Cleveland State University, Dr. Jearl Walker, always reinforced that philosophy.
PF: As a young person, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AB: I wanted to have a career at NASA, like both my parents. This led me to begin college pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, which eventually led me to physics.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
AB: I was a cashier at a fast-paced farmers market on the west side of Cleveland. It taught me to be patient with people, even the ones that may be yelling at you. You never know the whole story of why people act in certain ways.
PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
AB: The Disabled American Veterans Charity
PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
AB: The first car that I bought was a 1993 Mercedes 190E that I still have in storage back in Cleveland! I drove that car for 10 years and plan on repairing it someday. My other two favorite cars, strange as they may be, are the 1969 El Camino SS and the 1968 Lincoln Continental.
PF: Night owl or early bird?
AB: Early bird during the week, somewhat of a night owl on the weekend!
PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, with whom would you trade?
AB: I would love to be an astronaut for a day. To be able to see outer space with my own eyes would be the ultimate experience.
PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
AB: Out and about in Chicago; visiting the museums, galleries, wonderful restaurants and enjoying the gorgeous lakefront.
Family: My mom and dad met while working at NASA, where my father still works. They live on the west side of Cleveland, as does my younger sister who is a gemologist. My younger brother is an aerospace engineer living in Huntsville, Alabama.
Favorite hobby: Collecting vinyl records
Favorite movie: Sunshine (2007)
Favorite book: Anything by Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku or Stephen Ambrose
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: Classic Rock