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Find Your Path: A Conversation Between FLEXO Magazine and DuPont’s Brad Gasque

By Brad Gasque

July 24, 2019

width=300Brad Gasque didn’t exactly expect to land in the career he did. A technical service consultant at DuPont Advanced Printing, all he knew at an early age was that he liked problem-solving.

En route to DuPont, Gasque transferred from another school to Clemson University, interned at sgsco and RR Donnelley, and worked at the Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics. Along the way, he found an application for that childhood desire to fix things—a predilection many young people have and one that can be used just about anywhere—in the flexo­graphic industry.

“When a customer is having and the plate seems to be the source, I come in and help them resolve the problem,” Gasque says of his 9-to-5. “There is something about the challenge to finding a solution to a problem that I really enjoy.”

Here, Gasque talks to FLEXO magazine about his career path, his experiences and observations, how they informed the road he’s traveled so far, and what young people can bring to companies today.

FLEXO magazine: Where do you work, and what’s your title? What was your career path to where you are today?

Brad Gasque: I work for DuPont Advanced Printing as a technical service consultant. My career path started back in high school when I realized I was a “gear head” and enjoyed problem-solving anything with a motor. There is something about the challenge to finding a solution to a problem that I really enjoy.

I originally started college as a mechanical engineering major, as I was told that would be the best fit for a problem-solving kind of mindset. After shadowing a group of engineers for a few days at a Michelin plant, I quickly realized it was more number crunching in a cubicle than it was problem-solving. I ended up transferring from North Carolina State University to Clemson University, where I received my B.S. in graphic communications.

While at Clemson, I was fortunate to have two internships. The first was at sgsco in Atlanta, where I enjoyed learning more about flexo and color management. The second was at an RR Donnelley offset-litho plant in Durham, N.C., where I learned a ton about prepress and that I did not like sitting in front of a computer all day. After graduation, I was hired by Clemson to manage the Advanced Flexography Lab in the Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics, where I taught labs and industry seminars, and conducted R&D projects.

After working at Clemson for 4½ years, I left to pursue a job with DuPont. I have been with DuPont for three years and continue to learn more and more about this exciting industry.

FLEXO: What does “technical service consultant” actually mean? What does a typical workday look like?

Gasque: It means that I support the DuPont Cyrel product line, including plates and equipment. In North America, DuPont has seven members on the technical service team. When a customer is having and the plate seems to be the source, I come in and help them resolve the problem. I also host training sessions with customers to teach them anything from plate handling to press optimization. Something else that has kept me busy over the past few years is converting customers over to the new EASY plates.

FLEXO: Going to school to study a field and actually working in that field are always two very different things. When you were in school, how did you envision working in the flexographic industry would be, and how has it been different?

Gasque: Many of the faculty members in the graphics communications program at Clemson came from the flexographic industry, so they teach from their experiences, giving the students insight into the industry. I also had two internships, which allowed me to get a glimpse of the industry. However, working in production is very different than school. In school, you learn all the theories and processes that should be followed, but sometimes production throws all of that to the side.

FLEXO: After graduating, you worked for a time at Clemson as a research associate. What was that like, working closely with students?

Gasque: My time at Clemson was nothing but great. The students give off an energy that you don’t find in many workplaces, so it was an enjoyable environment. Every student with whom I worked, I wondered what they might accomplish in their career. Maybe they would develop a technology that changes the industry forever. It is exciting to see many of them in the flexographic industry today doing big things. I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the undergraduate and graduate students who worked as lab assistants at the Sonoco Institute. They made long days in the lab so much fun, and I will forever be grateful for those times.

FLEXO: What’s something that has surprised you—good or bad—about working in the flexographic industry?

Gasque: Hopefully this doesn’t sound too bad. I walk onto some pressroom floors and stand amazed that they can get any acceptable product out the door. With all the resources and tools this industry has for process control, there are still some facilities that do not even try to control their processes. I often see tools and devices for process control hidden in drawers or covered in dust because they are not used. I think that since flexography was more of an art for so long, it is difficult for some facilities to transform it into a science. The great thing about these facilities is that they have major room for improvement.

I am also amazed that with a massive industry like package printing, the core of it is like a small family. It is cool to walk through stores and see all the print around me and know that I get to rub shoulders at industry gatherings with everyone who makes it happen. This is a special industry with great people.

FLEXO: You work with plates. What drove you to that specific part of the industry?

Gasque: I really love a good challenge, and I feel that plates are one of the biggest challenges in flexography. They have so many variables directly around them from screening to polymer formulation to their fragile handling. My internship at sgsco also started me off right by getting me addicted to the smell of photopolymer.

FLEXO: One of the biggest takeaways from the FTA (Flexographic Technical Association) Generational Study was a large majority of students studying package printing—83%—felt completely unprepared for a job. How did you feel when you started at your first job?

Gasque: Even though my degree did a great job preparing me, I still felt unprepared when starting my full-time position at Clemson five days after graduation. You feel like you must retain all the knowledge taught to you in classes, but you know you aren’t even close to having it all down. I soon realized after college that the purpose behind many classes isn’t necessarily to make you memorize a bunch of knowledge, but to train your brain in a certain way. With the advent of the internet and the advancements in technology we have today, knowledge is right at our fingertips at a moment’s notice. So even though I felt unprepared, I was ready to rock and roll.

FLEXO: What do you think is the biggest misconception about young people in this industry?

Gasque: I think the biggest misconception is that young people are lazy. Yes, many young people are lazy, but if they are investing themselves into this industry, I know they are not of the lazy kind. This is not an industry that has the most attractive appearance to it, so if they are here, then they want to be here. The young people are eager to learn and help this industry become even better than what it already is today.

FLEXO: Much is made of the age gap in the workforce, and the friction between younger and more veteran workers. Is there any truth to that?

Gasque: Yes, I have seen this firsthand. Young people are not here to take jobs away from the more veteran workers. We want to work with and learn from them. The veteran workers have so much experience that younger generations won’t have the chance to absorb because of the advancements of technology.

I also believe that young people coming out of school bring fresh ideas that veteran workers might not have because of the demands of their jobs. If we can bridge this age gap and work together, we will have a workforce that can handle anything thrown at it.

FLEXO: What can human resources managers and company executives do better to attract young talent to their organizations?

Gasque: A fear that young talent has when looking at jobs is that they will get stuck in a job where they are bored. Let them know the exciting challenges they will face working in your organization. Create work environments that are inviting and new. I walk into many manufacturing facilities where the workplace hasn’t been updated in 30 years, or it doesn’t have any windows, or it just looks blah. This is not an environment that young talent is going to desire to come work in every day. Show them the opportunities, the different positions they could hold within your organization. Most of the young people I have worked with do not like staying still for too long. You don’t want them leaving your organization after a few years, so have them change positions every so often to keep them excited about their work—if that’s what they want.

FLEXO: Why is it important for young people to stay connected to peers of a similar age through groups like the FTA Emerging Leaders Committee?

Gasque: When you go to industry events, you quickly realize that there is indeed an age gap. You will look around and feel alone as a young person, but fear not—we are here! It can be very intimidating working alongside people with more years of flexography experience than years you’ve been on Earth. These experienced flexographers have built an amazing industry, and we are forever grateful. The FTA Emerging Leaders Committee is here for its members to support each other, but more importantly to make sure the industry has a bright and successful future as we “emerge” as leaders.

FLEXO: Any advice or words of wisdom for any young flexographers reading, or students studying flexography and package printing?

Gasque: You will be amazed at how much this industry needs you and the knowledge you bring. Life is full of different seasons, from highs to lows. The low seasons are the ones that shape you and mold you into the strong, wise person you are meant to be. Don’t complain of difficulties or struggles during the low seasons, but take advantage of the opportunity to learn. I look back at my college years, my career path, and even the past few weeks, and I can see how every season has shaped me into the person God designed me to be. So, embrace whatever season you are in right now, knowing that you will come out a strong and wise person, which is what the industry needs.


The FTA Emerging Leaders Committee brings together young flexographers to participate in problem-solving work groups, tackle unique projects on an as-needed basis, network with peers, gain an inside look into FTA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity in the near future. To join, contact FTA Content Manager & Digital Strategist Brad Pareso at bpareso@flexography.org.

Editors’ note: This article originally ran in the October 2018 issue of FLEXO magazine, the Flexographic Technical Association’s flagship member publication, and has been edited to fit BoxScore’s style. At the time of this interview, Gasque was a technical service consultant. His title has since changed to flexo application specialist.


width=150Brad Gasque is a flexo application specialist at DuPont Advanced Printing.