Posted in: Membership Memo

Membership Memo—What Does it Mean to be “Essential”?

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

As I sit down to write this column, we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. I can only hope that by the time this issue goes to print we will be well on the way to coming out on the other side of what no doubt has been amongst the most challenging times of our lives. One thing is for sure; these unusual times have changed my perspective on many things in and around my life.

Being an introvert and a chemist, not a writer, my initial response when asked to author this issue’s Membership Memo was a firm but polite, “No thank you.” But, after some thought and a little encouragement from PCT ’s editor, I reconsidered and decided to step out of my comfort zone because I think I do have something of value to share.

I am lucky to work for an “essential” business that is keeping its doors open and paying its employees. I have the ability to work primarily from home and when I am in our facility, we are able to maintain social distancing practices and cleaning protocols to keep us as safe as possible. While grateful to be working, I find myself asking, “What does it mean to be ‘essential’?” I think of the medical professionals and first responders that are literally saving our lives, and the grocery and pharmacy employees manning the stores, so we have access to necessities. Then there are the truck and delivery drivers transporting goods, along with the mail carriers and sanitation personnel who continue to provide critical services. Where would we be without these individuals who are putting our needs before their own? While I am working for a business deemed essential, the reality is I’ve never felt less essential.

Social distancing without social isolation is turning out to be key for both our physical and mental health. Reflecting on this point shined a light on one particularly important thing that PCI has provided me. Membership has allowed me to stay in contact with friends, mentors, and colleagues with whom I likely would have lost touch as I migrated from New England, to the Midwest, to the South, and now the Deep South. PCI is a network; one I didn’t previously appreciate in quite the same way as I do today.

I have figured out that the coatings industry is relatively small and the powder coating world even smaller. Even so, it is still easy to lose touch with people who are not in your immediate circle of life. So right now, in this time and this space, being part of the PCI family is a benefit I appreciate more than ever before.

- Alison Kroviak is a research chemist with Stepan Company