On the Rise: Laura Kocsis

Oct. 31, 2023

Laura Kocsis

Senior manager of advanced polymer science | Bridgestone Americas Inc. | Akron, Ohio | Age: 36

What was your first job in the industry?

My first job was as a polymer scientist at Bridgestone Americas. I joined after I completed my doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh in 2014.

What attracted you to the industry?

I was attracted to the tire industry initially because I would have the ability to innovate in scientific areas, like polymers and rubber, while expanding my technical experience. The possibility that new technology, which I could have a hand in creating, would make a global impact is exciting and attracted me to working at Bridgestone.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

Establishing routes and relationships to commercialize new polymer technologies when pathways were not well defined. When I first became a manager, there were areas of our business that we needed to deliver technology to, but lacked clear pathways or established relationships which we could leverage to provide that technology efficiently; this resulted in challenges for transferring and commercializing new polymer technology. Becoming a manager gave me the opportunity to learn in new areas and network to build stronger relationships and understand customer needs so that we could begin to overcome these challenges.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I have been extremely fortunate to work with many strong and influential women in my career both before and during my time at Bridgestone. Their presence was a model that allowed me to visualize myself pursuing both a science career, as well as a managerial leadership career. These women, whether they be professors, managers or colleagues, helped guide me and supported me in choosing my career, as well as mentored me in how to succeed. They first taught me how to be a scientist then a manager, and most importantly how to be a mentor to others, which has helped me build successful teams and networks.

What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?

I am a member of the team that developed PeakLife polymer, which was released as part of the ENLITEN technology package in Turanza EV Grand Touring and Potenza Sport AS tires this year. PeakLife is a next-generation polymer technology that enhances tread resistance to wear, aiding in extended tire life. The tread on tires with PeakLife technology can last longer, helping to reduce the need for new tires and aiding in reducing the consumption of raw materials. I contributed to this development in different ways, both as an individual contributor and as a manager of the polymer synthesis team from which the technology originated.

Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your workday?

My current role is as a senior manager of the advanced polymer science department, which is one component of research and development at Bridgestone. I have managers reporting to me from all areas of polymer science development including synthesis, characterization, performance and scale-up, so I have responsibility for the end-to-end polymer development process. My day is spent meeting with managers, scientists and project teams to ensure they have the resources needed to be successful, as well as with collaborators and internal customers to understand future consumer needs and how we can work together to provide strategic polymer products to address them. I also regularly interface with stakeholders and collaborators in our technical centers in Japan and Italy.

What's been the biggest surprise of your current job?

How critical having strong relationships is to the success of science and projects. Coming from a scientific background, I always thought developing robust science would be the most challenging part of my work, but I've learned how crucial it is to build and maintain networks that will assist in moving technology forward and help my teams be successful. While the science may be sound, you will always need others to believe in and help promote the technology too.

Tell us about your family.

My family is small, consisting of only my mother and father. We are very close, but very different in our interests and professions.

If you could wake up tomorrow with one new skill, what would you choose?

I would love to be more creative! Being of a scientific background, I gravitate so much toward data and processes, but I feel like developing my creative side would allow me to gain a whole new perspective on science and management.

In a single word, how would your friends describe you?

Supportive. I seek to come from a place of understanding in both my personal and professional lives and to help others find or pursue the opportunities that are important to them.

If you could switch jobs for a day, what job/who would you choose to swap with, and why?

For a day, I'd like to swap roles with someone in sales or marketing. This is a very different job than what I hold now, but I would love to understand more the process of making a value proposition to determine the cost of the product that a customer is satisfied with and still brings solid profits to the business.

What's the biggest issue facing the tire industry?

The biggest issue facing the tire industry in my eyes is how to quickly progress toward sustainability and minimize our environmental impact in order to be better global partners and meet the needs of our consumers.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A musician. I loved jazz music, which was a far cry from chemistry. Once I took my first chemistry class though, I knew that I wanted a career in science. I never guessed it would be tires though!

What goal did you set for yourself this year? Are you on track to reach it?

This year I had a goal of finding a new management opportunity within Bridgestone. I had been in my role as manager of the polymer synthesis team for five years and was ready to learn a new area or role to continue building and expanding my management skills. Within the past month, I took on the role of senior manager of advanced polymer science where I now oversee research and development related to polymer synthesis, formulation and testing, characterization and scale-up.

What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?

Leading a team or teams to advance our company towards its 2050 sustainability goals. Also, being an established mentor for people within industry and the sciences, especially women, to be successful in their careers and to help them find new opportunities.