Home > PUM One on One: Aleta Richards, Sr. VP, Coatings, Adhesives & Specialties- N. America Covestro

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PUM One on One with Aleta Richards, Sr. Vice President, Coatings, Adhesives & Specialties - N. America at Covestro

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Pictured left:  Aleta Richards took over as head of the North American Coatings, Adhesives and Specialties business in February. Previously, she served as head of regional product management for the polycarbonates business.

PUM: You started your career at Covestro (then part of Bayer) in 1990 and are well acquainted with the organization, gaining experience in marketing, sales, human resources and general management. On Feb. 1, 2018, you were appointed head of commercial operations for Covestro’s North American Coatings, Adhesives and Specialties (CAS) business. What does this new phase of leadership entail? 


AR: In my new role, I’m responsible for the overall performance of the CAS business in North America. 

Our business is probably the most diverse in terms of product offerings. We not only make raw materials for coatings, adhesives and sealants, but we also produce thermoplastic polyurethane, elastomers and specialty films. These materials are transformed into products you use and see every day – from the glossy topcoat of paint on your car to the adhesives holding your shoes together to the coatings that protect the bridge you drove over on the way to work. We even have an entire cosmetics ingredient line that enhances hair and skin care products.

It’s my job to help pull these diverse functions together, harness our common drive for success and ensure that we continue to support growth through innovation.


PUM: How have you been able to successfully juggle and manage your ever-increasing responsibilities during your long tenure with the company?

AR: Certainly, we’ve all had those times when it seems that there are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on the to-do list. But as my own responsibilities have increased, I’ve also learned that I don’t have to accomplish the to-do list by myself. The greatest achievements are most often shared – and recognizing this is an important part of making the shift from doing to leading. For me, this shift was easy because I’ve been fortunate to lead and participate in teams with incredibly talented, passionate people. My current organization is no exception.


PUM: Tell us more about having the opportunity to be in a key leadership role at Covestro now, at a time when there is an increased focus on innovation and sustainability.

AR: Innovation has always had an important place in our business strategy, but since becoming Covestro, it’s become a core part of our identity. And we believe innovation goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. Each inspires the other. For example, one of our long-term targets is to align our research and development efforts with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By 2025, we aim to allocate 80 percent of our R&D spend toward addressing the U.N. goals.

What an incredible opportunity to make a difference through our work. And that work starts now. As a leader, I think it’s important to have a vision and purpose we can all buy into. What I find even more exciting is that the CAS business unit is uniquely positioned to contribute to innovation because we have such a wide range of products and capabilities.

But innovation at Covestro goes well beyond traditional R&D. We’re constantly seeking new ways to improve and enhance all aspects of the company—from product offerings and end markets, to business models and business processes. That’s why the company gives its employees the tools, resources and opportunities to collaborate and pursue new ideas in support of innovation.

I try to build on that effort through empowerment. I want to empower employees to daydream about the future, because they’re driving it.


(Pictured above:  After founding a book club for female colleagues, Aleta took the tradition overseas during her six-month assignment in Shanghai, where Covestro's global Polycarbonates is headquartered. Today, in her new role as head of the CAS business in North America, Aleta is an active member of the CAS book club.)  Click image to enlarge

PUM: What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion at Covestro? How are you helping to shape a more diverse and inclusive culture within your organization?

AR: I’m fortunate to work for a company that values diversity and inclusion (D&I) – not just because it is intrinsically linked to innovation, but also because it supports our vision to make the world a brighter place. That’s why D&I is such an important part of our business strategy.

And that commitment is reflected in the vibrant culture we have here. Employees are encouraged to speak up, share their ideas and be themselves.

But building a more diverse and inclusive culture is an ongoing journey, and I believe that leadership plays an important role in setting the tone. I hope to leverage my new position to inspire others: I want to lead by example, fostering an inclusive culture where all viewpoints are valued. It’s only by bringing together people from different backgrounds, with diverse viewpoints, that we can truly push boundaries.


PUM: What message do you have for prospective employees who would like to join Covestro?

AR: First and foremost, I speak from firsthand experience when I say that Covestro is a place where you can build a lifelong career. There are limitless opportunities, if you’re willing to take risks, embrace new challenges and step outside your comfort zone. This is an organization that rewards the courageous.

And we reward innovation because it drives our success. That’s why we look for bright people with bright ideas. We realize that it is the collective talent, motivation and diversity of our people that drive Covestro forward as a global leader and employer of choice.

But we’re also a company that gives back. And so do our employees. They generously donate their time, energy and resources to help local nonprofits. Covestro recognizes the need for purpose-driven work, which is why we create opportunities for our employees to engage outside company walls and make a meaningful difference in the community.

So, if this sounds like a fit for you, then I’d encourage you to consider joining Covestro.


PUM:  Tell us more about your continued leadership capacity as executive sponsor of the Covestro ACCESS employee resource group, an internal network for African American employees.

AR: ACCESS is one of 12 employee resource groups (or ERGs) at Covestro that bring together people with common backgrounds and interests, and in doing so, support a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Each ERG has a different focus area. ACCESS focuses on African Americans, and our overall mission is to inspire and motivate underrepresented students to pursue their dreams in STEM―Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. We visit local schools to host science shows, judge science fairs and bring hands-on science experiments to the classroom. The goal is to show students that STEM can be fun, exciting and a viable career opportunity.

While in my new role, I will continue support ACCESS as executive sponsor, but I’m also exploring a few other opportunities to further engage in the industry and community. Stay tuned!

PUM: As a native to Pittsburgh, are you seeing the positive growth and opportunities for especially African Americans? What is your hope for the city?

AR: Like a lot of Pittsburgh natives, I’m proud of our city’s rich history. We’ve transformed our industrial economy into one that is diversified in healthcare, education, energy, technology and advanced manufacturing.  But this transformation wouldn’t be possible without a talented, diversified workforce.

We’ve made great strides in this regard, but there’s more progress we can make. Let’s use education as just one example. Simply put, education is empowerment. We need to ensure that all of our young citizens have access to quality education. That’s why I’m so passionate about promoting STEM education in underserved schools. As the Baby Boomer generation retires, there will be a demand for people of all backgrounds who have the education and training needed to fill these positions. 

To address these challenges, as a community we have to find new ways to work together to meet Pittsburgh’s future needs. We already have great cooperation from the public and private sectors. We have to keep this going and growing. My wish for the city is to see the level of collaboration expand as the next generation positions itself to lead positive change. And I can assure you that Covestro is committed to do its part. That’s why we’re hosting our second annual THINC30 event October 17 – to further explore how individuals, organizations and communities can collaborate to create a more inclusive, sustainable future for Pittsburgh. I’d encourage anyone interested to visit our website for more information: www.covestro.us/thinc30.


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