Forte Connect
Women of Leadership Profiles

Dow has Offered the World to These Two Women Leaders

Having grown up in Michigan, Andrea Dominowski and Beth Nicholas never imagined when they started their careers at Dow 25+ years ago that they would end up with the opportunity to work on the other side of the world. After international assignments in Sao Paulo and Shanghai, respectively, they took what they learned back to Dow’s headquarters in Michigan where they continue to seek opportunities to stretch and grow themselves

Current roles: Leadership requires judgment and courage

How would you describe your current role, what is your main mission, and what are sample activities?

ANDREA: As Global Business Director, Silicone Feedstocks & Intermediates Consumer Solutions, my mindset is that I am the CEO of this business. My main mission is to define the strategy and coordinate its execution to maximize profits of the silicone business. Feedstocks are the raw materials that create siloxane, which in turn produces silicone, which goes into the production of electronics, industrial materials, and beauty items, for example. One of the most important activities is sales and operations planning. We have a very complex and global supply chain, and our priority is to get the right product in the right place to the right customer at the right cost.

BETH: I view my role as Vice President and Business Finance Director, Packaging and Specialty Plastics Segment, in three parts:

  1. Leadership: I lead a global business finance team of ~120 employees, focused on ensuring a high-performing and engaged organization. Additionally, I am a member of Dow’s Finance Leadership Team, responsible for setting the strategic priorities of our global Finance team while mentoring and engaging across the organization and helping to drive our inclusion and diversity strategy forward.
  2. Business leadership: Packaging and Specialty Plastics has a huge, complex manufacturing and sales footprint that operates all over the world. As part of the leadership team, we create and drive the strategic priorities and set the operational and financial plans. The core of my daily work includes partnering with the business leaders, managing the financial activity, and resolving critical needs and issues.
  3. Corporate leadership: As a member of the Dow’s Operations Leadership Team, I help to drive the strategic priorities of the company.

What is your favorite part of your job?

ANDREA: This has held true throughout my career: I spend a lot of energy on the people side of the job – developing relationships and supporting employees so they can achieve their best. If my team is successful, I am successful.

BETH: I work with a diverse and highly talented team of genuine leaders.  The diversity creates a better team, and it is better for business – I can tell you that from first-hand experience. I also enjoy being part of the business leadership team – we come together to solve dynamic challenges that allow us to serve our community and customers.

What characteristics does someone need to be successful in a role like yours?

ANDREA: Financial acumen is essential because every decision has a financial component. Judgment is also important – when I came into this role, it was bit intimidating because I am making many decisions every day that have multimillion-dollar impacts. I had to trust my 25 years of experience. Nobody has all the answers – you just have to make the best decisions with the available data.

BETH: You need strong leadership skills, courage to take a high-profile role, willingness to challenge leadership’s decisions to influence direction and decisions when deemed necessary, and agility and resilience when complexities arise. You also need a tough shell – you’ll find not everyone appreciates a woman with an assertive, strong voice.

Dow opened my eyes to experiences I didn’t know existed, gave me an opportunity to see the world, and to grow beyond what I thought I was capable of.

What is most challenging?

ANDREA: The pace is fast, and we have a lot to accomplish. It can be overwhelming so I prioritize where our energy will have biggest impact and keep our teams laser-focused on the bigger picture.

BETH: When differences arise, whether within the business or with our corporate partners, we must collaborate effectively to work through those.

Early influences: Building strong work ethics

Where did you grow up?

ANDREA: I grew up in Engadine, Michigan – a very small, rural town with a population of 550.

BETH: I am from Waterford, Michigan – a suburb north of Detroit.

Is there someone or something from your upbringing that influenced your career path? 

ANDREA: I took an aptitude test in high school that said I would be a good accountant. Neither of my parents went to college, but they instilled a strong work ethic. My father was a self-made man – he built and owned lumberyards.

My mother pushed my sister and me to find our wings and get out of our comfort zones. Going to Michigan State University (MSU) – a huge university – from a small town did not go well my first semester, but my mother encouraged me to stay a full year and come home after that if I still didn’t like it. I ended up graduating from MSU – a decision that set things in motion for the rest of my career.

BETH: Of my parents and grandparents, my sister and I were the first to graduate from college. My family influenced us to work hard and get the most out of our education and life.  And while they were always available and supportive, they didn’t offer specific career guidance, so we leaned on our instincts, our talents, and our advisors.

What was your very first job, and what did you learn from it?

ANDREA: Aside from babysitting, I was a waitress at our local diner. The owner drilled into me that the customer comes first. I developed a strong work ethic there and always went home exhausted.

BETH: At 16, I became a cashier at Ace Hardware. I guess you could say it was my entry into accounting and finance, and where I learned the importance of team work as well as the importance of customer relations.

Did you ever consider a major other than accounting as undergrads?

ANDREA: For me, it was all about going to college and making an honest living.

BETH: I didn’t have a view about what I wanted to do when I started college, but when I took general business undergrad classes, something clicked for me in the first two accounting courses.  It was during a period of recession, and I remember seeing a sign on campus about engineering and accounting being “jobs for the ages.”

Career path: Dow continuously provides challenges

You have both been employed by Dow for 25+ years. What is it about Dow that has made it an attractive place to work for so long?

ANDREA: Dow continues to put me in stretch roles where I grow and am challenged. I grew up pretty isolated, and I came to Dow because of its community and family culture. Dow opened my eyes to experiences I didn’t know existed, gave me an opportunity to see the world, and to grow beyond what I thought I was capable of.

BETH: It started with an internship at Dow the summer before I graduated, and I haven’t worked anywhere else! Even though Dow is quite large, it has a “small town” culture and our values are well grounded and aligned. There are always opportunities for growth here, and they have given me great and broad challenges while supporting me along the way.

How many total roles have you held at Dow, and how do you make decisions about when it is time to move on and try something new?

ANDREA: This is my tenth role at Dow. I have been fortunate because a lot of doors have opened for me after proving myself early on. If I know I have more to give than in my current role, that is when I push for the next role.

BETH: Every two or three years, I have moved into a new role with increasing levels of responsibility. You have to have a continuous dialogue about your goals and areas of interest. I once took the tax leadership role during a significant M&A transaction – that was the most challenging, but it gave me courage and confidence and provided me with significant growth.

You both have spent time in international assignments (Andrea in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Beth in Shanghai). How did that impact you personally and/or professionally?

ANDREA: Prior to Brazil, my family relocated to California. I had to ask my husband to quit his job, and I had never lived away from home, but we had the best time. It’s really important to have a supportive partner. That experience prepared us for the Brazil move.

We had three small children at the time, and it turned out to be the best gift we could have given them: to experience a new culture, to be a minority, to see how different people live, to learn to be adaptable and resilient. Our kids didn’t want to come home.

It was hands down the best experience both professionally and personally. Professionally, I learned cultural and social norms outside the US and took that back with me and am a better professional because of it. The most profound impact was coming back with more confidence. I thought “If I can do Brazil, I can do anything.” The biggest risks have the biggest rewards.

BETH: It was an amazing experience for my family and me – the personal growth was profound. Our daughters were 9, 12 and 14 when we arrived and have benefitted greatly from that experience and other relocations as well. You bond even more strongly as a family because you are on your own, cannot speak the language, and everything – the sounds, sights and smells – is all different. And professionally it makes you a better and more inclusive leader.

Take the roles that make you uncomfortable, that turn you upside down, and you have no idea where you are landing.

 

Business advice: Find ways to stand out and take risks  

Looking back on your path so far, is there anything you would do differently?

ANDREA: There is nothing I regret. Some jobs I liked more than others, but I always took something from every job. I wish my younger self had more confidence – I suffered from Impostor Syndrome when I was younger, and I try to help my daughter with that now.

BETH: Not really. I am used to constant change and like the learning and challenges that it brings.

What advice do you have a for a young woman just starting out in her career in business?

ANDREA: Companies like Dow hire students of very high caliber. Standing out – volunteering for extra projects and asking questions in meetings – is important early in your career.

BETH: Raise your hand for the tough assignments or project. Don’t take a common path. Take the roles that make you uncomfortable, that turn you upside down, and you have no idea where you are landing. Those will provide you with the best growth.

And choose your partner wisely – I am fortunate my husband, Jon, has been my biggest fan and has supported my career along the way.

Personal pursuits: Serving others, traveling, and getting outside

What is about Forté’s mission that makes you want to support our efforts?

ANDREA: Dow and Forté are both passionate about promoting and advancing women, and through our partnership, we are providing resources and access to women who will then bring their best to Dow.

BETH: I appreciate that there is an organization focused on professional women’s development while creating a community that gives women of all levels and careers opportunities to be inspired.

Give yourself the allowance to not have to try and be perfect at everything

 

Tell me about your volunteer activities. 

ANDREA: Zonta is an international club that advances women and pulls them up in their communities. Zonta also advocates for equal pay, anti-violence, and an end to human trafficking. We do a lot fundraising and give scholarships to women to help better themselves.

BETH: I have served on the Disability Employee Network at Dow for a couple of years, and we bring awareness and help ensure people with disabilities have equality of opportunities. Our nephew is physically disabled and has speech and learning impairment so I have a firsthand appreciation for these challenges.

Is there anything on your “bucket list” you’d be willing to share?

ANDREA: Living in South America gave my family the itch to travel more and continue learning about the world.

BETH: We’d like to travel to Europe and parts of Asia we haven’t seen yet, but we’d also like to take road trips to see more of the US.

How do you spend your time when you are not working?

ANDREA:  I like to garden, go boating, and spend time outdoors.

BETH: Parenting never ends! Our three girls are at different stages of life, and we have spent quality time together during the pandemic. As a family, we like to ski in the winter and boat and hike in the summer.

How do you do it all?

BETH: You just do. Give yourself the allowance to not have to try and be perfect at everything – just give it your best and let the small things go.

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