Alumni Q&A: DOUGLAS SILADY ENG’80, GSNB‘84

“If you study packaging engineering, you can’t go wrong. The opportunities are endless and the experiences are phenomenal.” –Douglas Silady

Douglas Silady is executive vice president of Package Development and Engineering at Boom! Creative Development. A 2014 inductee into the New Jersey Packaging Executives Club Hall of Fame, he is a Certified Packaging Professional through the Packaging Institute who holds both utility and design patents. He currently serves on the School of Engineering Packaging Engineering Program Advisory Board.

Why did you choose the School of Engineering?

I didn’t start out at the School of Engineering. I initially wanted to study agricultural engineering on the Cook Campus. I switched to packaging engineering after seeing signs for it in the engineering building. I thought, “What is this?” and became intrigued. After talking to professors Amini and Morrow, who basically ran the program, I transferred in my sophomore year.

These two professors had a clear focus and knew what they were doing. You could watch the whole process and sequence of packaging.

What did you do after graduating?

I took some time off and travelled in the South Pacific, visiting Australia and New Zealand. After I came back to the U.S., I went to work for General Foods, where I worked in the Corporate Engineering group.

About 40% of my time was spent travelling around the country, engineering automated production lines. Eventually I realized I wanted to be more hands-on and involved with engineering packaging materials.

Is that when you returned to Rutgers for your master’s degree?

Dr. Darrell Morrow invited me to work in his packaging lab and get my degree in materials science. I worked on a lot of his projects and taught some classes.

What did you do next?

I went to work in the personal care industry. I worked first on a number of products at Colgate Palmolive and then at Church and Dwight, where we launched Arm & Hammer toothpaste.

I then had the opportunity to work for the world’s premier cosmetics company – Estee Lauder – in New York City.  I’d always wanted to get into the beauty business because it’s a field where custom packaging is needed on a seasonal basis.

What did you do at Estee Lauder?

Among a number of projects, I worked on the promotional side for Lauder’s Prescriptives division, where I engineered many custom packages including their Calyx fragrance.

What do you work on in your current role as executive vice president for Package Development and Engineering at boom! Creative?

At boom!, we customize dozens of fragrance packages every year. I work closely with the creative designers. My role is all about understanding what the designers think they want to create.  As a packaging engineer, I take their 2D designs and bring them to life in 3D, working with materials like glass, plastic, paper, and metal. Our designers dream up and create the most attractive and complex things – engineering takes these ideas and executes them in a mass production mode.

What are some of the fragrance packages you have engineered?

We launched Fierce, a men’s fragrance for Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s one of the world’s top selling men’s fragrances. I’ve also worked on a number of other major fragrance launches for American Eagle and other specialty retailers.  

Last year was a great year for us. We did fourteen custom fragrance packages. Usually we average around 10.

What projects stand out in your mind?

From the commercial standpoint, Fierce is perhaps the most successful. 

From an aesthetic challenge standpoint, Disney Princess bath products for kids stands out.  This project for Disney involved reproducing their characters in miniature form to fit on top of bottles for a bath line. Disney approved the models, which I carried to China. I had to find a company that could reproduce the design for mass production and correctly match and paint the colors. This was a unique challenge – Disney is very exacting.

How long have you been at boom! Creative?

I’ve commuted from Edison, New Jersey to boom!’s midtown offices for 15 years now.  I read the paper on the morning ride and read work or magazines like Rolling Stone or Food & Wine, or books on the way home. My favorite author is Michael Crichton.

I love my job! I don’t have a single complaint. The 35 or so people at boom! are all involved with design and engineering decisions. It’s a collaborative environment, where we have a great time with a huge amount of give and take.

Am I proud of my new work? You bet! Do I look forward to my next three projects! You bet I do!

What do you value most about your SoE education?

I most value what I learned about the thinking process – the process of how to look at things, what to do, and how to make a difference in your company. What I took away from Rutgers was to work hard; stay focused, and listen carefully to what people want or what they are asking for.  I needed to do this as a student and it’s the backbone of success when you put your engineering talent and acumen to work on a project.

What advice do you have to today’s packaging students?

Packaging is a nuanced field – it’s not black and white. It’s a hard subject to teach, as it is so diverse. You can solve a problem in any number of ways. Compared to packaging, mechanical and industrial engineering can be relatively straightforward.

If you study packaging engineering, you can’t go wrong. The opportunities are endless and the experiences are phenomenal.

It’s an evolving field and I learn something new every day. It’s still just as intriguing to me as it was when I first saw those signs in the hall as a student!

What’s a favorite student memory?

Fraternity rush week with weeklong band parties which of course led to weeks of long studies.

What do you do for fun these days?

Work! I work 13 hours a day and I truly love my job. I also love to cook on weekends and I am an avid oenophile.

Do you have any favorite wines?

I prefer domestic grown grapes from California, Oregon, and Washington State and enjoy both reds like Pinot Noir and whites like Chardonnay.

You’ve traveled widely for work. Do you travel for pleasure?

I love to travel! I’ve been all over the world – including to China 35 to 40 times. I’m always planning family trips.

What’s a favorite destination?

Thailand! But the place I would most love to visit every year is Hawaii. I love Hawaii.

Story by Amy Goodfellow Wagner