blog  •  Mar 08

Women in Focus: Paving the Way at Ascensus

From leadership to innovation, dive into the journeys of some of the extraordinary women who shape the heart and soul of our company.

Welcome to a celebration of strength, resilience, and unwavering determination as we proudly unveil our International Women's Day blog, shining a spotlight on the some of the remarkable women at Ascensus Specialties. As we navigate through the diverse experiences and achievements of these women, we invite you to be inspired by the impactful stories of those who have contributed significantly to the fabric of our organization.

Joanna Tsiantas

Joanna is the Sales Excellence Director here at Ascensus. Her career began with a stellar academic background, graduating from Dartmouth College with a BS in Computer Science and Mathematics. Her early years in the technical industry presented challenges as she navigated a male-dominated space, proving her capabilities through hard work and determination.

At one point, Joanna chose to pause her career to focus on family, later to re-enter the workforce 12 years later as a temp employee in the Internal Sales & Purchasing Group at Strem Chemicals, Inc.(now part of Ascensus). Today, as an integral part of the Ascensus Team, Joanna contributes to the company's success by managing products and services that drive growth for both Ascensus and its customers. And she acknowledges how much things have changed over the years, “In 2009, I quoted DCOC “bulk volume” of 100-200kg and today, through Ascensus we are quoting metric tons of DCOC to our key commercial customers. I have been fortunate to be involved in many aspects of our business.”

Joanna's inspiration stems from her father, an advocate for education who instilled in her the belief that knowledge is a foundation that no one can take away. Proud of her international Greek heritage, which has helped her to foster a global perspective, Joanna attributes her success to the strong work ethic, determination, and sense of community ingrained in her by her familial roots.

Throughout her career, Joanna faced the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Her approach was marked by working longer hours, demonstrating seriousness, and supporting fellow female professionals. An early encounter at an engineering firm showcased her resilience, as she and her female colleague earned respect by redesigning a system that saved the firm time and money.

Joanna’s proudest accomplishment lies in her reentry into the workforce, starting as a temp, learning, and continually growing and promoting. Her involvement in various aspects of the business, from catalog management to product development, reflects her dedication and contribution to Ascensus' success.

For young women aspiring to build successful careers, Joanna's advice is clear: define your own version of success and embrace the journey. Success, she believes, is a continuous process of self-reflection, action, and adaptation. Looking ahead, Joanna aims for continuous improvement both personally and professionally, seeking challenges that make her stronger and better each day.

In her parting words, Joanna encourages everyone, especially women, to believe in and empower themselves. She reminds us that we are braver, stronger, and smarter than we often think – a message that resonates powerfully on International Women’s Day and beyond.

Kiara Daly

Kiara began her career with a focus on Forensic Science which ultimately led to her studies in analytical chemistry. It was during her undergraduate studies that she realized how much she enjoyed testing and analysis, with specifically an interest in pharmaceuticals. Kiara is now a Quality Control Analyst for Ascensus at our Cambridge facility.

Throughout her career she had some inspirations and mentors. She sites Dr. Sarah Hall, a professor in her undergraduate studies, as an inspiration and role model whose passion for chemistry was contagious and encouraged Kiara to continue with a career in chemistry. She also has had tome mentorship internally at Ascensus with the support of individuals such as Peter Lomax. He’s always willing to share his wealth on knowledge and experience and has supported her in her growth within the company.

Kiara has faced various challenges in her career and they have become some of her most proud accomplishments. One such challenge was developing and mastering a new method. To overcome this, Kiara drew on her previous knowledge along with independently looking into other resources and worked in a trial and error process. As a result, her accomplishment and success had a significant impact on her confidence and led to her exploring new innovative techniques that she wouldn’t have previously considered.

Balancing work and personal life is a challenge for many, and Kiara has found that it’s key to prioritize health, both mental and physical. Similar to her methods at work, she explores different options and strategies to find the best results. Her advice: “Experiment with different approaches and to seek help and suggestions from others.”

When looking at her career and thinking about advice for others she adds, “My advice to young women aspiring to build successful careers is to always be curious and ask questions or seek help whenever it is necessary. Curiosity will increase your knowledge and contribute to your success.”

Linda Waltenburg

Linda is currently the Shipping Coordinator at our Elma facility, but in the 33 years she’s been there, under multiple company names and changes, she has also done a variety of data entry for purchasing, shipping, and started out with secretarial duties. She attributes her ability to multi-task and work under stress to meet deadlines as the key for her continued success. She also credits those who inspired her, some who’ve retired, as well as her longtime co-worker and friend, Wendy Goldsmith.

Work-life balance is a challenge for many, and Linda has a position that is very hands-on, therefore requiring her full attention at the facility. However, she points out that being able to have some flexibility in her schedule occasionally helps with that balance, allowing her to attend family activities more often. She enjoys family time outside of work, especially getting to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and spending time gardening, traveling, camping, and horseback riding in the back country.

Linda’s advice to young women: “Work hard, and don’t turn down opportunities, dedication to your job, attention to details and think outside the box for solutions.” She also adds “This is a great company to work for and it takes all of us to do our very best to continue to make it successful and keep our customers satisfied.”

Rebecca Neely

Rebecca started her career with a Bachelor’s in Accounting that led to her becoming a junior accountant at Ascensus (Callery Chemical at the time). That was almost 25 years ago, and Rebecca has since worked in accounting, AP, and R&D through the years as the company changed hands multiple times. Meanwhile, she also authored several novels and worked as a freelance writer, which she notes has been an amazing journey in itself. Throughout the years and many changes, she’s embraced the changes and has adopted a ‘never stop learning’ mindset.

In a recent challenge, that ‘never stop learning’ mindset proved extremely beneficial. When faced with an SAP transition in Evans City in 2023, the process involved working with consultants, learning new process and training that pushed Rebecca out of her comfort zone and required her to use a multitude of skills. But she came through it all, along with the rest of the Evans City team, and had a successful implementation. “Looking back, there have been other system implementations, and it’s in those times of huge change, that the people at Evans City have consistently come together to meet it, head on. I think I’m most proud of those times, for myself, and my co-workers.”

Even with the challenges at the office, achieving work-life balance is another challenge she has faced head on. She advises on the importance of knowing that it’s ok to say “no”, and to not feel guilty, especially as a woman, for not taking on every task and detail yourself. It’s ok to step back and not feel the need to do everything.

Rebecca’s advice to young women, is truly great advice for any young person: “Always speak up for yourself. Ask—the question you think you should already know the answer to, for the raise, for help. The worst that’s going to happen is you hear no. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.”

Mayya Buffington

Mayya, our Chief Information Officer, has had a unique career journey embodying resilience, adaptability, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. Starting her career in Ukraine as a Registered Nurse , Mayya cultivated essential skills in quick triaging, prioritization, and attentive listening, laying the foundation for her success.

Immigrating to the United States at a young age and speaking no English, Mayya applied the skills acquired in nursing to navigate a new culture and language all while going to college to get a U.S. degree. With patience, hard work, and determination, she earned a Bachelors in Science, later discovering her passion for Information Technology during an MBA program. Her tenacity led her to approach the CIO with innovative ideas, marking the beginning of her transformative IT journey. She said, “Looking back, every project that I worked on throughout my career was slowly taking me down the technology and innovation path, I just did not see it yet. This program made me realize how much Information Technology can do for business and combined with my earned skills and experience could lead to success.”

Throughout her career, Mayya tackled many challenges. One clear lesson learned is the importance of understanding diverse cultures, a crucial skill for communication in any global company. Another challenge was faced during the Covid pandemic. Mayya was new to a team and company working to enable vaccine production. They had to quickly upgrade and integrate with business critical systems a manufacturing facility so that it could meet the production demand all while being in a global lockdown and having to work with and train everyone remotely.

Mayya draws inspiration from her family, especially the strong women who she looked up to as role models. She credits them with instilling a great work ethic, kindness, relentlessness and vision; all traits she plans to pass along to her daughter. In addition to the influence of her family, she’s also had several mentors through the years. Of mentors, she says, “A great mentor is not determined to be the smartest person in the room, they want to share knowledge. They are patient and take time to explain. They see in you more than you see in yourself. They ask tough questions to make you think.”

For aspiring young women, Mayya imparts valuable advice: never give up, appreciate the journey, and be persistent in pursuing goals. As a published author, Mayya envisions returning to writing, sharing her experiences, and coaching young women in college and early in their careers.

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