Like the liquid pavement marking products that she oversees as director of product management in our Traffic Solutions business, Maria Wang’s career has flowed smoothly between technical and commercial roles. Her leadership in developing and launching more than 40 products for our company – one of which earned a prestigious R&D 100 Award from R&D World® Magazine– contributed to her receiving the 2023 Industrial Progress Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Technology Brought to Life
Maria’s technical pedigree is impeccable, starting with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the same field from Stanford University.
She began her career providing technical consulting services to the U.S. Department of Energy, moving on to serve as associate director for Stanford’s Center for Probing the Nanoscale. She joined us in 2015 as a senior research chemist, quickly moving into technical management roles in architectural coatings before transitioning to the commercial side when she accepted her current position in our Traffic Solutions business in 2022.
“I developed more learning agility – quickly coming up to speed in an unfamiliar subject area – throughout my various technical roles. I also gained the confidence to grow out of my comfort zone as a technical expert, becoming more interested in the business impact of the technology that I help build and the management of cross-functional teams that bring the technology to life.”
A crowning achievement was the launch of our proprietary CLEAN SURFACE TECHNOLOGY™ solution, which enables stain-resistant, easy-clean interior paint. Maria led the team that went from idea to commercial product in a speedy four years, earning us a 2020 R&D 100 Award in the process. In turn, she received the 2023 Industrial Progress Award, which is given for early-career accomplishments and contributions to the chemical industry.
I was absolutely thrilled and honored to receive this award. It’s a testament to the amazing teams that I’ve been fortunate to work with, because it takes a whole village to bring these innovations to market. We set ambitious, reach-for-the-stars goals for the Clean Surface Technology solution and met them together in record time. When teams are all rowing in the same direction, no matter how tough the current or headwinds, we will reach our destination.
Extending the Road-Marking Season
Maria may now be steering a different product ship, so to speak, but she brings the same vision, drive and commitment to the road-marking industry as director of product management. She leads strategy and innovation for our liquid pavement marking products, holding accountability for our paint, epoxy and methyl methacrylate (MMA) products’ lifecycles, profitability and growth in the U.S. and Canada.
“There are plenty of opportunities to bring innovation to the road-marking industry, especially in light of the massive federal funding going into infrastructure coupled with the trends toward automation. The challenge is being able to prioritize all the great ideas that our teams have for improving our products and developing new ones. We have to make the right bets on where we should play and where we can win.”
One bet that’s already paying off is our new MMAX® Extended Season area marking offered under our ENNIS-FLINT® by PPG brand. Mainly used for bike and bus lanes, the MMA product enhances safety for bicyclists and pedestrians by improving road visibility and skid-resistance. Its key differentiator is the widest temperature range for application on the market – from 35℉ (2℃) up to 150℉ (66℃). This enables our customers to apply these markings year-round, benefiting project timelines and public safety.
Prior to this innovation, applicators had to work around much narrower temperature ranges by applying at night when it was cooler or delaying a project until the temperature was within the marking product’s application range. With MMAX Extended Season area marking, they no longer need to worry about whether it’s too hot or too cold for their projects. They also can use the same product year-round instead of a winter or summer version like they did previously.
A Mentor with Good Chemistry
Maria’s success in bringing breakthrough products to market has made her a role model to women within and outside of our company. She’s a mentor in our Women’s Leadership Network’s mentoring program and an informal mentor and sounding board for others in her sphere.
“First and foremost, I listen. Each person has a unique life journey and different priorities depending on the stage of their life and personal values. I tell them to not let the haters get you down. Surround yourself with a supportive community of peers, mentors and sponsors. If you see a colleague or a leader who inspires you, reach out to them, start a conversation about common interests and invest the time to grow that connection. Having a support network of people who believed in me, even when I doubted myself, really helped me through the tough times.”