Courtney Wright

Courtney Wright

Title: Manager of Veolia North America’s James River plant on Bellwood Road in Chesterfield County. DuPont opened the plant in 1947 to produce sulfuric acid. DuPont spun off its performance chemicals segment, including the James River plant, to the Chemours Co. in 2015. A year later, Veolia, a French-based water and waste company, bought Chemours’ sulfur products division.

Born: In 1979

Education: Bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech, 2001; MBA from Northeastern University, 2014

Career: DuPont, 2003-2015; Chemours, 2015-2016; Veolia North America, 2016-present

What part of the metro area do you live?: Southern Chesterfield County

Best business decision: “Moving into a management role. Though I enjoyed my early work as a chemical engineer, my real challenges, growth and passion came when I began to manage people. Suddenly, in addition to production and maintenance and shipping, I had to think about people issues, too. As I’ve grown, rather than ‘managing’ people I’ve focused on coaching, setting direction and letting others think issues through.”

Mistake you learned the most from: “As a plant manager, I’ve learned what it means to be responsible for other people’s safety on a daily basis. A minor safety issue can become much bigger if ignored, so I learned very quickly to prioritize and adjust other timelines when people’s well-being is concerned. I have learned to look at risk and safety management from a new perspective — understanding in a concrete way what proactive vs. reactive approaches can look like.”

What is the biggest challenge/opportunity in the next two to five years: “Where I once thought of myself as a chemical manufacturer, I now see myself and my company as a recycler. The chemicals our plant produces can be reused again and again as part of the circular economy.”

First job after college: Process engineer supporting day-to-day technical operations and manufacturing.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently: “Nothing. I know that’s a typical answer, but I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t done what I did then. I’ve grown and learned each step of the way. I generally believe things turn out how they should.

Book that inspired you the most, and why?: “I’ve always loved ‘The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry’ by Sue Annis Hammond. It’s about driving improvement by focusing on the positive rather than negative. I’m actually in the middle of re-reading it for the third time.”

Favorite/least favorite subject in school: “I was incredibly lucky to have a fantastic ninth-grade science teacher. His class was the first time I thought about chemical engineering. He and my other high school science teachers were a big influence and inspiration in my life, and have certainly made me appreciate how we must better foster pathways to and awareness of STEM careers for Virginia students, women in particular. Least favorite subject was music, but only because I can’t carry a tune.”

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