When Mercedes Landazuri was studying Russian, German, French and Japanese at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., her original plan was to receive her Ph.D. and become a professor to teach Russian.
While working at a digital printing company, she was contacted by a recruiter who had known about an opening in operations management at chemicals company Apex Colors Inc. in Skokie, Ill.
"I felt like I didn't really have anything else left to learn there [at the digital printing company]," said Landazuri, who works in operations management and customer relations at Apex. "I started looking around and was contacted by a recruiter who was in touch with Apex. That's really all there is. There's not much that is exciting of the story, but all of my interest in the industry happened after I was already involved. I came in knowing nothing, and now I'm completely hooked."
Landazuri also is a newly appointed board member of the Color and Appearance Division of Society of Plastics Engineers.
"I never imagined I'd be working in the plastics industry," she added.
When she was doing business-to-business sales, she said one of the things she loved most was being in large factories and manufacturing plants.
"It was just the most amazing thing. … I've always kind of been thinking I would go into academia. I walked into a factory making fortune cookies once and saw all the little cookies dropping on the belt and went into a place where I saw robots, lasers cutting steel, and I was like, 'This is the coolest things I've ever seen,'" she said. "I wondered, had my life been different had I seen that at [age] 10 vs. seeing that at 27?
"The other day I was at one of our vendors and I realized I had the exact same feeling I had several years ago, walking into the fortune cookie place. Just the sheer awe at just watching things being made. That's definitely what keeps me in the industry, but I wish I had been exposed to that earlier. … Creating opportunities like that for young people to really pique their interest in manufacturing and in polymers, I think, is going to be really important moving forward," she added.
Any time Landazuri tours a plant, she said she tries to sit down and chat with the owner or president. She said the biggest concern they have is getting new talent. Although she is fairly new to the industry — Landazuri joined Apex in April 2016 — she said there's a "startling lack of diversity," adding that she would like to see "an increase in women, people of color and young professionals in the polymer industry" and the "different perspectives will help move our industry forward."