Mercedes Landazuri didn't expect to end up in plastics.
"I went to a liberal arts college and didn't take a single math or science course the whole four years. I never imagined there would be a place for me in the plastics world," she said.
Landazuri is in customer relations at Apex Colors Inc. in Chicago. Despite her lack of a technical background — or perhaps because of it — she's already recognized as a young industry leader.
She's made a big impact at the Society of Plastics Engineers, where she's chair of the Next Generation Advisory Board and serves on the boards for the Color and Appearance Division and the Chicago Section. She also serves on SPE's Experiential Task Force, a small group that is working to revamp Antec.
"I'm in my first plastics job now and I'm loving it. I exceled at languages and literature in school and never considered a career path in an industry like this would be possible. It was all so foreign and unapproachable for me, looking at it from the outside. It was a big step out of my comfort zone to get into this industry, but it was definitely the right choice."
Landazuri has a bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College and some grad school at Voronezh State University in Russia. She speaks English, Russian, German, Portuguese, French, Spanish and Japanese.
Greatest achievement? In the plastics industry, my greatest achievement has definitely been coordinating the first Women's Networking Breakfast at Antec 2016. In a few months, with the help of Sue Wojnicki and the encouragement of Russell Broome, we put together a committee that managed to plan and fund a very successful event.
Our initial goal for attendance was 50, and we ended up with about 120. We plan to do it again at NPE in 2018!
Biggest failure and what it taught you? I've adopted the striker mentality and I understand now that the only true failure happens when you give up. Many people have the mentality of a goalie. They can be having the best game of their lives, best saves of their careers, but they let one goal past and everything is over. The striker, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. They can be having the worst game of their careers and they get one goal in and all of that heartache, all of the previous failures, are forgotten. In a few seconds, they've become the hero.
So yes, I'm a huge failure most of my days, but now I'm not afraid of failing.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry? Go for it! Plastics are a huge part of our lives every single day, and there's a tremendous amount of opportunity in our industry. One thing that has surprised me most, and why I'd never considered a career in plastics before I found myself here, is that there are wonderful opportunities in plastics for individuals like myself who don't come from a STEM background. In fact, I think we stand out even more because of the unique perspectives and skill sets we bring to our organizations.
What job do you really want to have in the future? I truly enjoy developing people and building strong teams. I'd love to run a company in the plastics industry where I'd be able to do this to the best of my ability in the future. I hope to become an inspiration and mentor to others in our industry, particularly among women and minorities.
What do you do to relax? I play music! I play guitar and sing professionally in Chicago, mostly Brazilian and American jazz. I play solo on Thursdays and with a four-piece band on the weekends.