Leon Rupe, 25
Regional Manager Technical Sales, North America, Windmöller & Hölscher
Leon Rupe was just 23 years old when he had his first major machine sale, a moment he called his greatest professional achievement.
"At only 23 years old, I sold a custom machine that was a first of its kind to a new customer. This was the beginning of an ongoing strong partnership with this expanding global player and an important milestone in my sales career," Rupe said. "I still have a photo on my desk with my team and the assembled machine in the background. It reminds me of all the hard work I put into that project and how it all came together because of teamwork."
Born in Warendorf, Germany, Rupe has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Fachhochschule Südwestfalen (South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences) and is expected to complete his MBA by summer 2022 from Fachhochschule Münster (University of Applied Sciences). He also held an internship at Keystone Lintels in Northern Ireland and has training as a technical product designer at Bernd Münstermann GmbH & Co. KG.
His first plastics industry job is as the regional manager technical sales for North America at Lengerich, Germany-based flexible packaging machine manufacturer Windmöller & Hölscher.
"I became interested in the plastics industry when I realized the growth opportunities available and the importance flexible films have on our daily lives. As made obvious during the pandemic, flexible packaging not only makes life more convenient, but it also keeps us safe and plays a vital role in keeping food fresh longer," he said. "The plastics industry is also extremely fast-paced, which I love. I want to be part of creating a more sustainable, more educated and more technically advanced industry."
Rupe said he will be moving to Lincoln, R.I., this summer to work at the North American headquarters and learn more about the needs of North American customers.
"I am confident that this short-term assignment will allow me to return to Germany with a better understanding of how we can work more efficiently as a global company," he said.
Rupe is also a member of VDMA, the German mechanical engineering organization.
"What has helped me advance my career was interning at various companies to find what career path suited me best. Also, working while still in school helped me advance faster than waiting until I had graduated," he said. "My general mindset is that I will do what it takes to get the job done, even if that means sometimes working late or responding to customers at strange times due to time zone differences. This attitude has already helped me advance to where new opportunities are presenting themselves."
Rupe was nominated by Kasie Fairbarn, product sales manager for Windmöller & Hölscher.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Rupe: What surprised me was how much we touch and interact with this wonderful raw material. My awareness of plastics in our daily life changed drastically when I entered the business. I really didn't realize how helpful it is. Now I am the one pointing out to my family all the ways plastics positively impact us.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Rupe: First would be the recycling market because of its ever-changing landscape. It's essential to stay informed of new technologies, available sources, price fluctuations, proposed legislation and more.
The second would be 3D printing because I was exposed to it at an early age, and I think that it will open up production possibilities that people have never dreamed of.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Rupe: If I were CEO of a company, the first thing I would do is familiarize myself with all the employees in my company. I would want to understand them as people and the culture of the company. I think this is so important for a CEO to know his or her people and what drives them to do a good job day in and day out.
I would also investigate changing the employment conditions from time-based (you must work 40 hours per week) to performance-based (just get your job done). In my opinion, time-based is a bit outdated and we have the opportunity to work smarter as a society. As we saw during the pandemic, remote work has proven to be successful and offers people flexibility without sacrificing quality.