Alicia Santos joined micromolder Mikrotech LLC of Kenosha, Wis., in 2012 as a machine operator and was promoted to manufacturing coordinator in 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to her current role, manufacturing manager.
"I initially was intrigued by working in the medical industry, but after time and growing with Mikrotech I have found it to be quite interesting how versatile the plastics industry is," she said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey. "Throughout my time at Mikrotech, we have molded components for a variety of industries such as medical, defense and consumer products."
Santos said she has had to learn the hard way when to say no, delegate work and lean on her team. When she started at Mikrotech, there were five employees total. She had to wear "many hats and really enjoyed doing so," but as the company grew, it became difficult to juggle all her roles and responsibilities.
"We have added additional team members, and no fault to their own but I found myself still feeling overwhelmed," she said. "I saw that I needed to relinquish certain responsibilities and trust in my team that they could properly carry these out just as I had. … It helped me be more cognizant of setting realistic expectations and learn to lean on my team," Santos said.
One of her greatest accomplishments has been working her way up at Mikrotech.
"It feels good to have worked through each role; I feel it has made me a more well-rounded manager," Santos said. "It helps me feel confident in my position as I feel I have done the work to earn it."
Santos has a Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University.
Kelli Dimmer, engineering program manager at Mikrotech who was featured in the 2018 Women Breaking the Mold special report, nominated Santos.
Find more profiles of Women Breaking the Mold here.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Santos: The medical market, more specifically the technology for minimally invasive surgeries. It is incredible to be able to mold a small suture screw that has the potential to be used in a minimally invasive surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Santos: I am surprised by the large array of resins available. I am very impressed by the compounds that are curated to make implantable plastics. Implantable plastic in itself is impressive! Before working in the plastics industry I did not think too much about items I saw made out of plastic, but now I find myself picking up items and googling what type of resin and how it was molded.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Santos: A mold I feel I am breaking is being a female leader within a manufacturing industry. Through my experiences as a young woman in manufacturing you really have to prove yourself. I spend a lot of time researching and reading about the industry, equipment and new technologies to keep up to date and be able to be taken seriously on sales calls.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Santos: Mikrotech is growing, and what I have found to be a challenge is knowing how to take the manufacturing operations to the next level. Since I have been promoted within, I do not have the outside experiences and insight to aid in reframing my thinking.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Santos: I enjoy camping and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Being outdoors really helps ease my mind. I have also [been] trying my best to recreate recipes from Milk Bar. I am currently 0-2, so sometimes the ending is not as relaxing, but the journey is enjoyable.