|Rockstar Of The MonthIn this edition of Rockstar, we are excited to recognize María Angélica Restrepo, a member of our Technical Sales team, based in Colombia. María Angélica holds a Master’s degree in Plastics Processing, and brings 10+ years of experience in the field to our team. When she’s not working here at Okeanos, you’ll find her teaching classes at the University of San Buenaventura, and working as a Research and Development Engineer in Bogotá.
- Tell us about your childhood in Colombia.
I grew up in a beautiful city called Medellín, known as the city of eternal spring. It’s surrounded by rivers and mountains with unbeatable vegetation. It’s also one of the most innovative cities in the world – competing with New York and Tel Aviv. I grew up in a loving and close-knit family (this is my greatest treasure). Having been a girl scout since I was 5 years old, this lifestyle heightened my sensitivity to nature, my environmental awareness, and taught me to be a responsible and self-sufficient individual. I learned to overcome my fears, promote my taste for gastronomy, and learned to make constructions with elements that nature itself gives us.
- What inspired you to become an engineer? Why did you decide to focus on plastics?
My father (who is also an engineer and an absolutely brilliant person) once asked me, “What do you enjoy most in life? I have always admired your creative ability. You have prodigious hands and everything you touch turns it into an artwork. You have an impressive ease with drawing and can spend hours painting, and love mathematics. Why don’t you exploit that talent?” Coincidentally that same week was career week, and I discovered the field of product design engineering. It felt as if that career had been invented for me. I completed my engineering degree in Holland at Delf University of Technology. I had teachers with the ability to inspire students with their knowledge and passion. Such as Luís Fernando Patiño, teaching the Materials class. He encouraged us to delve deeper into each material family (plastics, metals, and ceramics). He opened my eyes to the infinite world of plastics, their properties, their malleability at certain temperatures the vibrant colors and textures they can be made into. It’s like playing with Play-Doh, imagination has no limits. I was surprised by the versatility of plastic, but was seeing the negative impact it had on the environment. This later inspired me to find a smarter alternative to reduce the amount of plastic in our world while maintaining unique designs, colors, and structures.
- In this issue, we speak to Danni Washington, a celebrated science communicator and our newest SAB member about her work getting young girls involved in STEM (the study of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). As an engineer yourself, what advice would you give to those interested in getting into your field?
It is not an easy world, but it is amazing. It allows you to look around with different eyes. It is a profession that challenges you every day and teaches you that the future is in your hands. It is a world that fills you with common sense, thirst for knowledge, and it is incredibly rewarding to see projects working and to know that you are improving the quality of life of for yourself and those around you. If you are creative and you can combine it with your passion for science, technology, and mathematics – do not hesitate for a second, you are in the right place. If I had a chance to choose what to do again, I would follow the same path, with the same stops and stumbles.
- What made you want to become a professor, and what has been most rewarding about your experience as an educator?
Juan Diego Ramos Bethencourt, my Professional Career Manager, called one day to say he had recommended me as a professor at the University of San Buenaventura. I was taken aback because I didn’t want to be a teacher, I wanted to focus on my master’s degree. I decided to take this great challenge and it has been one of the best experiences and I hope to continue teaching for the rest of my life and to continue to share what I know with those around me.
- What developments in the field of plastic engineering most excite you?
All of the developments that challenge me and allow me to reach sustainable, replicable, and functional solutions (as is the case for Okeanos), are the most exciting to me. Making products Made From Stone sounds impossible but not for us or our customers. We make the impossible possible, and it is one of my greatest challenges in my role as Technical Sales Manager of the Company.
- How did you first hear about Okeanos? What inspired you to want to be a part of our mission?
In a prior role, I was responsible for overseeing the Plastics Sector at OMYA Colombia. Okeanos and OMYA already had an existing relationship, and there was talk about collaborating on projects in different countries. One day, I was invited to meet with Okeanos, the most inspiring and passionate team that I have met in recent years. After receiving a sales presentation, I realized how inline their philosophy was with my passions and desires. Now, I am living my dream, with my feet on the ground and in a place that feels more like family than a company.
- What are the most difficult and the most rewarding aspects of your job?
The most challenging part of my job has been managing to generate technical confidence remotely. Convincing our converters that our technology is Made From Stone and won’t damage their machines, and proving to them we have an unmatched technical team is always challenging. Coordinating industrial trials under a protocol that works as a kitchen recipe with step by step processes without being physically in-office has been a great challenge as well. We have completed successful industrial trials in countries such as India and New Zealand.
This is just the beginning, and anyway, who said that good things come easy?
- Who is the person that inspires you the most, and why?
Definitely, my grandfather Kike. Although he passed in 2009, he was and still is my inspiration and life teacher. He was a creative and sensitive man, who drew and painted like the gods while sharing with me his most precious treasure – his colored pencils. He instilled in me a love of art from a very young age. He had a great sense of humor, was full of generosity, a fantastic and unconditional friend, an enemy of injustice and lover of good food. I try to follow his teaching every day of my life. I will admire him forever.
- What has been your favorite part of your Okeanos experience thus far, and what are you most looking forward to?
When I met the team, I found a real family where nationality, gender, and sexual orientation didn’t matter. From the first moment I entered this friendly atmosphere, I felt safe and knew this was my dream. I hope to continue being part of this growing family as we grow bigger and stronger, with all hopes that our Okeanos message will reach the most remote places on the planet. I dream of continuing to make the impossible possible.