In our new series of profiles looking at women working in all sectors of the plastics industry, we start by highlighting the career of Elena Mangano, Market Development Specialist at Instron.
I’ve had an affinity for math and science for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to grow up with two older siblings, who shared my curiosity for problem-solving, but also for arts and all things creative. My parents fuelled our childhood fun with plenty of Lego and K*NEX, and always encouraged us to help out with craft and constructive tasks around the house. I believe it was this, and my desire to be like my older siblings, that ultimately drove me to study Engineering at university. I chose to study a relatively new, but up-and-coming branch of
engineering; Biomedical Signals and Systems, which is basically a fancy way of saying Electrical Engineering, with an extreme focus on Biological Applications.
Although it was an absolutely fascinating degree, I was hesitant to start a job in R&D after graduation, as I wasn’t sure that it allowed for all of the elements in a role that would interest me. As a result I was overjoyed to be offered an Applications Engineering role within Instron that allowed me to work not only on my technical background, but also on some skills not commonly associated with engineers; including people and business related skills.
As an Applications Engineer, I was able to work with our customers on developing mechanical testing solutions for all sorts of materials and components, spanning everything from biomedical devices to metals, and of course, plastics. After three years of being in the role, I was then also offered the incredible opportunity to relocate from our American head office based in Massachusetts, to our European headquarters in the UK, which is where I currently reside.
The new role was predominantly created so that I could share my plastics applications knowledge with the UK sales team with the aim of providing a specialised resource for our testing solutions, but it has also allowed me to gain experience working within a different market, as well as supporting the sales and marketing activities that operate within it.
Being on the marketing and sales side of our business is incredibly interesting because I get to see so many different testing applications. I find that no two days working with the plastics industry are the same, as I often get to work with our customers to develop bespoke solutions for testing plastic outside of the standard tensile, flex and impact tests; typically focused around applications for packaging or components testing.
I am often asked if being a female within a male dominated industry such as engineering is challenging, and to them I say that yes, perhaps it can mean that you need to prove yourself that little bit more, but also that I have taken motivation from this with which to push myself to be the best that I can be. I will say that since the beginning of my career in engineering 4 years ago, I have already seen a difference in the way that women are encouraged and welcomed into technical industries like plastics and engineering. Affinity groups and career fairs are becoming easier to find, and are a great way to network and stay motivated. Instron even has its own Women in Business network of which I am an active member; recently having held sessions with female staff to share my Instron story, and to encourage them to take advantage of the mentoring and personal development support that the company offers, in order to open up more opportunities to female employees.
It’s my belief that we should all continue to challenge the idea that just because women haven’t historically held strong positions in fields like plastics and engineering doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. It takes the support of both women and men to reach a fully equitable society.
Within Instron, I have been able to develop my career in a discipline that I find to be interesting, motivating and fulfilling, and I encourage all women to do the same, regardless of the industry that they choose and any preconceived ideas of who can and who can’t work within that space. My advice to you all would be to work hard, stay motivated, and network!