Profile: Mercedes Landazuri

Mercedes Landazuri
Sarah Lawrence College
BA, Foreign Languages, 2003
Business Development, Apex Colors, Inc.

I come from a long and massive line of eccentric intellectuals; my father is one of six and my mother is one of thirteen. Out of all of those grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, there is not a single person who works in manufacturing. Growing up in San Francisco back when the main industry was hospitality, I had zero exposure to manufacturing. It was a completely foreign idea to me – both figuratively and literally, as the labels on everything said Made in China. A career in manufacturing was not something that I ever considered a possibility.

I initially used my degree to teach and after an emotionally fulfilling and financially draining five years, I left academia and went into sales. My first sales job was in the energy sector, and this turned out to be my first exposure to manufacturing. My company had me traveling all over the Chicago suburbs visiting all types of accounts, the biggest of which were of course industrial.

I remember my jaw dropping when I walked onto the floor of a fortune cookie factory and saw all the little beige goodies making their way along the conveyor belt. I remember watching with awe in another plant when I saw lasers cutting steel. I remember the hilarity one December 23rd getting to sing a Christmas carol over the loud speaker at a corporation in Kankakee, and the operations manager’s walkie-talkie subsequently blowing up with laughter and applause. All of these experiences whet my appetite for manufacturing, but it still seemed unapproachable given my background.

I never ended up applying for a job in manufacturing. I honestly fell into it. I’d been talking with a recruiter about an administrative position, when she put me in touch with my current employer, Apex Colors, a manufacturer of colorants for the plastics industry. I took the job because one of the interview questions was whether or not I’d be able to travel to India & China for work. Umm…yes please. Where do I sign?

I was initially hired as an operations manager but given my love of traveling and talking to people, I quickly transitioned into a sales role. I have to say, this job is pretty much a dream for me. I get to travel all over the county to customers, look at all different types of labs, manufacturing equipment and processes. I get to go to trade shows and use my knowledge of German, Russian, Portuguese, French, Spanish and Japanese to talk to plastics industry professionals in their native languages. Most of all I get to learn.

I didn’t value science or math in school because I never realized that they had real-world applications that would apply to me. Now that they do, everything is starting to make sense. I have a real interest and love for chemistry and finance now that is surprising even to me and absolutely tickles my parents. I love where I’m at now and I wish I’d gotten into the plastics industry sooner.