People of DSM Engineering Plastics: Paula Kruger
We recently sat down with Paula Kruger, application development engineer, DSM Engineering Plastics, to learn more about her role at DSM and her efforts to inspire young professionals to pursue careers in science and engineering.
Tell us a little bit about what you do at DSM. What do you enjoy about your work?
As an application development engineer for DSM Engineering Plastics, I’m focused on developing advanced material solutions to reduce weight and improve the performance of new energy electric and hybrid vehicle systems.
I have the privilege of helping our automotive customers overcome technical challenges to develop the next generation of clean vehicles. The perks include, amongst others, the opportunity to work with some of the world’s largest automakers and a very talented engineers every day.
What inspired you to go into the sciences?
My interest began with a school field trip to a food processing facility. I remember looking at these big reactors without knowing what they really were and watching large containers of fruit being loaded into these huge production machines. I was amazed by the complexity of something seemingly simple like a jam manufacturing process.
It sparked my imagination, and I started wondering about where everything came from and how things were put together. That’s what inspired a passion for manufacturing that eventually led me to study chemical engineering.
I see that you are originally from Brazil. What do you enjoy about working internationally?
I enjoy working with people from different cultures, and I think you gain a fresh perspective when you expose yourself to a new culture. I think this diversity of thought is critical for any company’s success. Fortunately, the global nature of my work at DSM offers no shortage of opportunities to engage with a diverse set of colleagues around the world.
You recently joined the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Division Board of Directors. Why did you decide to get more involved with SPE?
While I was pursuing my master’s degree at the University of Waterloo, I had the opportunity to present my research at several SPE events. We were invited to share a detailed technical presentation to an audience of industry experts, and SPE also used the events to raise money for scholarships.
This made quite an impression on me as a student. These professionals were taking the time out of their busy schedule to learn more about my research and provide their valuable feedback. The feedback helped me understand how my research was relevant to real-world challenges and helped provide a confidence boost very early in my career.
I enjoy supporting SPE because it gives me the opportunity to come together as an industry and help the next generation of students as they begin their careers. It’s also a great opportunity to network with our customers and industry peers to stay informed about the latest technology and best practices.
What advice do you have for others that might want to get involved in trade associations such as SPE?
I understand that some might be hesitant since it requires a commitment of time or some of the activities might be outside of your comfort zone. However, I think the benefits of active participation in nonprofit organizations are invaluable.
As I’ve mentioned, it’s an opportunity to learn from current customers, prospective customers, thought leaders, peers and even competitors. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to come together as an industry to overcome common challenges. For example, we can all agree it’s important to support our communities and the next generation of engineering talent.
Traditionally, our industry has been male dominated. What would you say to young women that are considering a career in science?
I would tell them that there are incredible opportunities and there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you are technically competent, can treat others with respect and value the input of your peers, our industry has so many great career opportunities.
Going back to my childhood experience touring a factory that sparked my interest in science, I think it’s important to expose young men and women to the possibilities of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career opportunities at an early age.
As I look to the future, I am encouraged by the increasing number of talented young women I’m meeting through SPE mentoring events. It seems like the word is getting out about the substantial number of opportunities in our industry to everyone.