Women's History Month Spotlight: Meet Kristine Vela.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we interviewed Kristine Vela, Marketing Manager, North American Papers at Sylvamo.
Vela shared her experiences as a woman in STEM, including her unique career path that has spanned from chemical engineering to marketing leadership, and offered advice for other women considering similar careers.
What drew you to the paper industry, and what has been your career trajectory so far?
International Paper gave me real-world experience right after graduating and opened many different career opportunities that I may not have found in a lab.
Initially, I worked as a Process Engineer at Moss Hill Mill in Mississippi, where I did a lot of hands-on work on a large scale. Then I moved into the more technical side, which led to specialty sales, which eventually led to where I am today.
Why the leap from engineering to marketing?
Every position I've held involved troubleshooting in some way. The ultimate goal of my career, regardless of whether it involves fixing a machine, analyzing a competitor, or resolving a market issue, is to solve problems. IP gave me so many career paths to solve problems in different ways, and I really took full advantage of them.
What is your best advice for women who are interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?
My advice for young women interested in going into engineering or STEM is to go with confidence. When you’re a woman going into a traditionally male-dominated field, take a seat at the table.
You’re an equal. Act like you belong there, because you do.
About Kristine Vela.
After graduating from Michigan State with a chemical engineering degree, Kristine Vela began working for International Paper in 1993. She started her career at the Moss Point Paper Mill in Mississippi as a Process Engineer, a position that was largely male-dominated at the time. Her experience and skills skyrocketed from there. In 1997, she became a Customer Technical Service Representative. By 2000, Vela was a Specialty Sales Representative. In 2004, she rose to a position as Marketing Manager in Converting and Specialty, and by 2011 she held a position as HP Global Business Manager. In 2013, she advanced to the role of National Account Manager. In 2021, International Paper spun off the imaging papers division which became Sylvamo, where Kristine currently serves as the Marketing Manager, Imaging Papers, for North American Papers.