A 2017 mechanical engineering graduate has been recognized by Plastics News as one of its “Women Breaking the Mold” for 2020. The recognition celebrates the contributions of women professionals in the plastics industry.

Alisha Konst graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, completing a journey that began in her family’s garage. Growing up in Botetourt County, Virginia, she was constantly in the garage working on engines with her dad. Two Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a 1956 Ford Pickup provided her first glimpse into the inner workings of automobiles, sparking her curiosity to more deeply understand how things work.

During her senior year, Konst joined a senior design team focused on designing and building a large submarine-towed module to transport, deploy, and recover large displacement unmanned undersea vehicles. While her interest in vehicles propelled her into that group, her role on the team didn’t include working on engines. She worked with several other students on the design of the module, spending most of her time calculating drag coefficients and working with carbon fiber weave patterns used to make the hull of the module stronger.

This project, forged by the classroom learning that brought her to that point, launched a fresh set of interests. After she graduated, Konst looked at several career paths, eventually settling on one that pulled together both her mechanics experience and senior design project skills. Today, she works for the MAAG Group as research and development manager in the Eagle Rock, Virginia, plant. Her branch produces large plastic processing equipment.

“Had I not had that experience in senior design, I don’t know if I would have done as well. The ability to come up with a plan and think through problems was all a part of senior design.”

Konst found early success in a company that actively pursues talent, and was also fortunate to find herself among mentors who were dedicated to her success. She started in the production area, working on building for six months. With a couple retirements on the horizon, the company was looking for new leadership who could pick up the mantle. Konst expressed her interest, and the company matched her with current employees who could help her try her hand at the new role.

Beyond job training, MAAG Group was also responsible for recognizing her talent. Plastics News put the call out for nominations for their “Women Breaking the Mold” award in early 2020, and Konst was nominated for the award by Martin Baumann, Vice President and General Manager of MAAG Group Americas.

“Manufacturing in the USA offers challenging and rewarding positions for women. Often it isn’t their first choice,” said Baumann. “I am glad that we have Alisha on our team and she made that choice many years ago. We will be actively promoting and supporting such career paths working with Virginia Tech.”