Maria Negulescu remembers growing up in the heart of Romania. She was often at her father's side handing him tools as he fixed things around the house and was fascinated by how everything worked. That sense of curiosity followed her to university, where she studied to become a chemical engineer and completed a 5-year program with a thesis subject in thermodynamics. The best advice she received while in university was to be a problem solver and to be resourceful, advice that helped her throughout her career and continues to serve her well as an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).
Maria's first job in Canada was at an independent testing lab where she was introduced to the automotive world and passed the required exams to join the Professional Engineers of Ontario. After learning about validation and testing standards for products and materials, Maria moved to manufacturing to gain insight and knowledge on how materials were used and produced. She worked for an injection-molding OEM in Oshawa, where she was responsible for moving an entire window regulator testing lab from the USA to Canada.
Rounding out her experience, Maria moved on to work in the polymer recycling business where she worked on developing recipes and recycled material standards, and persuading automotive manufacturers to increase recycled content in their parts manufacturing. After a few years, Maria transitioned to various management positions at an assembly manufacturing company, where she broadened her experience in product design, quality and manufacturing. She then went on to work for a French-owned consulting firm where she refined her client relations standards and business acumen in a VP operations role for their 3 Canadian divisions. In between her travel and managing consultants, she completed a mini-MBA program with McGill University to add to her toolbox for managing the operational aspect of the business.
Maria joined NRC IRAP in 2014 after meeting an industrial technology advisor to discuss a potential Eureka international collaborative project for one of her clients. She was impressed with the ITA's business and technical knowledge, as well as NRC IRAP's holistic and proactive approach to evaluating the innovation potential of companies and their projects. She realized that this was no traditional government job and she was determined to make one last change in her career.
Working at NRC IRAP brings together Maria's strengths in problem solving, resourcefulness, technical knowledge and client relationships. Through her work with the Program, she has become a connector and a manufacturing leader, collaborating with not-for-profits to deliver Industry 4.0 roadmaps to small and medium-sized businesses across the country. She is an advocate for Canada's NGen cluster, liaising with ITAs across the country and their clients to increase manufacturing capacity in Canada. Maria is also a keen supporter of fostering research and academic collaborations by promoting NRC research labs and Technology Access Centres to help businesses tap into new technologies and resources while de-risking their research and development projects. Although her region of focus is Scarborough, Maria finds that technology adoption in manufacturing has no limits, and she offers her expertise to all companies who need it regardless of location.
"My biggest satisfaction is when I learn about a client who was disciplined and patient enough to follow a growth plan that they and NRC IRAP built together. Having spent all my career in manufacturing, it is thrilling to see new digital technologies applied to increase efficiencies and create jobs in areas I never imagined 30 years ago. Being able to be part of that creative and collaborative process with Canadian businesses is what makes me enjoy work every day as an ITA."