Main photo: Guayente Sanmartin, left, and Mariona Company.
It’s 7 p.m. in Barcelona, Spain, meaning for the past 10 hours or so, Guayente Sanmartin and Mariona Company have been troubleshooting, leading and listening (lots of listening to do the leading) at HP’s 3D printing Center of Excellence where they work, the largest such lab in the world.
“It has been a long day for us, so Laura, if you see no energy while you are having the interview, just put a 10% plus because we both have a lot of energy,” says Sanmartin, who, frankly, does not need a 10% boost.
Both women, who collaborate often with each other, are leaders in the additive manufacturing world, and reading their resumes is like taking an armchair tour of HP. Sanmartin is general manager of HP’s 3D Multi Jet Fusion business.* She has worked in every business at HP, starting as an engineer more than two decades ago, earning an MBA, then working as a project manager, then in various mid-leadership roles (including sales) in Singapore and Palo Alto, California, before coming back to Barcelona. Ten months ago, Sanmartin decided to move to 3D printing, managing the full plastics business as well as the R&D platform.
Company leads HP’s molded fiber business (her formal title is global head of sustainability packaging), HP’s first incubation business in 3D printing. “We’re really looking at how we can disrupt businesses and industries that are ready for disruption,” she says. “And how we can have the right to play, leveraging our technology and know-how, and build a different business model that increases value capture for HP.”
Company started in finance, then moved into sales, marketing and product development in the U.S. and Europe. “HP is a culture of talent,” she says. “I chose to start my career here because I had very clear goal that I wanted to have international experiences, and this is a company where you can really have that.”
As we talk, I notice the sweeping, cathedral-of-industry vista behind them—high ceilings, ambient lighting, splashes of bright color--and ask if it's a fake Zoom background. Nope, it’s real—they are looking below from a glass-walled workspace on the second floor. “These are the engineers working underneath, and they meet in groups below or above,” says Sanmartin cheerfully.
“There is no other lab that has as many engineers and printers and testings,” elaborates Company. “And the beauty about this building, its structure, is it works in a way that engineers collaborate a lot in cells into the project they’re working on.”
“By the way, Laura,” adds Sanmartin, “all the names of the meeting rooms are women—relevant women who maybe were not known. Some of course, are, like, Madame Curie. But there are many others,” relative unknowns, like Maria Telkes, the Hungarian-American scientist who invented the first thermoelectric power generator. And Austrian Lise Meitner, the physicist who calculated the energy associated with uranium fusion, and the only woman with an element named after her in the periodic table.
IndustryWeek talked with Sanmartin and Company about their leadership styles, how they’ve evolved as leaders and what excites them about their work.
IndustryWeek: Let’s hear about a couple of projects you’re working on.
Mariona Company: HP has sustainability at the core of its strategy. And we put a very aggressive goal of replacing 75% of our single-use plastic by 2025. If you think about HP, and all the packaging that we do, it's a very aggressive goal. We decided that fiber-based products were the solution—trays, and cartons and protective packaging. Typically [in product planning], packaging is the last thing that you do. So when you want to do packaging in molded fiber, just creating the tools takes so much time that you cannot even do it—you cannot even consider it.
So within HP, we said, “Why don’t we leverage this great technology that we have here, that can bring in fine, robust measures that nobody else can do, and try to do it for ourselves?” And this is how the journey started.
We started assembling a team to develop this technology not only from the manufacturing side, but also from the software side, to help HP and other companies accelerate sustainability. The business was launched about a year ago, and we had tons of learnings. One of the learnings was that not only were we able to accelerate, but also we were able to improve the overall process. We want to lead and transform and disrupt plastic substitution with fiber-based products.
We decided to provide an alternative to plastic with a bottle and pack based on fiber. We acquired a packaging company that is now fully integrated in HP, that has the lining technology to pack water, juice, milk, alcohol. And we are working to develop the overall solution for people to produce these bottles at scale.
It’s not only a great opportunity for HP, but it's a great opportunity to do something good and better. When I talked to my children about it, they said, “This is the first time we can really connect with something at your work.”
Guayente Sanmartin: But we are doing many, many more things, Laura. We are working with a cancer treatment company that is doing shields that are adapted for your body. So when people go through cancer treatments, the radiation only gets to the point where the doctors want it to go. We are working with electric car companies, we're working with the consumer goods companies, on everything related to the customization of the production line.
IW: Listening to you two talk about what you're doing and interacting with each other, your style seems really collaborative. Have your leadership and working styles always been that way?
Sanmartin: HP is a company with very strong values. And one of the values is teamwork. There is no job at HP where you don't see teamwork and collaboration.
I have been leading teams for 24 years now, and the manager that I was early in my career is not the leader I have evolved to be. One of the biggest learnings that I have had in my career is realizing the power of the people. There is no business, there is no resource, there is no development, there is no R&D, there is no operations, there is no finance, there is nothing if there are no people. So realizing the value of the people and putting people first is one thing that I act on every day. People ask me, “How do you have so much energy?” How, is just through these talented engineers that I work with, talented women like Mariona. I get my energy through the people.
Company: I’ve been managing teams for over 20 years. And when I took on this new journey, one of the things that I learned is what we’re doing is really hard. And you have a team, and you are what the team is. So it’s important that you inspire the people who work for you. So they do things not because they want to keep their job or hit their objectives, but because they truly believe in it. It’s what will make you go through this marathon in a successful and happy and smiley way, which is really tough.
I think that when we look at leaders who inspire, often we don’t think about business leaders, to be honest. But it’s fundamental in corporations to have that type of leadership.
Sanmartin: So it's the importance of purpose-driven work. Like when Mariona talked about the sustainable packaging, I can tell you that like one of the reasons I decided to move to 3D is because, personally, I have had a lot of people with health issues around me. 3D has the power to help enhance personalized treatment in the future.
IW: We've heard a lot in the US about there being so few women in tech. There are barriers. Do you think HP has a different culture than some other tech companies, or is tech changing as a whole, so there'll be more opportunities for women to move into leadership?
Sanmartin: I think it is changing, but not like we want it to be. There is a stereotype of what a leader should be, which is not helping leaders with different attributes to be considered seriously as executives. This is true across every industry, including technology. It is somewhat true in HP, but HP has made at least this hard commitment that, “We want to change this.”
Company: You need to truly believe that [diversity] is the way to bring innovation and the company forward. And if you believe it, do you act on it? I believe that HP truly believes it. Every single leader in HP believes that diversity is extremely important to drive innovation, and that it’s important that we act on it. That’s what I would say that probably differentiates HP from other companies.
IW: Women entering the tech field right now, what would you say to them to help advance their careers, to get into the leadership roles?
Sanmartin: I can start with my 18-year-old daughter. She wanted to do engineering, and she went to Carnegie Mellon (University) to do the undefined engineering. Now she has decided that she wants to do biomedical engineering, a double major with materials and a minor in computer science. What I tell her is, “Choose the thing that makes you happy.” You know, so the advice is, I don't think, ambition—it’s what drives your curiosity. Keep doing what makes you happy. That's really the advice that I would give to anyone. And I always ask women to “Do one thing-try to help any other women around you.”
Company: When women go for a job interview—I’ve seen this thousands of times—all the requirements are laid out. So women will look at this. And if there is one requirement that they don't meet, they're like, “This is not for me; I'm sure that there are better candidates.” A man looks, meets one requirement, goes, “I am the best candidate.” When I ask candidates, “Why do think this is really the job for you? What do you bring to it?” I'm telling you, the men will explain to you why. But the women are shy. Which is why we are encouraging women that yes, you can do it, you can do anything you want, there is nothing impossible. And this kind of growth mindset is something that we need to push as leaders, because it doesn't come naturally. It really doesn't.”
IW: Do you think women have to have a different leadership style than men, and different messaging. Is a leader a leader, or do you have to deliver messaging differently than male leaders?
Sanmartin: One of my learnings as a leader is that you always have impact on the people around you. The more people you manage, the higher the impact you have. And so adapting is important. I read a book some years ago that really helped me understand that there are four main types of people, and depending on the style of person that you are, you create a different impact. So I think as a leader, you need to understand who you are talking with and how to adapt your communication to the different styles. There are people who want to see only numbers, facts. There are others that want the headline of the story. Others want a story. So when you communicate, you need to consider that. I say adapt, but keep your authenticity, that's my thing.
IW: What’s ahead with some of your projects? And what’s your biggest challenge currently, and how are you addressing it?
Sanmartin: I would say two big challenges, one related to the business. In HP, we believe that our customers are the real heroes. They are the ones who are disrupting their industries. And we believe we can help them scale. So I'm no longer impressed when I see someone with a bar who says, “Look what I have printed in 3D.” That's fine. You know, it's cute. But I’m impressed when I can produce this bar in high volume and with the mechanical properties that the part requires.
We believe our technology is well-suited for production. Now, the biggest challenge is helping our customers scale. That’s from a business perspective. From a people perspective, we always have in our minds, “How are we going to do hybrid?” Work is becoming hybrid. And how are we going to make sure our employees continue to be engaged.
IW: Are you doing hybrid right now? And how's it going? Are people as productive or more productive and do you see collaboration suffering?
Sanmartin: Basically, we do believe that if you want to innovate, there are times when people need to be together. And other times when you need to concentrate—you don’t need to be with other people, so you can do your work in the place that makes you happiest. It’s important to find the right balance at the right time for the right project. And that jobs evolve depending on what’s needed.
Company: I think people are learning how to get the best of this hybrid world. People love to work here together. At the beginning of COVID when everybody started to be completely remote, people were asking for permission to go to the site. It was hard for everybody, and then when we opened again, people started coming back but with one or two days remotely because they got used to the idea of working remotely. I think they are learning to take the best of this hybrid world.
IW: We were talking about the mass production of 3D printed materials. How far away from that are you on the projects you’re working on, and what breakthroughs need to happen?
Sanmartin: We are mass-producing parts. We have already produced more than 100 million parts with our technology. HP decided that our focus is production in a few verticals—health, consumer goods, industrial and mobility. That’s our play. However, Mariona, can you share where you are in the process?
Company: So remember, this business [molded fiber] was launched one year ago. As with any true innovation, it will take some some time to develop, and you develop the tools with your customer. So you're learning, you're incorporating that learning, and you get the solution and the technology better. And every single technology will take between two to three years to start stabilization. Now when you talk about the paper bottle that's even more—it’s a true disruption. That that will take some time. So yes, we are working with brands on the qualification and the definition of this paper bottle. But when we talk about the scales and scales for me as millions, it's not even millions, it’s billions. It will take some time—three, four or five years. And we’re starting to see that happen.
IW: I wonder if you can each say like one thing you like about working with the other person.
Sanmartin: What I love about working with Marianna, is she has a strong financial and business acumen. And she's open and direct.
Company: I really like Guaynete’s leadership style. It's fundamental, authentic and it’s Guayente—it’s like a brand. I wish there were more Guayentes.
*Update: Sanmartin has since been promoted to general manager and global head of Commercial Systems & Display Solutions.