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Emily Skrobecki; Being considered an SME at such a young age is my proudest accomplishment yet

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Emily Skrobecki is a born and bred Seattleite, a Chemical Engineer and Manager of Process Engineering at SoRSE Technology. As a badass sportswoman, and one of the only female chemical engineers in the cannabis industry, Emily is constantly pushing the envelope to develop the cannabis products you will want to use,

Tell us about your professional journey and how you ended up in the cannabis industry – is there a personal story for your support of cannabis?

My fondness for plants in general was sparked during my undergrad chemical engineering research at Oregon State University. I had an opportunity to do a design project which involved large-scale essential oil distillation. I began doing more research around plants and how to extract their essential oils, and that turned into researching all sorts of botanical extraction processes.

For example, curcumin from turmeric, piperine from black pepper, capsaicin from chili peppers, etc. I was always interested in cannabis extraction, but had limitations with lab play since it was not a legal product at the time. Once WA state legalized cannabis, I was lucky enough to know someone who was hiring a chemical engineer for a well-known edibles company. Within this job, I was able to get hands-on extraction experience and help improve existing extraction techniques.

I continued to dedicate my career to cannabis and hemp, because it truly is the most interesting plant to exist on the face of the planet. The industry as a whole has only begun to scratch the surface.  Opportunity seems endless.

What do you do in your job every day?

I manage the commercial scale liquid and powder process, so a typical day for me is designing a scale-up process, inputting it into a design program, purchasing all the equipment for the process like tanks, pumps, valves, hosing, and then finally traveling to the facility to get it all set up. After it is set up, we audit the process over time and make sure the quality of the product is within our tight specifications.

Not only do I get to manage the large-scale side, I get to work on the R&D side as well to create new fun water-soluble liquids and powders that the industry has yet to launch! We are all very excited about the coming year, and how our technology will change the industry.

What do you love most about your job?

Too many things. The fast paced environment, working around smart motivated people, the drop-of-a-hat travel schedule, the freedom of creativity in the lab, having access to some pretty badass equipment, and the list goes on. I literally think I have the coolest job in the world. Through my company, I get the opportunity to see the entire array of cannabis and its potential. Cultivation, extraction, analytics, processing, producing, manufacturing, packaging, product development, innovation, and research. I don’t think many other companies can offer that wide of a spectrum.

It’s still a largely stigmatized plant, so jumping in early in the industry – especially as a woman – requires a lot of bravery. You’ve said that you have yet to meet another female chemical engineer in cannabis. What in your personal life enabled you to be such a brave woman? Do you believe you are brave and if so, do you purposefully cultivate your bravery and badassery? How do you do this?

More of a curious risk taker, than brave. Maybe those two things naturally make me a brave person. I think taking chances are worth doing, because even if you fail, you learn something valuable from your experience. At the time cannabis became legal in Washington state, I considered going into the industry a risk. No one knew how successful it was going to be, and the stigma around the plant (at the time) would have made it difficult to get another engineering job outside the industry.

I even had a professor tell me I would be wasting my degree if I went into the cannabis industry. I’m glad I went into the industry when I did because today, I am viewed as a subject matter expert in my field. I have knowledge and experience in extraction techniques, cannabis analytics, chemical process design, process improvement, commercial scale-up, food and beverage manufacturing, and now water-soluble cannabis technology. Being considered an SME at such a young age is honestly my proudest accomplishment yet. And it’s all because of cannabis.

Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in the cannabis industry. Realistically, what do you think we can we do to change this, what levers can we pull to both attract and retain?

Take risks. Learn from your failures. Accept negative criticism. Never stop improving yourself.  Work smarter, AND harder. Go the extra mile. Under promise and over deliver. Be respectful.

Do you or have you had any mentors during your professional journey and did they make a difference in your career trajectory? Are you mentoring others, or do you have any plans to mentor – women or men?

My father is my best mentor. He has given me my best professional career advice, and I wouldn’t be here today without his guidance. He is an engineer himself, and a badass one too. He has been with Boeing for over 40 years, and has improved countless processes, designed parts that have won awards, and is still currently the best manager you could ever wish for. His professional characteristics have taught me to be dedicated, hardworking, and a team player.

You’re at the forefront of cannabis product development. In Canada, edibles, infusions and topicals are not yet legal nationally but will be come December. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the industry in introducing these products to market based upon your experience in the US?

Over or under production. Either a production facility is going to overstock their inventory, or under produce their projected volumes. Either situation is going to struggle with “keeping up” in the market.

As far as consumers go, what do you foresee will be the most popular formats of cannabis?

Anything that has a predictable on-set. Vaporization and low dose edibles with quick on-set (like what water-soluble technology has brought to the industry). Vape pens more so because of their discrete nature, controllable intoxication, and not so harsh intake (comparing against combusting plant matter). Low dose edibles will start to replace alcohol and become the new glass of wine or beer at parties and events.

What product formats do you anticipate women gravitating towards, and why?

Women seem to gravitate towards the bubbly mocktail or something along the cosmetics line. I am guilty of that too. Can someone please create a super hydrating, anti-aging, acne preventative, cannabis face cream please?!

What excites you most about the future of cannabis?

The seemingly endless opportunities it possesses, especially in the science and medical field. I am eager to start learning more as an industry to drive the innovation and science behind cannabis to help more and more people every day.

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Leslie Andrachuk

As a bilingual pioneer in global digital publishing and marketing, Leslie is happiest when creating new things and inspiring her teams. She is passionate about changing biases that hold women back from realizing their true power and is grateful that at this point in her career she has the skills to make real change.

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