For Marta Mamelka-Potts, the very sounds and smells of glassmaking are familiar and comforting. Marta is a Continuous Improvement Leader for the Rocky Mountain Bottle Company, a joint venture between Molson Coors and O-I Glass in Colorado. Her background is steeped in glassmaking and her childhood memories are filled with visits to Huta Szkła Wymiarki, a glassmaking plant in western Poland where she grew up and where both her parents worked.
“My dad drove a truck, bringing the sand from the nearby mine to the plant and later delivering money from the customers,” she says. “He would pick me up from home and I would accompany him on his business trips. His customers would give me sweets, and I loved being with him as he worked.”
She says almost everyone in her community worked in the glass industry when she was a child, and many of her family and friends still do. She grew up knowing people who worked on the forming machines, on the cold end, and on every aspect of the glass furnaces.
“I knew these people not only because they were my parents’ colleagues, but because they were a part of our town, and this was the work they did,” she says.
Moving to the U.S. and Finding a Home in Glassmaking
Marta left Wymiarki to attend college in Krakow. She graduated from AGH University of Science and Technology in Poland with a master’s degree in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. She followed her heart when her then-boyfriend, an American professional working in Poland, invited her to accompany him upon his return to the United States.
The couple lived in Michigan where Marta studied English and basics of economics at a community college and served as a chemistry lab assistant. After they moved to Florida and married, she obtained her green card and began looking for a full-time job.
“Here I was, 28 years old,” she says. “After immigrating to the U.S. with no professional connections and moving several times, I was just ready for something that felt like home.”
“Home” meant work within the glassmaking industry, so she applied for a glass science position at O-I’s headquarters in Perrysburg. Her interview demonstrates the passion she felt for the job in glass. Her original flight from Florida was canceled, so she booked a flight to Pittsburgh and drove the remaining 3-and-a-half hours to Northwest Ohio instead.
“I wanted that particular job so badly I decided I would do whatever I had to do to get to that interview,” she says, remembering.
Giving Back to an Industry She Loves
Marta’s career with O-I began in Perrysburg as a Glass Scientist in Research & Development. In October 2020, she changed roles to serve as Continuous Improvement Leader, Global Technology Licensing, for Colorado’s RMBC. She focuses on optimizing the glass and serving as a bridge between the plant, O-I Glass and Molson Coors.
“I see glassmaking as an art,” she says. “I love watching how we form the glass. Then seeing that we’ve released the mold, and there it is, here in front of me. There’s the standing bottle.”
Marta treasures her experience in operations, believing that a well-run plant is the beating heart of O-I’s success. She has a passion for learning and understanding plant operations, structure, challenges, and the ins and outs of day-to-day plant life.
“I make changes based on the science and what works for the people working in the plants,” she says.
“I love it here. I love the job, this plant, these people, and everything about it.”
She has seen how welcoming the glass industry can be for women. A champion of women in business and a member of the Society of Women Engineers, she encourages other women to join the glass industry.
“The glass industry is hungry for great leaders. It’s hungry, for female leaders in particular. It’s waiting for us,” she states emphatically.
And her dreams for the future? As a natural teacher and collaborator, she’d like to grow as a leader at O-I, and perhaps return to headquarters to share her knowledge and experience to create efficiencies at more facilities on a larger scale.
“Glass has given me a home, an education and now a career,” says Marta. “I work every day to give back to the industry I love.”