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Maria Paz Esnaola - Regional Sales Manager: Europe at Axens

24 Nov 2023 11:58 | Anonymous

Meet Maria Paz Esnaola, Regional Sales Maanger: Europe at Axens. In her interview, she tells us about what energises her in her client-facing role, overcoming challenges in the energy sector, and how the WTP programme has impacted her professional and personal development.

Interviewed by Claudia Heard

You have a background in engineering, having studied Chemical Engineering at University and worked in the energy sector throughout your career. What inspired you to take this path?

In high school I liked Chemistry and Maths but knew that I wanted to work in something related to the industry rather than in a laboratory. It was then that I discovered engineering. All the engineers I met at that moment inspired me and made me interested in following their path. I finally decided on Chemical Engineering and chose to go into the energy sector. It was a natural choice for me because the degree I did in Chemical Engineering at the University of Buenos Aires was very much related to the processes and technologies of that industry. When I finished my studies, my main goal was to see in practice the theory I had studied in the books. For my first job, I was looking to work in the field to see the valves, the pumps, the things that I was designing at university, to see how they worked in reality. Afterwards, I discovered that the energy sector had a direct link to what I had studied and had a tangible impact on the people and economy of a country, and vice versa. By choosing to work in this sector, I knew I could have a meaningful effect on human beings and the environment.

You have been a Regional Sales Manager for Europe at Axens since 2020. Can you tell us what a typical day in this role is like?

As Regional Sales Manager at Axens, I am at the intersection of the interactions between the company and the customer. I discuss their needs and try to find the best solution possible to support them with our products and services. A typical day involves understanding these needs and communicating them to the technical experts within Axens. Meeting a variety of internal and external stakeholders is a substantial part of the role, which means I get to travel a lot to build relations with clients.

There is another very specific aspect of the role, which is to respond to customer bids. When we receive a bid, whether it is from the public or private sector, we mobilise different Axens teams to come up with a strategy and coordinate the technical and commercial aspects to beat the competition and get the bid. This requires a strong competitive spirit but you also need to collaborate with the different departments in Axens such as the technical and legal departments, as well as local and regional representatives in order to secure the bid successfully. It is really exciting to get to work with people with a range of different backgrounds and expertise towards the same goal.

It is exciting to get to work with  people with a range of different backgrounds and expertise towards the same goal.

Prior to becoming a Regional Sales Manager, you were an engineer and technologist focusing on the design of hydrogenation technologies. What motivated you to take on a more client–facing role and how did you adapt to the demands of this different position? Are their skills and lessons you have been able to transfer from your previous role?

When I took on my current position, I was seeking closer contact with the customer, because I was convinced that building long-term, trusting relationships with them would facilitate doing business and would allow me to communicate effectively to provide them with more tailored solutions. In my previous role as a technologist, I was lucky to be able to meet customers all over the world and explain the technical aspects of what they needed, but long-term relationships were limited. When I first transferred to sales, it was difficult – I had to approach the company itself from a completely different angle and adapt in order to learn negotiation skills and many legal terms.

I also started the position at the worst possible time for customer interaction – March 2020! Over time, the situation improved, and I was able to use the engineering expertise I had built up over the course of my career to better understand the customer’s technical needs.


Axens is a key player in the energy transition, with a focus on solutions for the conversion of oil and biomass to cleaner fuel, and the purification of petrochemical intermediates. While at Axens, what has been your proudest contribution to this mission?

I have two proudest moments, both of which happened recently. The first was my contribution to achieve the firstindustrial design of plastic recycling technology in the world. By developing a new customised business model and working with the customer at all levels of their organisation to show the benefits of this approach and technology, we were able to create solutions tailored to their needs. My close contact with the customer facilitated this.

The second instance was when I supported one of my clients when they faced a very difficult moment. An accident occurred in their refinery and part of it had to be rebuilt as quickly as possible. Axens was able to provide a solution for them and I quickly took the lead to coordinate everyone in order to support them. Generally, after an accident happens it is very difficult to make critical decisions as you need to consider peoples’ differing emotions and desired outcomes. I believe that by offering an outsider’s perspective, we can help clients move forward. Their gratitude for our involvement makes my day.

I believe that by offering an outsider’s perspective, we can help clients move forward. Their gratitude for our involvement makes my day.

You have been in a leadership position as Regional Sales Manager for the last three years. What has helped you get to this point and what advice would you have for young women in looking to work their way up in STEM careers?

What helped me is to believe in myself and to think that everything is possible, even when it doesn’t seem that way. If I look at my career as an example, it seemed an impossible task to come from Argentina, which is so far away, and to still be able to achieve my dreams. But I knew that I wanted to work in another country, to learn from other cultures and other ways of working. It was daunting, but once I believed that I could achieve this goal I found Axens, and the IFP were offering a scholarship to study in France. I could not believe when I got admitted and needed to put all my life in 23 kilos of luggage and move, but it happened!

In the engineering and energy sector, there is not enough female representation, but this is slowly improving. I have been surprised many times when finding myself to be the only woman in the refinery, or at a customer’s site. However, I would say that what really counts is if you have a purpose and you work as a team.

You have been a Member of the Women Talent Programme since March 2023. Can you share with us any important lessons you have taken away from it so far?

Listening to the different pathways other Talents and Workshop Facilitators have taken has been very empowering for me. I always wanted to work in a role that would directly impact society and during the WTP Programme, I can see how others have done this, which inspires me to take my next steps. I especially appreciate the Career Development sessions. I have just become a mother and it is never easy to think about your professional future when you are building your personal one at the same time. However, the mentoring sessions allow me to discuss maternity alongside career evolution, to take some distance, and think about what I really want. I have been shown that it is possible to balance the personal and the professional, and to succeed in both.

I have been shown that it is possible to balance the personal and the professional, and to succeed in both.

You grew up in Argentina before moving to France on an Axens Scholarship. So to end, I’d like to ask – Argentine or French food?

I can’t decide between the two! An ideal meal for me would be Argentine steak paired with French cheese and wine – the best of both worlds.

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