Meet Emily Skrobecki of SōRSE Technology. She shares insight into the chemical engineering of cannabis along with team-building and leadership skills!
Sam: Thank you so much for taking part in this. First, would you please share what drew you to chemical engineering & working with cannabis?
Emily Skrobecki: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always thought chemistry was fascinating. Math, on the other hand, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with. Sometimes it was fun, and other times it was the last thing I wanted to work on, but I was good at it, regardless of how I felt about it. If you couple those two subjects together, chemical engineering is your match.
I did my undergrad studies at Oregon State University, but it wasn’t until after a summer of volunteering at the University of Washington’s greenhouse that I picked up a passion for plants. I became specifically interested in plant chemistry and synergistic benefits with humans. I started exploring botanical extraction methods and used my chemical engineering knowledge to perfect extraction techniques. After doing that for a while, it didn’t feel like I was working anymore, it was just fun. I wanted to continue on that path as a career, and lucky enough for me, Washington was one of the first states to legalize cannabis. Cannabis was a plant I was not able to study because of its legal status. Safe to say my passion for plants and lack of cannabis knowledge lead me to where I am today.
Sam: So, what steps did you take to advance your career as an SME in the cannabis industry?
Emily Skrobecki: Cannabis became legal in Washington state in 2012, but in my opinion, the real cannabis hype hit the state in 2015. People I didn’t expect to be using cannabis were now using it every day for one reason or another. Why were all these people crazy about this plant? That sparked my curiosity and interest in cannabis even more. I had to know why. Once I got my foot in the cannabis industry, that’s when my engineering knowledge really started to show. There were no chemical engineers in the cannabis space. I literally didn’t meet another chemical engineer until two years after I started working in the cannabis industry. Two Years! In any other respective industry, you would meet another chemical engineer within two days. And thankfully for me (I guess?), being a woman made me stand out like a sore thumb. So, I was this female chemical engineer in the cannabis industry, which at the time felt equivalent to being a unicorn. It didn’t exist. They say it’s all about timing, and in this case, I had some incredible timing.
Sam: As I’m sure you know, there are some who are against cannabis, and consider it nothing more than smoking pot. Is there a difference between “just smoking pot” and documented benefits of CBD?
Emily Skrobecki: Yes, there is definitely a difference, but the best part for those who ‘just smoke pot’ or just use it recreationally is that they might be doing themselves a favor in the long run. The research that is starting to come out is mind-blowing! I don’t think anyone intended for cannabis to be so universally used, but humans are benefiting from it now more than ever because of legality and regulations. Smoking is damaging regardless of what it is, so I can’t comment on if smoking cannabis will beneficially help someone. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that ingesting cannabis orally or using it as a topical may help medical ailments.
CBD has especially become more studied in humans due to its non-intoxicating effects. Studying THC is much harder because researchers must go through a more extensive process to get approval of possession, and it automatically rules itself out in a placebo study. I could talk about the benefits of cannabis all day. I think the most important part about taking cannabis is understanding how it reacts with your body, not what dosage may work for someone else. My best advice is start with low dosage, pay attention to what type of cannabis you are using (isolate, broad spectrum, RSO, etc.), and if it’s helping you.
Sam: The cannabis industry is relatively new to the US with seemingly unlimited potential, are you able to share what you and SōRSE are working on to benefit consumers?
Emily Skrobecki: SōRSE Technology is focused on creating transformative delivery systems for functional ingredients. We’re not botanical extractors nor hemp growers; we simply take extracted materials, like CBD isolate and distillates (broad spectrum oils), and with chemistry, produce an ingredient that is efficiently and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Not only did we focus on getting CBD in the body more efficiently, we solved the ongoing problem of making CBD more water soluble. CBD in its natural form is an oil-soluble ingredient. It will only mix with other foods that are high in fats like butter, cooling oils, or in solvents like alcohols. Now consumers can use our water-soluble CBD ingredient in every water-based platform in the grocery store! That includes sparkling waters, teas, coffees, protein powders, drink mixes, and gummy candies. Believe it or not, foods like tortillas, steak marinades, and donuts now have CBD in them. We also cater to businesses that create topicals or cosmeceuticals. The list is truly endless.
Although the company is heavily focused on functionalized CBD, and other cannabinoids, we will continue to expand our portfolio by making other ingredients water-soluble, with efficient absorption into the body.
Sam: That’s fascinating! In the past, you’ve mentioned that you like to practice leadership & team-building? How do you practice that and build a comprehensive team?
Emily Skrobecki: My family is from Poland, and if you ever spend time with Polish people, you’ll quickly learn they are great hosts. In short, they provide resources for those around them, even if they do not have much to offer. I try to adopt this same mentality in the workplace. I want to provide my team with the resources they need to do their job. Whether that is moral support, equipment, working aids, or another brain to bounce ideas off of, I am there to help them be successful. Good leadership also comes from having great mentors. I am lucky to say I’ve had amazing mentors in my career, but I’ve also had some pretty bad ones, and I appreciate both greatly. You learn from those around you and begin to develop your own type of leadership. Just remember to keep it positive.
Team-building is also very important to practice because you learn about your peers’ learning styles. Not everyone absorbs information in the same way, and team-building is a great way to understand how your co-workers reflect their highest self. Once everyone can understand each other on a deeper level, the work productivity increases. Interact with your team, know your team, and understand your team. It won’t hurt, I promise.
Sam: Thank you so much. Is there anything else that you're working on and wish to share?
Emily Skrobecki: I really wish I could say more about the projects SōRSE is working on! They are really fascinating, and I truly believe we are reinventing the way ingredients are used in many different industries, not just food and beverages.
Disclaimer: All Photos Provided Courtesy of SōRSE Technology. Potential minor edits for length, flow, grammatical/formatting.
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