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Next Generation: Rupa Shanmugam, trailblazing CEO of Lackawanna's SoPark

The face of local manufacturing is changing. More women and minorities are stepping into prominent positions in the sector, leading plants and helping manufacturers grow, and in the past couple of years, new plant managers have been named at bedroom manufacturers and smaller operations alike. The trend also applies to places that train manufacturing workers for jobs and help companies innovate. Below is one of the names that is becoming more familiar in the local manufacturing scene; click here to see the rest.

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Rupa Shanmugam has made a name for herself at SoPark, a Lackawanna contract manufacturer, over the past several years.

Now she has a new title: CEO and majority owner of the 81-employee company.

Gerry Murak, who remains a minority owner in the company, had designated Shanmugam as his successor as CEO, a vote of confidence in her leadership as chief operating officer.

Shanmugam has been a trailblazer for women in manufacturing. She studied electrical engineering in Malaysia and worked for large corporations in Malaysia and Singapore. In 2016, she was one of 100 women in manufacturing leadership roles nationally who won a "Step Ahead" award from the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, D.C.

Shanmugam is also committed to women's issues and is an advocate of young women following her path into manufacturing careers. She serves on the board of United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and is a member of the University at Buffalo Women in STEM cooperative committee, among other activities.

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