Portland’s Maintenance Manager combines technical skills with artistic talent to produce masterpieces
It’s a long way from Nome, Alaska to Portland, Ind., but for John Mikulski, Maintenance Manager at POET Bioprocessing – Portland, it’s been a great ride.
“People either love or hate living in Alaska,” said Mikulski. “But I loved it. I was always outdoors snowboarding, hunting, fishing, camping — doing the Alaska thing.”
The son of missionaries, Mikulski lived in Alaska from ages five through 18. In addition to loving the outdoor life, it was also there that Mikulski developed his strong interest in engineering
“Nome is a gold mining town, and I had a friend whose dad was a mining engineer,” he recalled. “I was fascinated with that.”
After serving a stint in the Navy as an aircraft mechanic, Mikulski relocated to Indiana, where he had family, and picked up a degree in industrial maintenance. When he went to Portland for his job interview and tour of the POET plant, Mikulski said both he and POET knew immediately it was a match.
“As soon as I walked into the plant, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “They offered me a job in maintenance on the spot. In many ways, it was similar to what I did in the Navy, and I was able to hit the ground running.”
Mikulski is a hands-on sort of guy and has a poster in his office that reads, “Success is a ladder that can’t be climbed with your hands in your pockets.” His hands have been busy.
He started in maintenance and was soon promoted to supervisor. The following year, he became operations manager, then maintenance manager two years later. He would ultimately like to move higher on that ladder, but he’s pretty happy where he’s at in the meantime.
“I like having the freedom to make changes, and I feel like people listen to my ideas,” he said. “We have a small team, and I like to develop people and keep them safe and trained. I’m also proud to be in an industry that’s making a difference, changing the world a little and being part of something bigger than myself.”
General Manager Adam Homan has worked with Mikulski for nine years and appreciates the value he brings to the Portland team.
“With his experience, John can troubleshoot just about anything in the facility,” Holman said. “He’s the kind of person who can accomplish anything he puts his mind to.”
Technical meets artistic
Besides his day job, Mikulski operates a successful wood-turning side business from home called Midwest Hybrids. After spending some evening family time, Mikulski heads to his shop, where he uses lathes and an assortment of sophisticated equipment to create stunning and unique pieces of artwork, such as pens, jewelry, wall décor, art and collectibles and more. He also makes similarly crafted “blanks,” which he sells to other artists to create their own masterpieces.
“What I do is resin casting, where I create a hybrid mix of wood and resins or plastics, then add colors and create some effects that result in some really unique objects,” he said. “I like to think that maybe growing up in Alaska and being around water and nature, then combining my technical skills to add color and vibrance, helps me get in touch with my ‘artistic side.’”
Mikulski’s own business has 11,000 followers on Instagram, but he especially enjoys working with other artists who buy his blanks and seeing the whole process come full circle.
“I sell them the blanks, and then I get to see what they make out of it when they sell to the end-users. I get to see the smiles on everyone’s faces, and it’s cool to be involved in the whole process.”
Mikulski’s wife Amy works as an Administrative Coordinator at POET – Portland, and she helps him with the marketing, logistics and shipping of his products. The couple also has three children: Julian (13), Kalli (8) and Logan (4). All three kids are very active in sports, which keeps John and Amy quite busy attending events and providing transport to practices.
Although John usually works late into the night with his small business — most nights getting about five hours sleep — he builds some healthy fences around his “night job.”
“I don’t do any business on the weekends,” he said. “I save it to spend time with Amy and the kids.”
Speaking of Amy, her marriage to Mikulski was serendipitous of him joining the POET – Portland team. It’s where the couple met when she started shortly after him, and the two are very happy being a “POET family.”
“She works in the office, and I’m out in the plant, so we don’t get to spend too much time together, which is probably a good thing,” he laughed. “She’s a people person, and her job fits her very well. We love working together at the same plant.”
For more information about John’s work, visit his shop at www.midwesthybrids.com