If Inka Guixà had taken her teacher’s
advice not to go into higher education, it may well have
altered the course of her entire career. Instead, she pursued
several degrees and set herself on a path to eventually become
the chief executive officer of La Farga by the time she was in
Barcelona, Spain-born Guixà was the second of five
children – three girls and two boys. Her father Oriol,
an engineer, had been working at La Farga since just after her
birth, and he was one of the founders of the recycled copper
continuous casting company, based on a business with a very
long heritage. But a career at the same company for
Guixà was not on the cards, she recalled.
"We didn’t live our childhoods as if we were
going to work at La Farga. For me, La Farga was the job of my
father – I wasn’t planning to enter the
copper industry," she told Metal Market Magazine.
At school, Guixà had preferred science to the
humanities, but she had no interest in engineering. "Maybe if I
started again and know what I know now, engineering could have
been something I would have tried. But I wanted to do something
that allowed me to explore a variety of sectors," she said.
"When I was young and had a lot of homework, I’d
complain and say I didn’t know how I was going to
do it. My father would say, 'Inka, the day has 24 hours.
Organize yourself!’" she added.
After being told by a teacher that she would not succeed at
university so not to bother applying,
Guixà’s parents reassured her that she
could accomplish anything she wanted. "I don’t
think it fully sunk in what the teacher was saying until I was
older. Now I think, what a thing to tell a child!" she
In fact Guixà is a graduate in Business
Administration and Management from Esade in Barcelona and she
has a Master’s degree in Business Administration
(BA & MBA). She also participated in an exchange program in
Vancouver, Canada, at the University of British Columbia.
"Then I thought, 'What do I want to do next?’ I
liked the feel of trade marketing, so I joined brewery company
Damm Group, and was there for around two years. But at a
certain point I thought I needed more. The opportunities the
company were able to give me were not coming at the speed I
wanted," she said. "I tried to look for something else, and
really was interested in the consulting business."
She applied to one of the 'big four’ consulting
firms, and was involved in the application process when she
decided to join a smaller strategic consultancy, Antares
Consulting, in order to experience the whole spectrum of its
business. "I went from junior consultant to project manager in
less than two years, and really enjoyed it, but I have to admit
at the end there was something that I hadn’t
expected: I was on the path towards being a little bit burnt
out," she added.
Eventually, one of her former senior managers took a role in
the pharma industry and called her about a position he had,
encouraging her to work with him. She consequently joined
Novartis Farmacéutica in a department that focused on
internal consulting. "Its objective was to analyze the sales
department and determine the best strategy to manage the sales
force in order to achieve a better result. I really enjoyed the
role," Guixà said.
A day of change
Everything changed one day when, age 28, she and her
boyfriend were invited to dinner with her parents. "They said,
'Inka, we’re looking for someone in La Farga to
expand the business and we think it might be the right moment
for you to join.’ It was quite shocking and really
unexpected. I’d gotten involved with the board
around 18 months previously, but I saw it as normal because we
were a family business and had responsibility as shareholders,
but nothing else," she said.
Her family had never mentioned the possibility of her
joining the company full-time; none of her siblings were
involved with the business either. "If you had asked me half an
hour before that dinner what I was going to do for the next ten
years, I would never have said I would work for La Farga. It
was not my mindset!" she laughed.
But close to her family and proud of its achievements, she
asked her parents and her boyfriend, now her husband, to
discuss the proposal. One of her main concerns was the
potential pressure to ultimately succeed her father. "I
didn’t think it was good for me or anybody," she
said. "I thought it more important to follow a path and if at
the end it was determined I was the right person, then I would
go for it, but if not, nothing should happen. It was really
Having seen first-hand the sacrifices her parents had made
to balance their family lives with the business,
Guixà’s other concern was ensuring she did
not have to give up being a parent in the future.
"I understood that society was not the same as when my
father started at La Farga, but I wanted to make sure that I
would be able to be a mum. It didn’t mean I wanted
to be at home every day, but I wanted to have an active role in
my future children’s lives and education," she
recalled. "So, I said that if my parents thought what they were
proposing wasn’t feasible with that goal, then it
wouldn’t work," she said.
Guixà had a similar conversation with her
grandfather, La Farga’s other co-founder who, it
transpired, had been the one to suggest she join the company in
the first place. She made the decision in partnership with her
boyfriend; Guixà understood that as a couple,
professional and personal success required a balanced, joint
approach. "We knew it was something I couldn’t
decide by myself; it was a family project. So, we decided
together," she added.
Accepting the role was, Guixà acknowledged, an honor
but also a huge responsibility. "My brothers and sisters were
quite surprised at the start, saying, 'ok, what?!’
because none of us had thought about La Farga as a place we
would work. But I have always had the support of my siblings,"
Career in copper
Guixà joined La Farga in 2009, when it already had a
heritage over two centuries old and had a long history in
copper. Aside from a three-year period during the Spanish Civil
War starting in 1936, when it was nationalized for military
purposes, the company has always been family-owned.
It was originally founded in 1808 by Francesc Lacambra Pont
as a small foundry in the La Barceloneta port district of
Barcelona, Spain. The foundry – the genesis of LaFarga
– produced nails, pots, bells, and other products from
copper and bronze for the Catalan naval fleet.
By the 1840s, the business was one of the main suppliers of
copper to the Barcelona Royal Mint, diversifying further in the
coming years to supply copper sheeting to line the hulls of
wooden ships bound for the United States. Just prior to the
First World War, the company started producing wire rod for
electric cables used in the railway and electrical
But a lack of investment left the company on the verge of
bankruptcy by the start of the 1980s. Fate intervened: the
paperwork to close the business came across the law firm desk
of Guixà’s maternal grandfather.
"He was very passionate about the history of Lacambra,
saying, 'I have seen this company all my life – I
cannot close it, but I have no idea about industry or copper,
so what do I do?’" Guixà said. "He called
his son-in-law, my father, and said, 'You’re an
engineer, please come and analyze the business.’
Between them, they came up with the idea of a recycled copper
continuous casting company," she added.
In 1981, LaFarga Lacambra S.A. was created; in 2003 it
became the LaFarga Group.
During that period, La Farga started up its first continuous
casting line from recycled material, then diversified from rod
and wires to also include tubes, welding wires and railways
markets. In 2008, the company invested in its second wire rod
plant to increase capacity and diversify its end-markets
further to include automation and magnet wire.
When Guixà joined, she began her role at La Farga as
the expansion manager in its newly formed international
business, which was focused on growth outside Spain plus the
sale of the company’s recycling technology abroad.
After a series of negotiations, investment overseas quickly
followed in the form of a railway products joint venture in
Guixà’s team simultaneously started
looking for a business in the United States, laying the
groundwork for the eventual creation of SDI La Farga, its joint
venture with Steel Dynamics, which produces recycled copper
wire and rod.
According to Guixà, working outside the
company’s core Spanish business gave her an
alternative perspective of La Farga and was an important lesson
in the art of deal making across different cultures and
professional environments. "Managing the sale of technology at
that time allowed me to understand the position La Farga had in
the copper recycling business as well as redefine our approach
to the sale of that technology," she recalled. "I worked
very closely with my father and our great relationship really
helped a lot. I had the opportunity to see different kinds of
approaches to negotiations, which was really beneficial for me
Her next step was to move into a role that would provide a
more strategic overview of La Farga; in 2013, Guixà
became general director of planning and strategic management.
"From that position I had the chance to deal with the different
areas within the organization, identify the strengths and
weaknesses, implement new procedures as well as define the
mission of the company for the following years. It was quite a
run," she noted.
Although La Farga is a family-owned business, Guixà
said company interests are placed ahead of family. "We
understand that between family and business, what we need to
protect is always the business and not the family," she said.
"The family is at the service of the company and not the other
way around," she told Metal Market Magazine.
According to Guixà, the company uses strict protocols
to ensure it is protected from the family. These include
limiting the number of family members working at La Farga to
enable career progression and encouraging different viewpoints
from other executives.
When family members do join La Farga, it is through
invitation, not request, and only if they have proven
experience elsewhere plus pass the evaluation of three external
independent consultants. At the same time, an executive must be
35 to be the CEO, and that role must be separate to the company
At a certain point, it was clear that Guixà could
succeed her father and the executive team began to lay the
ground for the transition. In 2017, he became company president
and she became CEO. "In a family business everyone talks about
the importance of succession, but the clue is you need to have
somebody able to say, 'Okay, my turn is over, I need to step
aside and let someone else have a go,’ despite
still having the passion, ability, energy to do the job
themself. My father has done an amazing job of understanding
the point at which he should do this – I take my hat
off to him," she acknowledged.
"The transition is finished, without any issues. I still
talk to him all the time about the business. I am very
different – he is 100% an engineer, and I am not, but
in that sense, we complement each other perfectly," she
Guixà describes her approach to business as
market-oriented, analytical and with a sustainable growth view,
and her leadership style as being based on cross-collaboration,
empowering people, and project management. In her new role, she
set about adapting La Farga to 21st century challenges such as
digitalization, globalization and sustainability.
"Preparing for succession meant not only preparing myself;
it also meant preparing the organization for what succession
meant. That meant determining what La Farga would look like in
the future and what challenges it would face as a company," she
One of those challenges was moving the company from a
personalized, family structure with independent directors and
100% of its shareholders on the board, to a structure with less
shareholders in the boardroom. The key, Guixà said, was
to retain the agility of decision-making that existed in the
According to Guixà, making this change was much more
complicated than moving from one generation to another; it
required adapting to operating with new ways of thinking. "La
Farga has been changing as we move along that path, and it has
been really powerful and exciting," she said. "We knew what we
wanted La Farga to be in the future, and we had the
fundamentals to achieve it; the challenge was how to make it
sustainable in the long run while keeping the values that
define us and make La Farga unique," she added.
The company’s sales in 2019 were 208,600
tonnes, of which roughly half are export direct sales. La Farga
is present worldwide in the railways sector while its presence
in other end-markets is focused on central and southern Europe
plus North Africa.
Despite its growth, Guixà said La Farga tries to
maintain the philosophy of being a family, including giving its
staff room to develop – herself being a case in point.
"Normally companies give what I call 'small suits’
when they promote someone – they make sure the person
will succeed and the amount of risk they take is very little.
The suit already fits," she told Metal Market Magazine. "Our
way of seeing it is that to promote people and help them grow
as professionals, we need to give challenges and provide
'bigger suits’ that don’t fit
perfectly the first time they’re worn. The
challenge is to eventually fit the suit."
Another priority is health and safety, as well as
communities, she said. "We’re not based in a big
city but near a small village 80 km from Barcelona, and we know
that we have an impact on this region. We need to take this
into account and work with our suppliers, the communities as a
whole," Guixà added.
La Farga’s agility as a family business has
also allowed it to drive innovation, something Guixà
said is in the company’s DNA and requires taking
Citing an example when the company had to decide the fate of
a plant, Guixà said the standard choice would be between
closing it and investing the money elsewhere, or taking a
chance and trying to develop a new technology that could help
it succeed. A typical board, she noted, would opt for the safe
bet. "In our case, if you present something innovative and can
explain why you’d succeed and what its benefits
are, we go for it. Taking those kinds of risks allows you to
identify new opportunities and sometimes new technologies,
ideas, and developments. This is something in our case that
defines us," she added.
Understanding the role of sustainability through the copper
supply chain some 40 years ago when Guixà’s
family founded the group was relatively rare. Nowadays, the
inclusion of sustainability criteria in sourcing decisions is
far more common, although Guixà said while society
recognizes the need to focus on climate change and its impacts,
industry often has a different view.
"The copper business can play a huge role in sustainability,
but still the industry is not fully prepared. The reality is
our clients are still not placing sustainability at the heart
of decisions to purchase copper," she said.
The whole copper value chain understands it needs to try to
do its part in the decarbonization process, Guixà noted.
"This means ensuring the whole product it is selling, the
process used to make it, the raw materials consumed to produce
it, and the second life it is given after it being used in the
market, are sustainable. Making the production process more
sustainable is a good first step, but we need to make the
actual product fully sustainable, and that will be the real
challenge," she added.
This will require governments to step up and mandate the
increased use of secondary copper where possible, and promote
the circular economy and urban mining, in which raw materials
are reclaimed from spent products, buildings and waste. "The
mining industry certainly has a role, but the circular economy
is very important – we need to find the balance. There
is a vast amount of secondary copper in the market that
isn’t being reused," Guixà said.
"The obligation we have as an industry is to give life to
that copper; it cannot be lost. We really need to promote this.
But promoting this requires regulations, and that we put our
energy into understanding and developing technology in order to
be able to recirculate as much as possible," she
Just 8.9 million tonnes of the nearly 30 million tonnes of
copper consumed annually come from recycling, she noted, with
the remainder coming from the mine. Those recycled tonnes
account for about two-thirds of the 14 million tonnes of copper
that are no longer useful each year, Guixà added, and
there are over five million tonnes of copper annually that are
lost and not receiving a second life.
La Farga – which launched an environmental product
declaration, the first of its kind in the copper wire rod
sector – currently uses 42% recycled copper in its
production process and is working to increase this
The concept of reusing materials applies not just to copper
but across industries, Guixà said, noting that the
conversation is being facilitated as governments look to
rebuild after the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Green Deal
and the Build Back Better strategy in the United States are
pushing the use of materials like copper in infrastructure,
transportation, renewables, storage and distribution, she
"Global trends of industrialization, decarbonization and
electrification are supportive of a vision of long-term copper
demand," Guixà said.
It is something the company promotes at its copper museum,
opened in 2008 to celebrate La Farga’s
bicentenary. "At our museum, we say copper had a role in the
past, has a role in the present and for sure has a role in the
future given the trends that are taking place and the
properties it has. We need to see how regulations evolve, but
if we’re able to implement the right policies,
there’s a bright future for copper," Guixà
Covid-19 has also emphasized the role of copper in providing
economic stability through employment, she said, plus
highlighted habits that are not efficient or sustainable,
including flying on business trips when in reality a video call
is equally viable. "It doesn’t mean trips
won’t ever happen again, but we certainly need to
find an equilibrium. The fact the pandemic has lasted this long
means many changes will prevail because we’ve
gotten used to them," Guixà said.
It has provided a huge opportunity as a company, as an
industry, and as a society, she noted. "It has allowed us to
think about what we were doing before, what we want to keep
doing and what we don’t. It’s
something as a company that is very powerful, because you can
adapt a lot of things. It’s also happened with our
relations with clients and suppliers – you rethink
what can be improved and changed," she added.
Another consequence of the pandemic has been the
acceleration of digitalization, which began some years ago but
has been critically important to the operation of business,
"The pandemic’s longevity will change our
consumption patterns as well, and this implies applications
will change. What is really interesting is what role copper
will play. I am completely sure that due to the characteristics
it has, demand for copper won’t decline, but we
need to see in which sectors it will be more or less powerful,"
she told Metal Market Magazine.
"The pandemic’s resolution requires a strategic
global overview and the more global we are able as a society to
treat it, the quicker we will get out of it. It’s
really putting a spotlight on geopolitics – how
governments deal with it, collaboratively or individually."
Women in commodities
When Guixà started at La Farga, she was immediately
struck – and surprised – that the metals
industry was such a heavily male-dominated sector;
"Nothing like I’d seen at university or in other
professions I’d worked in," she said.
"The balance was really not there. From what
I’ve heard, before I came into the market it was
even worse. The positive news is that I’ve only
been in the industry since 2009 but I’m seeing a
slow change. It’s still a male sector but we need
to keep continuing to push," she added.
The push needs to be in a lot of directions, Guixà
acknowledged, "but this doesn’t mean it
can’t change. A better balance brings
opportunities, not just for women, but for everybody."
There are, she noted, many aspects impacting women in the
workplace that need to alter globally, and not just in copper.
"A man is rarely asked about his family, for example, yet we
always ask a woman how she manages the work-family balance.
It’s something that needs to change, starting with
education at school. We should be recognizing that succeeding
professionally doesn’t mean a woman
can’t have a family," she added.
Guixà recalls the time a new visitor to La Farga
mistook her for a personal assistant because she had opened the
reception door and offered to make her guest a coffee. "He
closed the door in my face after I showed him to the meeting
room. I opened it, and said 'No, I’m Inka, the
expansion manager, and you’re meeting with
me,’" she recalled.
Another time, during a telephone call when she stuck to her
guns concerning a difficult issue, Guixà was called a
'happy girl’ who ignorantly thought the world was
a blissful place.
"My father says that he hadn’t realized how
male the sector was until I joined La Farga. Now he has seen
what happens to me and he realizes," she said. "But at the end
of the day, if someone has a problem with my being a woman,
it’s their problem, not mine. We have a path to
create, the issue is on the table, and I like to think
positively. We need to continue constructively and see that
previously the industry was all dark-suited men; now there is
colour, and in the future there will be more colour," she
Now married to her boyfriend who was part of her discussions
with her parents about joining La Farga, Guixà said the
pair have a very supportive partnership. Her husband works in a
family bakery business, having moved from a role at a
multinational previously. "We were clear from the start that
neither of us should be required to give up his or her dreams.
We both wanted to succeed professionally, but we also wanted to
have a family – so we needed to find an equilibrium,"
The couple have two daughters, age ten and five, and an
Hobbies have taken a backseat since having a family: "Making
the balance work means that I understood if I wanted to succeed
professionally and balance having three children, I would have
no spare time," Guixà said.
"What we have done is to try to make their hobbies, our
hobbies. My son plays hockey, the eldest daughter swims, the
youngest likes dancing. We have a lot of hours of work and the
rest is the five of us together," she said. "I love traveling,
so – before the pandemic – we would travel
together. My family is my hobby."
Guixà, who is fluent in English, is also learning to
speak French and has worked hard to make sure her children
understand why and what she does professionally.
It’s a process that has been helped by
homeschooling during periods of lockdown.
"Covid-19 means they’ve seen me work at home,
and they hear and sense how things are going. They understand
what clients and suppliers are," she said. "We
don’t put pressure on them to join the business;
we always say they need to work in whatever career they want.
They know they can decide."
Her advice to new starters in copper? The industry is "very
captive; it really engages you and has a lot of passion in it.
I would advise anyone joining it to be themself –
it’s the only way," she said. "Think about what
your objective is, what you really want, and go for it. Whether
you succeed or not, at least you will be you."