|Chemistry (with a year in industry)|
|Products Research Senior Scientist|
|Procter & Gamble|
|Science and research|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Products Research Senior Scientist in the United Kingdom
How can chemistry link to marketing, patent law and R&D all in the same role?
What I do
I am employed as a Products Research Senior Scientist within Procter and Gamble's Fabric and Home Care Research and Development function, based in Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Procter and Gamble is one of the world's largest consumer goods companies, producing well-known brands covering a range of consumer needs such as Fairy, Ariel, Olay and Pampers.
My role is within the P&G Professional Products Research organisation, producing products for the professional market such as for restaurants, hotels and care homes.
My role bridges the gap between the technical and commercial communities with the organisation. I work closely with consumers to understand key unmet needs and translate this back into technical challenges to be solved in the wider R&D function. I also help bring new product innovations to life for the consumer through collaboration with Legal and Marketing functions to develop and scientifically prove superior product claims.
Skills I use and how I developed them
I gained a First Class degree, but employers look for a lot more than academic grades! During my masters-year internship with P&G I had to be able to demonstrate leadership i.e. a get-up-and-go attitude, the ability to reapply ideas, discipline in my work, the ability to build working relationships as well as a number of other 'Success Drivers'. It is worth noting that if you are planning to apply for P&G, interview questions are also based around these qualities so make sure you can think of working examples of times when you have demonstrated these - through your academic, professional or personal life.
What I like most
One of the major perks of working at P&G is that as it is an international company, I am often required to travel both for training and for project related work. This also offers scope for relocation further along in my career. Through its scale, the company is also able to work to align your career path with your own personal goals and needs.
Another upside to P&G being such a diverse company is that I could have the opportunity to work within a range of business units and functions without ever changing employer. I know that some employees who have started in R&D transfer to other functions such as Marketing or Legal, or move from Laundry to Baby Care R&D.
What I like least
I wouldn't say there is much I don't like about my current role. Most challenging perhaps is that a lot is expected from you right from the start, even as an intern I had a lot of control over my own project. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it certainly pushes you to get the most out of yourself.
P&G is competitive, it is a quality that is looked for in candidates during recruitment, but this isn't to say there is an unfriendly atmosphere. There is definitely a sense of togetherness and a willing to help each other out where possible.
What surprised me most
P&G really recognises the importance of a work-life balance.
The company operates 'flexible working hours'. We have to work a core - 8 hours (including lunch) a day, but have the flexibility to come in any time in the morning between 7:30 and 9:30am.
Site-by-site, the company also has Vibrant Living teams and Sports&Social and GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual, Lesbian Employee) societies who promote healthy living and inclusive lifestyles.
My career history
I took a year in industry as part of my Master's degree, securing a year long internship at Procter & Gamble within the Strategic Innovation & Technology department for Laundry. This was my first experience of any kind of professional laboratory work and also of working for a large company.
I graduated in July 2013 and in August I received a phone call offering a role within R&D for Dishcare (Fairy). I jumped at the offer and stayed within that role for 2 years.
I have now moved on to R&D PG Professional products, providing cleaning solutions for commercial consumers such as hotels and restaurants. I gained my promotion to Senior Scientist (Band 2 management) in October 2016.
Courses taken since graduation
Where I hope to be in 5 years
Progression in P&G can be rapid. Graduating with a Master's degree I was able to enter the career ladder directly in Entry Level 2 which is a managerial position. P&G have a strict 'recruit from within' policy which means any senior positions are filled by current employees rather than advertising the vacancy publicly. I gained my first promotion to Senior Scientist in October 2016, my next step from here is choosing whether I prefer to pursue either a Management- or Technologist-oriented role as I progress further through the career track.
My advice to students considering work
The BIGGEST regret when you speak to a lot of graduates is not having taken part in more societies. At the time when you're doing degree it is very easy to get swallowed up by all your work and think there is no time left for any other activities but think about the broader picture. Employers aren't only looking at your degree; for many roles looking for a minimum of a 2:1, so long as you achieve that the employers are then going to look at what else you've got on your CV. What else makes you interesting? Are you somebody they want to work with, who is going to bring a variety of skills and experiences to the organisation?
I think what helped me most when I got to the interview stage was looking up 'typical' interview questions online. I accumulated a list of about 20 questions such as "Describe a time when you succeeded against the odds", "Tell me about a time when you innovated a change which was adopted by others". Before my interview I made sure I had an answer to EVERY question, no matter how abstract. For example, "Tell me about a time when you innovated a change which was adopted by others", I told a story about how when I was working in a bakery shop we ran out of corned beef slices, so when a customer came in and was upset that there were none left, I sliced up a corned beef pie and sold each slice so that overall the pie sold for more than it would have done whole. Sounds like an obvious solution but it had never been done before. This question actually came up in my interview and the interviewer commented that it was a good example.
As a final thought on interviews, no matter how badly you think it's going, do not give up hope. When my interviewer told me he had also studied Chemistry at York and that his supervisor used to be Duncan Bruce who still taught there, I replied "Really? I didn't realise Duncan Bruce had been teaching so long!" Foot. In. Mouth. But I still got the internship!
Some advice for students/graduates wanting to get into this sector:
Get on LinkedIn - not only is it a great place to start making connections, you can browse job opportunities and join groups to keep up to date in your area of interest.
Also, look up the websites for the Chartered Institute of your job interest, again there is often a wealth of information to be found there as well as the latest job opportunities.
You are more than welcome to contact me to find out more about working at Procter & Gamble, internships and my experience of the Year in Industry course (it was a positive one!).
If you like the look of Emma’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Emma a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Emma to be your mentor.