Midway through the final interview, I’d already decided Unilever was the place for me. I was immediately drawn in by the diverse and bustling atmosphere; the office had its own spirit, a special one. A mix of exceptionally interesting people, each with unique personalities, experiences and cultures, made settling in easy.
I joined the Hair Processing team at the Global R&D Headquarters in Port Sunlight and my work started with the maintenance, operation and training of colleagues on a filling simulator capable of emulating several technology types currently in use. My initiative, creativity and tenacity were tested as I was initially investigating a range of product types, product pack designs and sizes, levels of automation and filling line speeds and supply chain complexities.
Right from the beginning, I was encouraged to go the extra mile, and to set ambitious but achievable goals. With the support and guidance of some of Unilever’s world leading researchers, I developed methodologies and protocols which enhanced the company’s understanding of product behaviour during filling. The significance of my work far exceeded my expectations; the results of my research will influence future research and the operation of the 200+ Unilever factory filling lines around the world.
Once my main project began to take shape, additional opportunities to prove myself seemed to appear every day and I was never discouraged from challenging the status quo. I never had to wait to be asked or told what to do; the support of my colleagues inspired the self-confidence to know what needed to be done to ensure the results were delivered. I was trusted to work autonomouslyand my contributions were recognised, respected and valued by the team.
My colleagues showed as much interest in my personal development as the project itself. I was involved in various manufacturing and supply chain activities and after gaining sufficient operating experience on a manufacturing pilot rig, I had helped to commission, I led a team of operators during several production trials. Leading a team of much older and more experienced professionals on this trial was tough but rewarding. Through dealing with conflicts appropriately and resolving issues quickly, I learnt how to maintain the overall effectiveness of the team.
Working in Global R&D often involves international travel, meaning that I also had the opportunity to do so. The value that Unilever placed on my skills became apparent when I was asked to travel to Germany and meet with suppliers to discuss bespoke design plans for a major R&D capital investment. Using the knowledge I had gained during my work, I contributed significantly to the final design specifications and observed the exciting results as they unfolded.
Shortly after arriving back in England, yet another development prospect arose. My involvement in a particular production trial and a brief conversation with a visiting project team leader resulted in us visiting Poland to validate the pilot plant results on a factory scale.
Witnessing some of the many stages involved in bringing products to market gave me a deep sense of ownership. My work was relentlessly inspiring, engaging and innovative. The variety of working environments and learning opportunities I was exposed to at Unilever have instilled an invaluable level of confidence and professional competency. My year at Unilever was packed full of experiences and I made some lifelong friends.