Tom Heathcote desk profile Research & Development

One year in, one year to go: Tom Heathcote,…

I joined the R&D UFLP just over a year ago. When I joined Unilever, the R&D scheme was comprised of four different six month placements.  Usually one of these placements is situated in a function outside of R&D, such as marketing or supply chain, but it doesn’t have to be.

My first placement was in the Hair category as part of the Discover department in Port Sunlight. I was asked to investigate a new consumer trend in the marketplace and propose a strategy for how the company could respond to it.  A very open brief, and lots of freedom to shape and influence the actions Unilever will take in the future.  My days were spent learning the science of haircare, the needs of our consumers and making shampoo formulations in the lab.

Three months in to my first placement, I signed up for Dove Day, where Unilever employees across the world go into secondary schools to teach children about the importance of self-esteem and not falling for the unrealistic beauty standards set by the media. The thought of teaching a class of adolescent teenagers about a sensitive issue was pretty daunting, but I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done during my time at Unilever so far.

For my second placement, I moved to Leeds to work for the Design department as part of the deodorant brand Axe, or Lynx as it’s called in the UK. Here I took on a much more varied work plan.  I worked as a technical project leader for a couple of new products we plan to launch in various parts of the world.  I found knowing that I’ll be able to see the product I worked on in supermarkets (eventually!) is really motivating.  I also had a project investigating how to improve the scale up of our innovations; from formulating deodorants at lab-scale all the way up to factory scale.  For that project I worked very closely with the factory team we have in the US, and gained some great insights into the process required to ensure our products reach as many people as possible, in the best condition possible.  When I wasn’t working, I was training for a charity boxing match and trying to eat a little less chocolate than I usually do!

As I move into my out-of-function placement in the Walls ice cream marketing team, I’m looking forward to experiencing a whole different side to the company. I’ve loved every minute of the scheme and it’s already amazing to look back and see how much I’ve developed as a person.  The scheme throws you out of your comfort zone and will challenge you constantly.  It’s a huge challenge when you join a new department, in a new city, and get hit with a demanding set of goals to achieve.  But this is easily outweighed by the sense of excitement found in a new chapter, and there is always a solid support network around you in case you get stuck along the way.

Check out some of the other blogs for some great tips on applying for the scheme!

Tara Ennis profile Business & Technology Management (BTM)

Port Sunlight, the birthplace of Unilever: Tara Ennis, BTM…

Hello, I am Tara and I am on a Business and Technology Management (BTM) Industrial Placement. Doing a degree in Sustainable Development and Politics at the University of Edinburgh you may be wondering how I ended up in Business and IT function. Well truthfully, it was not solely the function that attracted me to the scheme; it was also my pure fascination and appreciation for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan that drew me in. That being said, I will leave my personal story for a later date because as I am based in Port Sunlight, the birthplace of Unilever, I feel it is only appropriate to dedicate my inaugural post to our founder, Lord Lever-Hulme himself.

William Lever, the son of a humble grocer, was a visionary and progressivist whose legacy not only radiates through Unilever today, but can be seen throughout corporate and union strategies worldwide. From an economic perspective, his initial success was born out of Sunlight Soap – the first ever individually wrapped soap bars. Who knew, a commodity we take for granted today was considered so revolutionary just over a century ago? However, although his economic legacy rests in a company whose revenues topped £48 billion last year; what makes me (and many others) proud to be a Unilever employee is the social legacy he leaves behind.

After Sunlight soap took off, and his factory in Warrington was running at full capacity, Lever began looking for a new premises. The plot of land he chose was ideal: near a potential source of labour in neighbouring Birkenhead, with road, rail and water access, and located just off the banks of the Mersey River. Port Sunlight had found its home. However, Port Sunlight was never to be just a factory. Being a great believer in the idea that healthy labourers were more productive he pioneered the concept of employee welfare. Within a couple of years he had built an entire village of 900 homes to house employees from across his business. At a time of vast industrial revolution, where disparities and poverty were vast, Port Sunlight was considered utopian in comparison to average living standards. With a hospital, fire station, manicured gardens, leisure facilities, and schools, workers never needed to leave. In their village, where they both lived and worked, they were guaranteed a decent standard of living and better quality of life.

Port Sunlight Fire brigade
Port Sunlight Fire brigade

The village and original factory site remain almost identical to the time of their construction. Port Sunlight has been declared a Conservation Area since 1978 and has strict upkeep regulations in order to retain the character of the village. Work ethic within Unilever also remains central to Lever’s vision with a high emphasis on employee wellbeing and welfare. Simply walking through the village is a living reminder of Lever’s efforts to build the company we know and love today. If anything it makes me proud to work for a company who is founded on its progressivist thinking whilst staying true to its historical legacy. And to be reminded of that every morning is a pure joy.

 

Port Sunlight village
Port Sunlight village

If Lord Lever were to enter 21st century Port Sunlight, aside from the various mod-cons, I like to think he would be walking into an office not much different than the one he created in the late 1800s. Now that is a legacy to be proud of.

Lever House Exterior: then (R) and now (L)
Lever House Exterior: then (R) and now (L)
Entrance Vestibule: then and now
Entrance Vestibule: then and now
Liam Nutting profile Research & Development

One year into life as a R&D UFLP: Liam…

I graduated from University of Bath with a BSC in Chemistry with Management in 2014 and I am currently a 2nd year R&D UFLP. I enjoy going skiing, watching rugby and I’m quite a foody so I like getting stuck in in the kitchen and trying out new recipes. I am currently in my out of function placement in a Digital role where I am looking at how we can use technology to aid and improve the innovation process, I got onto the UFLP following an R&D industrial placement year (which we’ve now stopped doing) where I worked in the Laundry Liquid category based in Port Sunlight, throughout this placement I was given a great opportunity to not just get stuck into my day to day work but also to see the wider business and it was from this point I knew that Unilever, the work culture and the ways of working was something that matched with me and I was very keen to get onto the UFLP.

My first rotation was a Product development role in Beverages based out of Colworth where I spent a lot of time working on Lipton projects but also had part of a target which was focused on PG tips. I really enjoyed my first role and was impressed with the amount of responsibility I was given from an early stage, this was great as it meant I had to step up early on to ensure my workplan was delivered as I was ultimately accountable. Best tip for the start of any placement but specifically your first role is be prepared that it will all sound like a foreign language early on, what you need to do is keep track of all things that don’t make sense and then use your network to then figure these out. In a matter of weeks that foreign language becomes all too familiar and you will be reeling off all the acronyms as well. I don’t think you ever fully appreciate how much you’ve learnt in any role until you move roles and you switch from an important part of the team to learning a whole new language all over again!

One thing that I believe the UFLP delivers well is a personalised journey where if you are passionate about trying a different role then you can use your network to see if there is a space/opportunity available. I pushed to get my second role in process development in the Hair category in Port Sunlight, the main reason for this was it was completely different, the role, the category and the site. This basically meant that I was definitely going to have a very different placement to my first. I enjoyed this role a lot as it was very hands on and had some good tangible benefits, it also gave me a great insight into the cross-over between R&D and supply chain something that will be very useful to me throughout my career in R&D.

If you are thinking about applying I would recommend looking at the standards of leaderships as a good starting point for structuring responses in interviews and assessments as these are integral to how you will be rated during the process and also make sure you do your research and keep this research updated with things that are happening now not just the history of the business, this may seem a bit like a chore but it works both ways as the more research you do the better you’ll understand your fit to the business and then you will have a greater confidence going into interviews.

 

Ollie Supply chain Business areas

Three months into Supply Chain: Oliver Friston, IP

Hi, my name is Ollie and I’m now almost three months in to my yearlong placement at Unilever, working in supply chain. I’ve spent the last three years studying Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University so this year represents a big change for me – both in terms of my daily routine and the material that I am working on!

I was attracted to Supply Chain as I wanted to see the true global scale of the business and in my role I’ve certainly been able to do that. I work in personal care (shampoo, deodorant, body wash, etc.), looking at the global simplification programmes that we have in place. Unilever is currently making a big push to grow the business, whilst reducing unnecessary complexity from things like low performing lines and different packaging and formulation variants. This is a very exciting project to be part of as I can tell that the work I am doing is used at a very high level within the business and is vital to the future of the company.

Despite being a diehard Southerner and originally being a bit daunted by the prospect of moving so far north, I’m very happy to be based at Port Sunlight and living in Liverpool. The office environment is relaxed, friendly and welcoming and the social life with other employees is extremely active (almost like I’m still a student!).

Last week, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to help out at Unilever’s Supply Chain Leadership Forum. This was a two day event where all the top people in Supply Chain got together to share ideas on the successful future of the business. As a reward for helping coordinate the personal care displays at the event, I got the chance to meet some very influential people within the company and enjoy two nights in the five star hotel where the conference was being held! There were lots of presentations by some really interesting people, not least top sports psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters, who has worked with the likes of British Cycling and Liverpool FC, on how to get the most out of your mind. Check out the extremely cheesy photo of me with one of our displays!

Ollie Supply chain

I wanted to do a year in industry to give me experience of the working world and to help me find out what sort of area I wanted to go in to. I’m so glad that I’m spending the year with Unilever as I could tell right from the start that my values really align with the way that work is done here. I’ve got a lot to do, and I’m looking forward to the remainder of my time here, this year and hopefully further on!

 

jane 2 Business areas

Senior Leader Interview: Carol Bosko, Research Director

We caught up with Carol Bosko, Research Director for R&D at out Port Sunlight site to provide some insight into what a career in R&D at Unilever might entail.

What excites you about science and what made you want to go in to science?

Well I first realised I wanted to become a scientist when I saw the very first example of pH change. I was at a science fair and somebody from a very large pharmaceutical company was demonstrating a simple pH indicator. When the colour changed from blue to green I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I was probably about 5 or 6 years old and it was at that point that science really grabbed my attention.

I think what’s most exciting about science is that you learn something new every day. Your job never gets mundane, never gets boring it never gets too routine because every time you answer one question there are five more questions that it opens up. It is the most intense, exciting and diverse career that one could have.

Were you inspired by any teachers, films or books?

For sure some of my inspiration came from teachers. I remember that in college I had a microbiology teacher who was very phobic about germs so it was always very interesting for me to hear him expound about the dangers of germs and yet those were the things we were studying. He was very inspiring.

 Did you receive any good advice about studying science or entering a scientific career?

I do recall asking teachers about what I should do to enter a career. The best advice I got was to get an advanced degree. That is what inspired me to go on and get a PhD in microbiology.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for how to encourage more females into science subjects?

Well I think if somebody has an inclination for science they’re going to follow their heart so I don’t think people need encouragement to go into science. However one thing I would encourage women not to dismiss is the hard sciences like engineering, physics and mathematics.  Those are very critical and we are certainly under represented as a gender in those sciences. If you are going to go into the sciences remember that you may focus on one discipline like biology like I did-but you can’t forget your physics and your maths. The best science comes from a merging of disciplines and a merging of scientists from different disciplines coming together to look at a problem from more than your own point of view so don’t assume that you can forget your organic chemistry or your calculus.

Why did you chose Unilever?

I grew up in the United States at a time when I knew Unilever’s brands but didn’t know Unilever as a brand or as a company. I first became exposed to Unilever when I was doing my PhD work and I happened to meet somebody who worked at Unilever because they were funding some research in my mentor’s lab. I then began to understand the possibilities of working with Unilever. I understood how good the research was, how good the research facilities were and how many different products it went into and that’s why I chose Unilever.

brands 1

 

What opportunities have you had whilst working for Unilever?

I’ve had so many opportunities whilst working for Unilever. First of all- travel. There is always this opportunity with Unilever as it is a global company. You get to look at consumers in other countries, to work in other countries, to visit other countries and so I do have to say my passport is stamped and it is full because I work for Unilever.  I’ve also had so many other opportunities professionally-to grow and to develop myself. I get to do things that I would never naturally be comfortable with such as doing this interview, standing up in front of people and presenting my work. Unilever is a great place for developing yourself, expanding yourself, and continuing to build your scientific skills as well as your professional and personal skills.

brands 2

If you would like more information about working for Unilever follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

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UnileverU Business & Technology Management (BTM)

Unilever UK & Ireland Locations

One of the questions we get asked most on our Facebook page is “Where will I be based?” and also “Can you guarantee my location?”. This post will hopefully answer all your location questions!

So, where might you be based? The UFLP is a geographically flexible scheme – meaning you move around for placements, making sure you get the best experience possible, working with lots of different teams and in different situations. Each function is slightly different, with different key sites where you’ll be working. You are supported by Unilever to move house each placement move 🙂

Industrial and Summer placements will have one location (usually) for the whole duration – and this will be confirmed when you are assigned a role. We don’t usually guarantee locations for anyone applying to the UFLP or Industrial and Summer Placement schemes.

Business & Technology Management (my function)

In BTM, you’re most likely to be working in:
– St. Davids Park (North Wales) – when working here grads tend to live in Chester or Liverpool. This site is closing and moving to Port Sunlight at the end of 2014, so you’re less likely to work here as more people move over to…
– Port Sunlight (Liverpool-ish) – again, working here people tend to live in Chester or Liverpool.
– Kingston (London) – our newly refurbished services centre, Kingston office is based right in Kingston town centre – trainees tend to live in Clapham or Wimbledon (or anywhere else in London) to work here.
– Those are the 3 most likely sites, but you can also do stints at Blackfriars (100VE), Leatherhead and Colworth. You do an out of function placement, and for that you will be based at a site for the relevant function.

Customer Management (Sales) and Marketing 

Customer Management & Marketing are mostly London-based placements. It’s quite rare that you’d be based at other offices right now. You’re most likely to be in:
– Leatherhead (Surrey) – Our UK Headquarters, where we have an awesome Ben & Jerry’s Bar. Most grads tend to live in Clapham or Wimbledon and commute out.
– Blackfriars (London) – 1 of our 2 Global Headquarters (the other one is in Rotterdam, NL) . Again, most people live in Clapham or Wimbledon, mostly so they don’t have to move house when moving between the two!
You could also be based at our Tigi or Ben & Jerrys HQs, which are also in London.

In Customer Management (Sales), there is also an opportunity to be based in Dublin (Our Irish HQ) for your 2nd Placement.

R&D

Research & Development are mostly based at our Research & Development sites. You’re also likely to do an out-of-function placement in Supply Chain, CD or Marketing, which will most likely be based in Leatherhead or Blackfriars.
– Leeds – We have an R&D site for Deos up in Leeds – most grads tend to live in Leeds itself.
– Colworth (Bedford) – Our Colworth site is where a lot of ice cream and tea is developed – most grads tend to live in Bedford
– Port Sunlight (Liverpool-ish) – Our Liverpool site is where a lot of personal care and home care research goes on. Most grads tend to live in Liverpool or Chester.

Supply Chain

In Supply Chain, you tend to do 4 placements – a planning role and a customer service role – usually both based at Leatherhead (or maybe Leeds), and then a project role and a factory shift management role – these roles could be based across the UK – the factories where you’re most likely to be based are:

– Norwich – The home of Colman’s mustard!
– Gloucester – Where you can taste the most delicious ice cream straight off the production line!
– Seacroft (Leeds) – Where the infamous Lynx is made, along with all of our other aerosols.
– Port Sunlight (Liverpool-ish) – Our Laundry Factories are all based on at Port Sunlight – most grads tend to live in Liverpool or Chester.
You could also be based at Crumlin, Purfleet, Slough, Doncaster, Burton, Trafford Park or Warrington.

Finance & HR

Financial Management and Human Resources Management trainees could be based pretty much at any of our sites! You tend to support different teams to get a breadth of experience. You will usually do at least one placement at Leatherhead or Blackfriars in both Finance and HR, and then you might go to any of our offices (the R&D sites, plus Kingston, Dublin and the TIGI & Ben & Jerrys HQs in London),  or any of our factories (see the supply chain list).

This list hopefully helps you to understand a bit more about where you’re likely to be based when working in the UK & Ireland – it’s not exhaustative unfortunately  but the majority of sites are mentioned above! Many of our schemes offer international placements when you could be based anywhere from Durban to Singapore to Sao Paulo. As a grad, you get used to going where you’re told as you know a really exciting placement is waiting for you there – and usually there will be at least a few other grads placed in the same location.

Let us know if you have any other questions – the best place to ask is on Facebook or Twitter!

Supply Chain

A Quality Time So Far

Hi, my name is Will and I am just over half way through my first placement in supply chain. I have come from a relatively unusual background for supply chain having studied History at university, however, I have not found this to be a disadvantage at all; apart from having to Google how to do the odd thing in excel!

I have been placed in a projects role for my first rotation and I am based near Liverpool at Port Sunlight. I have had an amazing four months in Liverpool with the other grads that are based here. The team have I’ve joined have been really welcoming and extremely helpful, which has made settling in much easier than I thought. I am currently working in Group Quality Excellence as part of the go to market team; this has been a real eye opener for me as I did not know too much about quality before joining.  The basic function of this team is to be the lead for the global design of Unilever quality processes in the ‘go to market area’ (logistics and customer).  Since joining, I have discovered that in the past Quality was often viewed as performing a policing role, however, Quality has since moved towards being proactive, so as to avoid issues arising rather than sorting them out afterwards. Consequently, the projects I am working on are more strategic than operational; this means that most of the work I do will not impact the business immediately but it will add value in the long-term.

My time has been divided across four projects in a variety of different areas of the business, which all require me to perform different roles. For example, I have taken on a PMO (Project Management Office) role for a project called ‘Taint’, which is part of a much larger project that will generate huge savings both in terms of carbon and money. Whilst at the same time in a different project I have been working very closely with logistics to ensure that any alterations that are made do not impact the quality of our products. I have done this through creating a series of documents outlining how trials must be performed and carrying out investigations into failure reports. In addition to this I have also compiled and analysed data on all of the warehouses we use that are not Unilever owned in Europe, to conclude whether these warehouses are compliant with our strict regulations. This project was done in parallel with the quality team over in the Americas, so I had to discuss my analysis with my colleague sat in Brazil; unfortunately I couldn’t quite persuade my manager that a face to face meeting would be beneficial!

The graduate scheme is exceptional in that you are given real responsibility from day one. Another main attraction for me was the fact that Unilever is a truly global company. I have always loved travelling, and working for Unilever will hopefully give me the opportunity to move abroad and work in one of our offices around the world.

mrallwrighty Business & Technology Management (BTM)

Sink or Swim?

mrallwrightyWhen was the last time you were thrown in the deep end? When was the last time you ASKED to be put there?

3 weeks ago, I did – without really noticing it! But if you’re never in deep water, you’ll never learn to swim. My name’s Catherine and I’ve just started on the Business & Technology Management Future Leaders Programme. And I think I can proudly say I’m currently doing doggy paddle – not quite swimming smoothly, but moving in the right direction and learning new things every day!

My first placement is in Application Services, which is a team based up in Port Sunlight, near Liverpool. If you think about all the Apps you have installed on your phone, they all have to be created by someone, and then someone has to look after the service so you can keep using it. In Application Services, we look after those ‘someones’. The applications are slightly more important than things like Angry Birds (As much as you try to convince yourself it’s time well spent!) – we deal with things like our global intranet site and the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)systems around the world.

Looking after the ‘someones’ generally means working very closely with external suppliers – and making sure they’re doing what they’re being paid to do. When I started, one of the three things my team asked me to do in my 6 months on this placement, was to organise a new scorecard for us to monitor the service quality we are receiving from one particular supplier.

So, what was it I asked to do a couple of weeks ago? My line manager had arranged a call with a new supplier that she thought would be perfect to create this new scorecard for. She asked me to come along, as I would be managing the project. On the call I got more and more confused as to why we were going to pay this supplier to run a pilot, when I thought it was something I could do with a little bit of extra training in Excel. After the call, I was umming and ahhing about what to do, because my line manager was just about to sign a purchase order to authorise us paying this supplier. I took the initiative to tell my line manager that I wanted to give the scorecard a shot first and she said I should go ahead.


3 weeks down the line, a lot of time speaking to different people to find all the data to go into the scorecard, as well as quite a few hours in Excel, I have a beautiful mock-up my line manager is impressed with. It’s still a work in progress, and we still might bring the external suppliers in to maintain the scorecard and take it onto the web at a later date, but right now I feel like I’ve saved Unilever quite a bit of money. I’ve had a chance to make a real difference to the company just one month after I started

Give me a couple more weeks and I’m sure I’ll have progressed to a kind of messy front crawl – keep checking the blog for progress!

(Thanks to MrAllWrighty on Flickr for the awesome photo)

Local Internship Programme

My Year at Unilever: Kevin Bartley, R&D IP

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.

Kelvin Bartley

Local Internship Programme

My Year at Unilever: Luke Byrne, R&D IP

What was your project and where were you based?

I was based in Port Sunlight. My time at Unilever consisted of two projects each taking up 50% of my time. Both worked on Deodorant Sticks.

I worked with seven other people to refine a plant scale that could be passed on to the new factory that was being constructed for the new product.

My other project was to research future processes that would be feasible routes for the next generation of stick processing. My project incorporated a new systematic approach to finding a solution to the project aims. It was called the Product Driven Process Synthesis (PDPS) approach. I had liaisons with R&D Vlaardingen in Netherlands, where my project leader was based.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you tackle them?

The biggest challenge was the actual distance involved between my project leader in Vlaardingen and me in Port Sunlight. I worked alone on the project so in times of hardship I had to get myself back on track. I had my line manager available and was able to focus on the overall objectives and move forward in the correct direction.

What did you learn? 

I learnt a lot about Unilever as a company and the vastness of the FMCG industry. I experienced working in a group and working alone, which gave me greater perspective on my overall work.

Did you enjoy it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience working at Unilever. It was great to be a part of something that would eventually end up as a fully formulated product. Furthermore, I met other students during my time in Port Sunlight and we had many social outings outside of the workplace. Before my placement, entering into the Unilever workplace seemed daunting. However, throughout the year the work became increasingly more interesting and surprisingly fun.