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!