Sure deo profile Business areas

My Summer at Unilever: Dan Seeney, R&D SP

About Me

Hi I’m Dan. I’m currently in my last month working in R&D at Unilever’s Seacroft site in Leeds as part of the summer internship scheme. After I finish my placement in September I will be going back to the University of Sheffield to complete a masters in molecular biology.

Unilever Leeds

Leeds is the GDC for Unilever’s deodorant portfolio. One of its most recent high profile inventions has been the development of compressed aerosol technology which has revolutionised aerosols making them more sustainable for the future and drastically cutting wastage and CO2 emissions which is such a crucial part of Unilever’s sustainability plan.

dove compressed deodorant

A positive about working at this site has been the access to the live factory that produces more than half a billion deodorants a year for global brands including Axe, Dove, Rexona, Vaseline, and Impulse. This access allows you to gain first hand appreciation of how the work you do here can impact the production, as well be giving perspective on the scale of the project you are handling.

My Placement

My placement in packaging development exposed me to new projects that are highly confidential and very interesting. As you can imagine packaging development isn’t at all related to my degree which at first was a little daunting, but after getting in to my projects and being brought up to speed I found myself adapting quickly.

I’ve found myself working mostly in the office, but I have also spent time in the labs. This has really suited me because I would like to move in to a managerial role in the future. Working in packaging is also a very diverse environment with a vast array of projects going on all the time which has given me great exposure to the business side of R&D too.

I have been put in control of organising and driving projects which have enabled me to make contacts all over the world. This exposure to international businessmen/businesswomen from a variety of disciplines has enabled me to grow a more global view of the business and has forced me to adapt the way I engage with people in order to ensure that information is transferred effectively and a common outlook is retained.

Thoughts on the placement

One thing I am amazed at is the level of detail that the company goes to in order to ensure linearity across their suppliers worldwide. The team is constantly travelling to suppliers to ensure they are keeping within the acceptable ranges expected by Unilever. Further to this I also never appreciated how much effort is put in to develop packaging, and how much goes on to drive sustainability that consumers would probably never realise.

Something I have really enjoyed during my placement is the level of responsibility given to me from day one. Within the first few days of starting I was given tasks to complete for a major project within the team. I then got the chance to present my findings to senior stakeholders, which was a great experience to have so early in my placement. As the placement goes on the work level increase as does the level of responsibility, which is a real test as you are always learning new skills rather than on some other placements where you can find yourself shadowing people a lot.

The timing of my placement here was very fortunate with the first few weeks being very busy with the ‘R&D summer event’ where everyone from the site came together to celebrate a successful year. Further to this I was lucky enough to be here for the visit of Alan Jope (President of Unilever’s Personal Care), David Blanchard (Chief R&D Officer), Santiago Iturralde (SVP Deodorants), who gave a great Q&A session, it was interesting to learn about their careers and their opinions on the future of Unilever and was a great way to start the placement. Further to this I’ve also been lucky enough to talk with Alan Palmer (Global Vice President R&D, Deodorants) and former UFLP graduates (some who are now managers) within the company and getting some very valuable advice on careers in Unilever. Being able to network with people in these positions from very early on has given me great insight in to what I can expect from a career in Unilever as well as how to get the most out of it and reach my goals.

Top Tip

My top tips for working at Unilever would definitely be to meet as many people as possible from the start. Throw yourself in to your projects and make as many new contacts as possible. If you can get involved with training, or other projects that aren’t directly related to your goals then do because it gives you a more rounded view of what goes on in R&D. Further to this, don’t shy away from any responsibility, I remember on my first day my line manager told me to ‘fill my boots’ and I have tried my best to do just that, throwing myself in wherever possible.

The best tip though, is to simply enjoy it. Everyone here is really welcoming and friendly and is a testament to the recruitment process that everyone fits in to the team so well. It’s coming to the end of my placement now and I don’t want it to end, I feel settled in to the team and enjoying my work. It will be a huge shame to not see some of the long term projects through.

My Favourite thing about Unilever

My favourite thing about Unilever has to be the social atmosphere. The relaxed nature of the company has allowed me to feel relaxed and able to thrive in this fairly different environment. I have found the sociable nature of my colleagues really helpful as I know that if I require any help then everyone is available and more than happy to help, or point me in the direction of someone else who could help.

Closing Remarks

I hope to apply to the graduate scheme after my placement and take advantage of the fast track on to the UFLP which is a very attractive prospect for me. I look forward to the selection process again as I thoroughly enjoyed the experience last time, and hopefully this placement won’t be the last time I work within Unilever.

I recommend this placement to everybody. Unilever is well deserving in its rank as one of the best graduate employers and you will be able to tell from day one that their goal is to not only test you, but to improve you as well. I didn’t know the FMCG industry particularly well before I joined, I now see it as a potential long term career path.

Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck with your applications and potential career in Unilever.

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.

Read more “Senior Leader Interview: Carol Bosko, Research Director”

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.

Supply Chain

My Final Blog

Hi again,

The project is getting underway and I’m starting to see how it’s going to look at the end, and I’m starting to really see that others on the team & the business are relying on me delivering on time.  It’s usually around this time that you start to really understand & deliver on the tasks that you’re set in the beginning.

Out of all the functions in Supply Chain, Quality has the most links with the other Unilever functions, such as Marketing, R&D, Customer Development, Procurement, and I am able to see where all the links are.  Quality is a small function within Unilever, but is greatly intertwined, which makes it a lot different from having a standard set role within supply chain (such as planning).  Quality is a good career if you like to act in an advisory role, bringing solutions, standards and improvements to the other functions.

It has been both interesting & challenging to communicate with & engage those from the other functions in my project, but great for developing my understanding of the business, and for introducing myself to people in various roles in case they can help me or I can help them in the future.  I always thought ‘Networking’ was a silly / cheesy concept in business, but I have found that it’s incredibly important & actually makes your life so much easier when you’re trying to do a project like this!  It’s a bit like having a load of Facebook friends – be honest, half of them you never / rarely talk to – it’s good to have them there in case you need something from them or they from you (sorry, I like to – need to – put things in simple terms!)

I can’t believe we’re also starting to plan the introduction to our next group of graduates (in all functions) – doesn’t seem that long ago that we had ours!

The time has just flown by and seeing last year’s Unilever graduates looking into their careers has made me start to think about where I want to end up after the next 1 year and 3 months.  We’re encouraged to look internally at job postings, but also to ask around & see what’s available that way (where networking comes in handy?), and our contact manager (the person who monitors us throughout the scheme) also helps out a lot with the careers & development process. If you meet your goals and perform well on the scheme, then you’ll move into a management role – which is always good to keep in mind!

Well this is the final blog from me, I hope it’s explained supply chain & the Unilever Future Leaders Programme better for you!  If you are interested in joining us, good luck with your application!


Supply Chain

A Little More Insight

Hi folks,

First off, a massive apology for not blogging more since my last post.  It’s a sign that my current project has hit a critical stage, so I’m either travelling, in meetings, or sleeping.  It’s stretching but massive fun.

I realise that so far I haven’t told you much about my project, and partly that’s because it’s fairly sensitive.  What I can tell you is that I’m responsible for taking plans for a whole new logistics system for the flow of materials and products around Europe and making them an operating reality.  Unilever has never worked in this way, so we’ve been able to design this system from nothing – an opportunity that isn’t common enough in Unilever.

Whilst it’s true that this project has opportunity to save Unilever a significant amount of money, that saving is only part of the big picture.  This project also has potential to improve the flow of material into our factories, reducing the amount of lost time on production lines due to missing materials.  And most important, it has the potential to reduce transport related carbon output by 35%.  It’s these three things: cost saving, customer service improvement, and carbon reduction (known in Logistics as the 3 C’s) that make this project one of the supply chain’s key projects for this year.

This project also goes to show the cynics wrong.  Some say logistics is just “trucks and sheds”.  However, this project has impacts on our planning departments, our procurement departments, our IT systems, our Quality teams, our suppliers and our factories.  So I have to work with a real breadth of different people spread all across Europe.

So – a bit of pressure to deliver this project then, and considering I’m working from the Unilever Supply Chain Company in Switzerland where the majority of our directors and vice presidents work, there’s also a lot of people watching how well this project goes.  Am I worried about that exposure?  A little, but I also know I’ve got a great background to pull this off, thanks to the things I’ve done since starting on the Unilever Future Leaders Programme.

My previous placements have all been operational (see Kate’s post about the difference between projects and operational roles – here) which means it’s been a huge adjustment in way of working for me to join a project team.  But considering my project is to make something operational, I’ve got exactly the background the team needed, and the breadth of different roles I’ve done in the last 2 years means I can relate well with all the different people I’m working with.

Did I imagine I’d be doing this three years ago when I applied?  No way.  Am I glad I’ve got this opportunity?  Definitely! And that’s why I feel pretty lucky to be a part of the UFLP family.  If you reckon you’d enjoy this journey, then I’d encourage you to apply.

Supply Chain

Qualifications, Quality and Converse shoes.

Me again!

One of the nice things about this scheme is that we’re encouraged to gain qualifications and train up professionally.  Unilever as a whole, not just the scheme, puts a strong emphasis on training & professional development.  You’re assigned various learning courses as part of your career, but you can also pursue areas of interest / elective courses if they’re relevant to your current role or potential future role.

The current area that I am working in is skills and learning in the Unilever Quality community.  Before I was placed here, I didn’t really have a clue what ‘Quality teams’ were or did… (maybe you could comment on this blog about what you think quality means?)  Now, due to working with & developing actual quality training courses, meeting with various quality professionals inside the factories and in offices and seeing the curriculum for each quality professional being revised currently, I have a good insight into what Quality means for Unilever.

You also could help me a little by describing what your favourite, high Quality brand / product is and why? (Doesn’t have to be Unilever of course!)  One of the things I like to do with training is start by getting people to think about quality / their favourite products / setting the scene.

Here would be my example; I love Converse Allstars, because even though you pay slightly more they last longer, look good yet are comfortable, you can find them in every trainer shop or all over the internet, there are loads of colours to choose from and I like the brand labels on the ankle and back of the shoe – they make me feel happy because I remember buying my first pair!  Plus, you can wear them all the time – shopping, going out..etc.. except maybe an interview or a wedding!

One of the things I’ve learned has been the impact on product Quality from all the various functions / areas of the business – not just the factories.  I am able to piece together more effectively the way each function works alongside quality teams & what exactly they all do… very useful to know in a business of this size!  Plus, It’s great to be involved in creating training for quality professionals, as I get to be creative with a real deliverable at the end!