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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.