'I want to constantly try new things, challenge myself, and be as successful as I can...'
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
Master of Science in Chemistry
Global R&D Project Manager – Decorative Paints, AkzoNobel, UK
Working in an exciting role for a large global company means Katy has many opportunities to develop her career and to try new things.
‘I get to travel, meet new people, and learn about the wants and needs of different countries through direct interaction with our customers or from a regulatory perspective,’ she says.
Her current position is at the UK division of the paints firm AkzoNobel, which is known for brands such as Dulux and Hammerite paints. Katy works with teams from all over the world to develop new paint products for different markets and she thanks her chemistry degrees for helping her get this job.
‘I work extensively with our research teams to develop our own special technologies, such as resins or latex, to add to our paints to make them unique and protected through patents.
‘Although I don’t use chemistry directly in my job, understanding the chemistry in paint is crucial when we consider interactions if things go wrong in formulating, when we solve problems or when we want to introduce new raw materials and so on. What I learned at university was not paint chemistry, but it means that I understand the information that we get from our analytical lab as well as from suppliers or from our own research teams. Without having had any kind of chemistry background, I would not have been given the job and I would struggle to understand a lot of the processes, lab work and outcomes that we get in our development programmes.’
Other aspects of Katy’s varied role include project managing the delivery of new or upgraded products to international marketplaces, leading her team of project managers and scientists and managing their career development, and working with suppliers of raw materials.
Katy has previously worked as a Formulation Chemist at Unilever’s Global Design Centre for its deodorants, and as an Analyst at Reckitt Benckiser in its Lemsip team. She takes a philosophical approach when it comes to where her career will lead.
‘I don't have a specific career goal. I want to constantly try new things, challenge myself, and be as successful as I can be – without it taking over my life. I didn't wake up and imagine I would work so closely with deodorants or paints! These things just happen and you make the most of them.’
When she was considering her university options, Katy was keen to move away from her home town of Wellington and try somewhere new. She was also thinking about studying engineering or astrophysics so she chose UC because it offered all three subjects, and ‘was known for being a strong university for science’.
‘I really enjoyed my time at Canterbury,’ she says. ‘I met some great people who I am still close friends with now. I had some great teachers who showed so much enthusiasm for their work and I had the opportunity to enjoy five years in Christchurch.’
Katy’s advice to others is to study what you enjoy because being educated to degree level will, in itself, help with future options.
‘The experience and discipline that you learn from completing a university degree is so important. The people skills that you learn can also contribute a lot to your overall success when you start working.’