Working as an engineer was very different from what Adil expected as a student, but he's been happily surprised by the variety and opportunities that come from working within R&D.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
Unilever’s deodorants R&D centre in Leeds.
What's your job title?
Global technical project leader.
What path did you take to end up here?
I studied A levels in physics, chemistry and mathematics, as well as AS levels in IT and further mathematics. I then studied at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. Due to the Tripos system, I started studying physical natural sciences and then moved to chemical engineering from my second year onwards. The skills, principles and techniques that I learnt during my degree have helped me to understand and contribute to the technical discussions within the innovation projects that I lead.
After graduating I applied to Unilever’s Future Leaders Programme, in the research and development area. I deferred my start date so I could take some time off to travel around the world, and I have been at Unilever ever since then in a variety of roles.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
Focusing on global Dove deodorants, just one of the range of deodorants we produce, I work within a multi-disciplinary team which contains marketing, finance and several technical disciplines to launch new innovative global deodorant products. I’m ultimately responsible for all of the technical activities within an innovation project.
My job can vary from desk-based work, to watching consumers talk about our products, or travelling abroad to attend project workshops and factory trials for new products.
In terms of what my role is like day-to-day, it really depends on the day: normally it involves some desk-based work, teleconferencing with colleagues around the world, meetings with projects teams and trips to the lab to see how the new prototypes are progressing.
What's the best thing about the job?
The best thing about the job is working in a global company where I get to work with many colleagues from around the world and I also get to learn about consumers from around the world.
And the worst?
Tough question! The worst thing about the job is that there are so many interesting things that you can be involved in (from projects to strategic areas) and it’s hard to have to say no to trying to get it all done!
What stand-out things have you got involved in during your time at Unilever?
I was involved in supporting the company with graduate recruitment several years ago by visiting universities and talking with students in terms of what to do after their engineering degrees. I’ve also been involved in re-designing the packaging for a multi-million Euro brand in Asia.
Was working life what you expected?
It’s not what I expected; during my degree I expected that I would be working in a factory on machinery somewhere or doing engineering design. The variety of my role is refreshing and the fact that there are many doors open to me in my future career is better than I had expected.
The number of soft skills such as presenting, team working, leadership, communication is a lot more than I had initially envisaged. I also had to learn a lot about how businesses run in order to ensure that I understand the impact of my role on the bigger picture.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
My advice would be to find out as much as possible about career paths you might like to take, so that you have a good understanding, and glean as much as you can from your studies as a good knowledge foundation comes in helpful when putting theory into practice.