Aug 18 2012
My name is Nesli Kohen. I graduated from the chemical engineering program at Northwestern in 2008, and since then I have been working in various departments at Unilever. Unilever is a worldwide consumer goods company with 400 brands in 14 different categories from personal care products to spreads and dressings.
My first position within the company was in Research and Development (R&D) for household care/cleaning products. Within 4 years I worked with 6 different brands—including Breyers, Lipton, Slim Fast, Cif and Domestos - in 3 different positions, and in 2 different locations, Turkey and New York. Working at an international company gives you the opportunity to explore and experiment with different functions to find out what you really enjoy and excel in it anywhere in the world.
Currently I am in supply management for innovation projects for the Refreshments category. That includes the ice-cream, tea, and weight management businesses. My responsibilities include delivering new projects for purchasing in a timely way, managing the link between suppliers and the company, and making sure to follow environmentally-friendly standards while choosing a supplier or a raw material. Unilever partners with its suppliers to learn about the market trends, new technologies and new products. This
My typical day consists of meeting with a number of people and getting updates on the existing projects. I meet with current and new suppliers, marketing colleagues, R&D technologists, production planners and others who take part in the decision process for a new product. At an early stage in a project my R&D partner develops a formula and shares it with me. I look at each and every material and pick a supplier according to our company’s long term strategies and the supplier’s capabilities. My planning colleague gives me the amounts of supplies we will need, and I provide that information to my suppliers to get them ready for production. I meet with my marketing partners to learn about the dates, scope, and details of the project every week to make sure I do not miss any important factors. Toward the launch time I work with the planning division and my suppliers to manage ramp-up of materials at the factory level.
The best part of my job is to be able to learn about the new products that will be in the market 2 years from now and taste them. We have bi-monthly tastings of the new ice cream flavors, tea varieties, and weight management products; and we get to decide on the flavors, colors, and many other things. Although I have moved away from the actual design of the formulas - after my 2 years of experience in the R&D lab - I am still very much involved in the process of getting new products to market. I can use my engineering background to understand the composition of the formulas and the challenges faced by the R&D team. I have a better understanding of the benefits of certain raw materials when suppliers talk about new products or new technologies. And since I am managing many different people with different objectives, I find that all those hours I spent in school working on team projects definitely help me in my current job.