What do you do?
I'm a research strategist & dot connector within the Research & Innovation division of L'Oreal. I'm part of a brilliantly diverse cross-functional team that builds & frames product evaluation strategies for hair category innovations. Our collective aspiration is to bring beautiful hair days to consumers across the world (in all environments, contexts & markets). It's a fulfilling mission to understand consumer challenges and translate into opportunities via product innovation. There's an entire ecosystem & life cycle of a product before it hits the shelves, especially on the performance front. Is it truly disruptive? Does it bring a superior consumer experience? Is the product coherent, in terms of packaging, texture, fragrance & other sensorial levers? Is it a best in class (performance edge vs. market) or first in class (novelty)? It's a small but revealing sampling of the questions that fuel my day to day life at L'Oreal.
Why did you choose this field?
My calling is somewhere in the middle of a Venn Diagram of arts, science and human connection. In my undergraduate days at Rutgers, I initially declared as a STEM major (i.e., biochemistry). I love the intellectual environment that's inherent in STEM: scientific approach, analytical rigor, discipline & investigation. I was specifically enrolled at Douglass, the women's college of the broader Rutgers University. I had frequent exposure & coursework in women's & gender studies + by junior year, knew that I wanted to pursue further and more 'officially.' I decided to double major in biochemistry & women's and gender studies. BEST DECISION EVER, friends. It was the meeting of two worlds I always thought you had to separate: STEM vs. liberal arts! I realized that I had deep interest & career aspirations at the convergence of these two arenas: systems thinking, gut instincts, observation & empathy to understand human systems (i.e., organizations, cultures). Fast forward a few years, and I interviewed at L'Oreal, where I felt an instant connection & mutual value for the 'artist' & 'scientist' under one roof, proverbially speaking. It's been an amazing journey in the consumer product goods (CPG) arena, given the pace, dynamic nature of the market & compass for consumer & human-centric innovation. And an inspiration for me looking back, that there are so many applications & interdisciplinary fields out there! You need only to explore & immerse yourself in different subjects & environments to find your niche.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I'm infinitely inspired by Alice Walker. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” This musing is especially profound for me. I would encourage my younger self to be an intentional explorer. So many of my career a-ha moments hinged on “I didn't know I could do that,” or “I didn't realize that was an option.” And while I've had a rewarding career trajectory (thanks to amazing mentors, guides & opportunities), I stumbled upon a few ladder climbs and lightbulbs, vs. deliberate intent. As I navigate the next and future professional chapters, I'm conscious of this & working to be more intentional in my career movements. We build plans & vision boards for projects + so many different things, why not intentionally design our lives?
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love STEM because we're always chasing the 'why' in our respective arenas. No matter the field, the application or industry, there's an unwavering dedication & internal compass to understand root cause, why things happen, work (or don't work) & leveraging human + technical competencies to get there. It's an incredibly rewarding arena & equally challenging! No two days are the same in STEM. We constantly learn, adapt, re-learn & absorb new information + truths (especially in the competitive beauty market where consumers are constantly evolving) & adjust our sails accordingly. For me, the human aspect of innovation is especially gratifying. When folks are looking / feeling / expressing their best & authentic selves, they go out into the world assured, confident & ready to tackle challenges. And here at L'Oreal, there's a deeply inclusive vision of 'beauty for all' -- to be connected to this mission is inspiring & keeps me coming back day after day.
Best advice for next generation?
To the next brilliant generation of girls in STEM, keep exploring! Invest in experiences that expand and nourish your curiosity. Wander an art museum, discover new music & immerse in new cultures! Yes, I do believe that non-linear roads help us become great & dynamic scientists :-)All are great ways to find your diverging interests! This helps you find & connect dots + enrich your STEM experience. And know that STEM is constantly evolving, so if you have an interest & don't see an explicit space for it, carve it out for yourself. You've got this!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
In a gentle way, you can shake the world. (Mahatma Gandhi)