Friday, February 12, 2010

I want your job! Senior Chemist at L'Oreal USA

I'm so excited to share with you an interview with one of my best buds, Barbara Mitchell. Barbara is a senior chemist at L'Oreal USA, where she does research and development for brands such as Kiehl's , Garnier , Skinceuticals , Redken , and Maybelline . Not only is Barbara a talented chemist, but she's such a sweet gal pal too (who let's me raid her beauty cabinet for gratis products every time I visit). She's so good at what she does, that she's been chosen for an exchange program at L'Oreal Paris, which will send her to Paris, France to work for six months starting this March. Isn't that fabulous!? I'm so proud of Barbara and very happy to share her story with you.

NM: What is your position at L'Oreal and when did you start there?

BM: I was recently promoted to senior chemist. I have been at the company almost 5 years.

NM:What is your role as a senior chemist?

BM: Everyday is different for me. I formulate skin care products and I do everything on a product from the time that marketing conceives the product until the product is on the shelf. My job is to make sure that the products that are launched are safe and stable, so if you leave it in your car overnight in the cold, it won't freeze, or if you leave it in the sun it won't melt, or wont change color over time or anything like that.

NM:How did you become interested in making beauty products and working at L'Oreal?

BM:I have been in love with cosmetics ever since I can remember. When I was in college one of my professors recommended this field to me. I didn't even know this field existed until someone told me about it. I got really lucky when I got this job. I just applied online through the L'Oreal website. It seems as though I applied to a million jobs online, but this was the only one that called me back, so I feel like it was really meant for me to be here.

NM:What would you recommend to someone who is interested in doing what you do?

BM:In college, you definitely have to be a science major to be in research and development. Any science major will do- we have engineering majors, biology majors, all science majors. If you want to be in this particular industry, or any field that I guess is not "traditional," you have to think outside the box and look for something that you like. After studying science in college, everyone told me I had to a doctor or a dentist. I didn't want to follow those career paths. Start talking to people about what the things you like and are interested in and someone may have a suggestion for you.

NM:Students always ask me about salaries in the fashion and beauty industries. Can you share how much you made starting out as an associate chemist?

BM: When I first started here, I made $50,000. That's the average for an entry-level chemist position.

NM: Why do you feel as though you've had such success in your role as a chemist? It's almost unheard of for someone as young as you are to already have become a senior chemist.

BM: If you want to get promoted, you have to motivate yourself to do the job you want to have. Someone is not going to promote you just by assuming you may be able to do the job. You have to show them in advance that you can absolutely do the job. Start to take on more work. Take on more projects. Mentor. I mentor and train new chemists in my office. You really have to take the initiative to go above and beyond your current job responsibilities are.

NM: What's the craziest thing that has happened to you at your job?

BM:I almost set the lab on fire! My first year there, not too long after I started, I put a plastic clipboard on my hot plate by accident. I was so embarrassed, like "Oh my God, how could I do this!" The whole lab was smoky. You know how plastic smells when it burns? The whole lab smelled like burned plastic. It was horrible. Everyone was going around asking," Who's burning something?" But at my job, everyone has an experience like that. It's like a rite of passage.

NM: What is the best part about your career?

BM:Can I say the free products?! Seriously, the free products are definitely a plus. Aside from that my favorite part of this job is to know that I had a hand in making people feel beautiful and feel their best. I feel really good when I see things in the store that I've worked on and helped created. When I see our products in Allure magazine, I'll say, "hey, I did that!" It feels good to know that I'm helping make a difference in people's lives.

NM: How were you chosen for the exchange program in Paris?

BM:I put international travel in my yearly goals, and when an opportunity came up, they picked me to go. It's an exchange program so someone from L'Oreal Paris will come to L'Oreal USA to work on my projects. In Paris, I will be doing the same kind of work that I do here.

NM: Are you nervous about the language?

BM:Yes, definitely, because my French is a little shabby. I am currently taking French lessons and I have a private tutor from now until I leave. Hopefully that will give me the basics that I need for day-to-day. In the office, they will speak English for the most part.

NM: What is the one piece of career advice that is most essential in your industry?
BM: Networking is very, very important. It's very real when people say," it's not what you know, but who you know." I didn't realize the importance of networking until I started this job. Talk to coworkers. Talk to upper management. I'm not afraid to talk to the AVP (assistant vice president) or people who are in higher positions than I am. You never know how someone can help you.

NM: Any last words you'd like to share with someone who is trying to chose a career in beauty?

BM: You have to do something you love. Money isn't everything. Money alone will not make you happy.I couldn't imagine getting up everyday and going somewhere where I didn't have fun or I didn't like. It is possible to make a career out of something you love. I used to love to play in my mother's lipstick. And now I love making it!

If you're interested in a career like Barbara's, shoot her an email at and she'll be happy to connect with you. Make sure to mention you read about her on Glam Gigs too! We'll also be asking Barbara to review the resumes of 3 readers interested in cosmetic science. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview and great site! I know that Barbara and I are from the same city. Interviews like these are great for young women who are transitioning or who are unsure of their career paths.