What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name is Daniel Fioretti and I work as a research and development chemist for Dulux. I attained a Bachelor of Science degree (with a major in Chemistry) from the University of Melbourne in 2011.
Where did you grow up? Can you tell us about any important stages of your life in regards to education and work history?
I grew up in the leafy green north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and was always interested in how things work. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do for a career so I made sure to choose VCE subjects that would enable me to apply for the majority of science and engineering degrees on offer. I didn’t quite score high enough to be offered my first preference and although it was disappointing at the time, I was also determined to make the best of the offer I did receive.
I’ve worked in a number of fields before my current role in the coatings industry. My very first job was as a cleaner in a local butcher’s shop. The flexible working hours allowed me to focus on VCE and served me well into my university years too. I also picked up experience tutoring several students in mathematics during high school. While in university, I participated in an eight-week summer studentship program attached to one of the research groups in the School of Chemistry. During this studentship, I made a really good impression on one of the postdoctoral researchers in the group and I was subsequently offered a role as a research assistant, which lasted almost two years.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
Towards the end of my research assistant stint, I received an email that was circulated throughout the School of Chemistry. Dulux was looking for chemists and I responded by submitting an expression of interest. I successfully navigated the hiring process along with around nine other applicants and later found out that we had made the cut from over 400 original applicants.
Although my role and responsibilities have changed several times, I have worked for Dulux for four years now. Initially, I was investigating novel paint manufacturing methods in advance of our new production facilities coming online. I then transitioned into a product focused role in which I had the opportunity to work on the re-launch of Dulux’s flagship interior paint range: Wash&Wear. For the past year, however, I have really found my niche in the organisation. I am currently working on the technologies that underpin our paint formulations as well as trying to push the boundaries of what our coatings can do and identifying new opportunities to exhibit this functionality.
What does your employer do?
Dulux is the leading paint company in Australia. However, many people are unaware that the DuluxGroup (which Dulux is a major part of) also includes other well-known companies such as Selleys, Cabots and Yates. The combination of coatings, construction compounds and gardening with other products (eg B&D garage doors and Lincoln Sentry cabinetry) allow consumers to improve their home or office and encourage them to “imagine a better place.”
What are your areas of responsibility?
My main responsibilities are conducting research to investigate the technologies currently available and trying to make them work in the context of coatings. I am also a safety representative and have recently embarked on managing a team of some 20 people to implement the 5S organisational methodology throughout our building. Another responsibility has been organising and running brainstorming sessions around delivering new products and services to market.
Can you describe a typical work day?
The first thing I do is check my business emails and plan out my day to work around any meetings that have been organised with colleagues, suppliers or external stakeholders. I will often be involved in making up several paints in the lab and then commence testing in the afternoon. Aside from some general admin tasks I record my results and redesign my paint formulas for the next day to address any shortcomings that may be present.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills that would be beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
The majority of people who work in the labs here have degrees in either formulation science or chemistry. While there are many people here who do have postgraduate qualifications as well, I wouldn’t say it is essential.
Interpersonal skills are vital to any position in which you are working with others. Having the best grades and references possible isn’t worth all that much if you can’t sell yourself well to the real people on the other side of the interview. Another area that is important is creativity. The ability to consider something from a different perspective might enable you to find a better solution to your next challenge.
I cannot stress highly enough the importance of having work experience. My experience when job hunting was that for every job that mentioned the importance of an honours or master’s degree, there were ten jobs that required a minimum of two to three years’ experience.
The type of people who succeed are the ones who have a good personal brand. Your personal brand is influenced by everything you do while at work: the quality of work you produce, the timeliness in which you deliver it, being a team player, your attitude, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and being a cultural fit within the organisation.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
The thing I love the most is exploring brand new ideas and doing things completely differently to how they’ve been tried before. Running brainstorming sessions with my colleagues is a great way to be exposed to and share left-field concepts and then refine them into interesting, yet workable ideas.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Is your job physically demanding?
Perhaps the biggest challenge of my current role is the number of tasks that have to be juggled simultaneously. This is made easier by effective planning and time management.
People both inside and outside of my team depend on me to carry out certain tasks and it will reflect badly on me to “drop the ball”. However, I prioritise my tasks according to importance and if more is expected of me than can be realistically achieved, I make sure to get the assistance I need from within the organisation.
It’s very rare that I’ll take work home, but occasionally it is required during exceptionally busy periods.
My job can be physically demanding at times. Paint isn’t exactly light and making larger batches can require considerable lifting and/or carrying of raw materials and the final product.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
The thing I always enjoyed about chemistry is the breadth of industries that are involved. Even if I wasn’t involved in coatings, there are opportunities in mining, food science, materials, adhesives, cosmetics, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and many others.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?