“Reach for the job you don’t think is possible,” alumna and chemist Emily Lindstrom ’06, said in a talk to students Tuesday.
The American Chemical Society and the chemistry department hosted a seminar with Lindstrom titled “My Chemistry Career: From Sewage Testing to Globe Trotting.” In the talk, Lindstrom detailed her journey from college into the workforce, which began with a job doing analysis in a lab.
“My first job was at a small environmental lab where we did environmental testing,” Lindstrom said. “The Environmental Protection Agency has regulations on the amount of pollutants you can have in industrial waste, and they have to remain below a certain level of pollutants or they will have increased fines to pay. Nobody wants that. Enter the environmental lab.”
While Lindstrom noted this was not her end career goal, it was a place to start building workplace experience.
“Don’t expect your first job to be ideal,” Lindstrom told students in attendance. “Sometimes you may need a bit of experience at a very entry level job before you can snatch something that’s worthwhile and something that you really want.”
She said finding her first job was partly due to attending Hillsdale College.
“The place where I got my first job said that a lot of times if they hired someone from a large university they didn’t seem to know their stuff as well,” she said. “So they were very glad to hire someone from a smaller college like Hillsdale.”
Lindstrom then applied to Ciba Speciality Chemicals, where she would end up working as a quality control technician for more than four years. The company manufactures materials used in the water and paper industry, making batches of products 50,000 pounds at a time. Lindstrom’s job was to monitor those batches and ensure they were made correctly.
In her interview to get the job, Lindstrom said they asked about who she was as a person, and that being open about her personal life in the interview was critical.
“I said that I liked playing Dance Dance Revolution on the Xbox, and they actually brought that up to me years later,” Lindstrom said. “They liked that I showed my personality and that I showed I was a little goofy. So don’t be afraid to show your personality in the interview.”
Lindstorm went on to work as a product and applications chemist, where she was head of one of the largest projects in her career to date.
“One of my proudest accomplishments of my whole career was when I moved a lab across the country from Virginia to Houston,” Lindstrom said. “I was the only one in the business elected to move to Houston, so it was up to me to coordinate moving the lab across the country. It was very successful and I ended up running the lab in Houston by myself. So don’t be afraid to take risks.”
Lindstrom moved on to be a technical specialist and then a global quality manager. As a quality manager she oversaw six labs worldwide.
“In the short time I was in this position I was able to visit half of them, so more global travel for me,” Lindstrom said. “If you work hard, and you prove yourself, and you get in with the right company you might surprise yourself with how far you can go.”
Junior and biochemistry major Katie Ingham said she learned a lot from the talk.
“I found it very inspiring that she was able to find admirable positions of work without a Ph.D. or medical degree, which I think sometimes seems required when you are a chemistry or biochemistry major,” Ingham said. “Her jobs all seem interesting to me, which gave me hope for my future career in science. I also love how flexible she was as she aged by reevaluating what kind of job she wanted and then going after that position. That was very inspiring and admirable to me.”
Chairwoman of Chemistry Courtney Meyet said she was excited to have Lindstrom speak.
“We have worked on getting speakers that have a wide variety of experience,” Meyet said. “A common question students have is how they will get into the industry after getting a degree. It was really interesting to see Emily’s transition from college to the industry.”
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kelli Kazmier echoed these sentiments.
“We offer this seminar course to try to prepare students for exploring careers in biochemistry and chemistry, and to get students to start thinking about building professional skills they will need to be successful,” Kazmier said. “Emily offered perspectives that will be critical to students as they move into the next stage.”