What are your responsibilities as an applications manager?
I provide technical support to our customers throughout the UK and the rest of the world. A huge part of this is developing and providing guide formulations as well as explaining to the customer how to use our products. These customer relationships drive what we do.
Can you give us some idea of a typical day?
I work with the customer right from the start and then throughout the process. This normally begins with a technical enquiry and then we provide the customer with chemical samples. I will then brief the sales team and then try to help the client develop their product. It’s important that I understand the application or problem they might be having and identify the best use of raw materials. This can involve travel and might require me visiting and working with customers from Scandinavia to the Middle East to Asia. I need to be able talk in the customer’s language. In other words, I not only need to know our raw materials but also the customer’s. The development of the guide formulation is very important. Ultimately, I will be there to support the customer throughout their product development.
When did you become interested in chemistry and how has it defined your work?
It’s not a surprise that chemistry was of course my favourite subject at school so it began at a young age. While I have a master’s degree in paints and coatings and over 15 years’ experience working in paints, coatings and formulations, it’s the technical experience and knowledge which has given me the upper hand. This technical ability enables me to explain to the customer how to best use Incorez products within their formulation. Of course, the learning never stops!
What are some of your biggest challenges as an applications manager?
Our custom chemistry approach is about building relationships with our customers. We ask many questions to move a project forward and this can take time. For us to be able to help our customers we need them to provide us with as much information about their product as possible. If they have a problem and they don’t want to share with us important information, then we cannot help them. Ultimately, the role of the applications manager is about being a diplomat and a conduit between research and development, and sales. Certain markets and cultural differences can be challenging. We must also be an internal critic to ensure we create the best formulation. We have to think like a customer and make sure we have trialled the formulation before going back to the customer. If it’s not right, then we will change it accordingly. There is a wonderful feeling you get when our advice has worked for the customer.
What developments in the chemicals industry are you most excited about?
I’m really excited about the development of super hydrophobic coatings which are a potential game-changer across many industries, particularly construction, automotive and aerospace. It’s essentially the creation of a coating which offers super water repellency. You could put your shoe in mud and it won’t stick for example. It’s taking inspiration from the lotus leaf which is one of nature’s most water-repellent surfaces. It has huge potential for exterior wall paints and the waterproofing of buildings in general.