Ever wanted to be a scientist, creating interesting concoctions for people? A real food scientist shares her experience with us.
From her high school days, Enid was well aware that her strengths at school were in biology and chemistry, but not mathematics and physics. She also knew she wanted a job with more real-life application than theory.
“The key is knowing yourself,” she said. “I knew my strengths and what I liked, so when my university offered a challenging accelerated 5-year Bachelor’s and Master’s program in Food Science, which comprises a lot of chemistry and biology, I went for it.”
After graduating from food science, Enid decided to pursue the branch of product development, as opposed to the alternative of quality assurance, as she knew she liked the variation and diversity in tasks it offered, as opposed to the structured routines when working in quality.
“What I didn’t expect though, was to end up in one of the most fun categories of product development, which is liquid development in alcohol,” she said.
“It happened after I graduated and returned to Hong Kong. I got a call from a headhunter about an opportunity to work in the UK in Diageo, a huge company in the alcohol industry. They were looking for someone to set up operations in Hong Kong and create drinks from scratch.
“I was very, very young with barely any experience. But my lack of experience didn’t matter as I would be shipped to the UK for two years when I start the job, to learn the trade from the ground up.”
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Liquid Development: Where Creativity Meets Science
Enid loves that each day of her job as the Head of Liquid Innovation, is different and exciting, since most of her work is project based. After reviewing the brief in terms of what is required for each project, she and her team spend time in the lab trying different methods to develop the liquid.
Creating a liquid flavor profile that will delight consumers requires creativity just like a chef cooking with different ingredients, but it doesn’t stop there. “All the different elements of the liquid such as the appearance, smell, texture and the mouthfeel should deliver what the concept said it would,” shares Enid. “It’s where creativity meets science.”
She also has to consider how consumers would actually use the product and how the occasion might influence how the product is drunk. “For example, creating gin for a martini would be quite different to creating a gin that is supposed to be mixed with tonic water.
“In a martini, the gin is the hero, so you can let it shine on its own. But in a gin and tonic, the tonic brings out flavours such as notes of citrus or bitterness of the quinine. So when designing a drink, you need to take all the relevant factors into consideration to make sure the drink tastes good and balanced.”
It doesn’t end with creating the drink either, there needs to be testing of the stability of the product to make sure it is safe for consumption.
“We also need to ensure that it can be made down the line in a factory in an efficient way for the product to be produced in a consistent manner, and at the highest possible quality,” she said.
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Reflecting on the last two decades of her career, Enid laughs and says “I think I am more confident, and a bit less introverted than when I first started at Diageo. I also think I’ve now learnt more ways to manage situations and my communication skills have gotten better.”
“To me, this is the best job in the world. I mean, I am incredibly fortunate to work with amazing brands who create the best alcohols in liquid development, and get paid for it!
“It is also great that I got to live in five different countries, and travel to many more, as we set up different factories and labs around the world” she said.
Enid shared some practical advice that has personally helped her in her journey thus far: “Before you make a decision, it is important to really understand your own strengths and weaknesses and what you are willing to give and take in professional situations. Be honest and realistic.”
“It doesn’t matter if your career path is dominated by men or is hugely different from your peers,” said Enid. “Hard work trumps talent.
“A lot of people judge others based on their talent. But if you look at me — I wouldn’t call myself a particularly talented person. But I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to get my hands dirty. And that is what brought me to where I am.”
This article was published in partnership with Diageo Southeast Asia to celebrate International Women’s Day.