• Corynne Corbett

Ukachi Anonyuo: On Packaging, Collaboration, and Innovation in the Beauty Industry

Updated: Jan 14

If you asked Ukachi Anonyuo about pursuing a career in the beauty industry as she was entering college, she would have explained that she was headed for a career playing basketball. But a year later, she was entrenched in Industrial Engineering as her major.

From the time I was 10 years old, I was playing basketball. I intended to go to the WNBA. It started in 1996. That was my plan. If I didn't make it into the WNBA, I was going overseas to the CBA. Because that was a thing that women basketball players did before it became a professional sport. And it's interesting because engineering was my fallback option. If you could believe that. I was playing and I got into school, I went to Rutgers University, by the way, and I got into school, actually through an athletic scholarship. And I had to pick a major. So I said, You know what, I do not like to read. I'm one of those type of people that really need to understand why things are the way they are. Why does one plus one has to equal two and nothing else. For me, the technical space was the way to go. Engineering was the way to go

As graduation approached, she was determined to get a job and saw a posting for a position at Del Labs. She's been hooked on the beauty industry ever since. Ukachi will explain how she landed her first job in packaging.

I'm walking by the engineering office in my building, and I saw this posting for an opportunity as an industrial engineer in Long Island and I'm like, "Long Island. I'm from Jersey, I don't know." But I needed a job. I was about to graduate. You know, I didn't want to go back to my parent's house. I wanted to be on my own. Like I wanted to be able to say I made it. Interestingly enough, I call the recruiter on the phone, which I know no one really does anymore. And they told me about the opportunity. They said it was Del Labs, which is now Coty. It's working in a manufacturing plant in Farmingdale, and I'm like "Farmingdale Long Island?" I wasn't really too excited about potentially moving to Long Island working in a plant. But again, it was graduation time I needed a job. More importantly than that, I really wanted a career especially because I didn't really have as many internship opportunities as I would have liked, that were specifically focused in my field.
I went out to Long Island to interview with this lady who wound up being my manager, but was interesting. I was interviewing for an industrial engineering position. But when I went out there, she had two packaging people quit on her. And she was like, "I know you're out here for an industrial engineering job, but I actually have this opportunity for you in packaging." And I said "packaging that's interesting. I didn't know too much about it other than that, we did have a major program at school for it. And what would I be doing, boxes all day?" And she was like, "No, you [would] work on Sally Hansen, which I was loving and NY Color and all these other brands." And she said, she chose me for consideration because she liked that I didn't have a packaging degree, which I thought was interesting. And more that I had a transferable technical skill set. And she valued that diversity of thought in that field because she had a whole bunch of packaging people already so you wanted to mix it up.

Ukachi explains the importance of that first job:

One, the ability to wear multiple hats, Dell labs at the time before it got acquired by Cody, there was a small engine, you know, you imagine all the products in the business that they were doing, but when you're at a small company, you are the packaging person, you can be the purchasing person, you can be the quality person, all these different supply chain operational people. I did first buys, I was working on the displays that you saw on CVS, it was the ability to wear multiple hats.The plannograms, working with creative being a small company you work in close with team members and five of you can sit at the table and a decision can be made. And that's what I learned the most about is learning about other people's roles and understanding how they work.
The other thing I would say is the importance of relationships. I still connect with people from my first job to this day, it's almost like that training ground because you're doing so much you learn so much from each other, and you get to know each other. And those relationships carry on throughout this industry.
One of the things that she loves most about the job is that she is a problem-solver:
I do love the problem-solving piece because it also brings the technical side of it because you're always thinking like, think about the times you've had something in your purse, and it just leaked everywhere. Just the fact that I'm a consumer. And I'm also a processing package developer. And I'm trying to solve for that. I'm thinking, Okay, when I'm doing my testing, what happens if this person has their lipstick and it falls, you know, and the bullet falls out, I need to make sure that it's developed in the right way so that something doesn't crack in someone's purse.

Learn about all this and more on episode 11.

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