Chris Ciolli | Chemists in the Real World
As a Ph.D. student in organic chemistry, Chris Ciolli wasn’t exactly sure what his options were, but he knew he wanted a career outside of academia. “I was not aware of life in industry during undergraduate or graduate school but knew that the academic lifestyle that I witnessed did not provide the balance that I sought in my career.”
Ciolli says he used American Chemical Society resources to learn more about the work-life balance, compensation, and research opportunities in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. He landed his first job during the process of seeking to learn more about preparing for future employment.
After an informational session offered by Abbott while he was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ciolli invited the presenter to return to give a seminar on resume and interview preparation to undergraduate and graduate students. During the return visit, the representative shared Ciolli’s resume with the hiring manager of an Abbott job posted only internally at the time. “Successful phone and on-site interviews resulted in my first chemistry related job,” he says.
Though the job was secured, the transition from graduate school to industry wasn’t completely seamless, Ciolli recalls. “My ACS Career Consultant was extremely helpful in during this transition,” he said. Since then, Ciolli says that leadership roles in ACS governance have continued to build his leadership skills and the results are evident in his project leadership at work.
Since his first job at Abbott, Ciolli has worked at Ricera Biosciences and held several positions at Lubrizol, a specialty chemicals manufacturer that makes additives for everything from engine oils to cosmetics. Today, Ciolli is a technology manager for product integrity at Lubrizol.
What's a typical day on the job like?
My typical day on the job is spent in an office. I attend an average of 2-3 hours of meetings per day. I do not have direct reports, but as a project manager I'm required to lead teams of research chemists, testing laboratory technicians, operators, and mechanical and chemical engineers on average 1-2 hours per day. The remainder of my work day is spent planning quality control experiments, evaluating test results to assess potential changes to product design, and writing reports.
Are there any apps/software/instrumentation/tools that you can't live without?
Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint for compiling and presenting data. Lubrizol-proprietary experiment scheduling and reporting software as well as a data warehouse with Lubrizol-proprietary query software.
Describe your work environment.
I work exclusively in an office, at my desk in a cubicle or in conference rooms. I visit the research and testing labs weekly to check in on experiments. I occasionally travel to other Lubrizol locations, and I have traveled to an ACS National Meeting to conduct interviews at a Career Fair.
Does your job follow a typical 9-to-5 schedule?
A typical week is 45 hours. The decision-making process is fast paced but in a relaxed environment with helpful and supportive colleagues.
What is your best productivity trick?
At the beginning of the work day, identify the most important task that must be accomplished that day. Allot defined time blocks for tasks on to-do list. The most difficult decision oftentimes is not what to work on, but what not to work on that day when managing multiple projects.
What's the best career advice you've received?
Learn something from everyone you meet.
Do you have any special talents or traits that make you a great fit for your job?
Attention to detail and a strong belief in personal integrity in work and personal actions.
What essential habit do you have now that you wish you'd started much earlier?
"The One Who Fails the Most Wins". Success and failure are steps toward achievement and both lead to innovation. My first significant project at Abbott failed. That learning experience (and many thereafter) has improved my decision-making process and benefited my career progression.
What is your favorite ACS resource?
SciFinder. It is the largest and most reliable collection of chemistry and related science information.
Success and failure are steps toward achievement and both lead to innovation."