By: Nina Notman
Eugenia Narh Baawuo’s passion for cosmetic chemistry was ignited in 2008 during her first job after college. She was working as a research chemist for pigment manufacturer EMD Chemicals, and spent a short time in its cosmetic application lab. “We were working on formatting prototypes of eye shadows, lipsticks, lip glosses, nail polishes and mineral powders, she says. “I loved it.”
But the global financial crisis hit the business and Narh Baawuo was laid off. “I went back to school to get a PhD,” she says. “It allowed me to learn a new skill set and bought me time for the economy to recover.” During her PhD at the University of Texas at Arlington she synthesized ruthenium organometallic complexes and studied their potential use as anticancer drugs.
But Narh Baawuo’s interest in cosmetic chemistry remained. She attended a tradeshow organized by the Southwest Society of Cosmetic Chemists and introduced herself to the companies attending. A team from Dien, a distributor of chemicals for the personal care industry, mentioned they were looking for someone with a science background to beef up their sales team. Narh Baawuo took up this technical sales support role in February 2016, soon after she completed her PhD.
Then, in January 2018, she moved to DeWolf Chemical, an Azelis Americas company, as a technical sales representative selling specialty chemicals for personal care formulations. “I'm more directly in sales now but it still helps to have that scientific background when communicating with customers,” Narh Baawuo says. “It helps with speaking the same language with scientists and formulators and also gives you more credibility.”
She is based in Austin, Texas, and her sales area encompasses Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Pre-pandemic, Narh Baawuo spent most of her time on the road or in the skies visiting established and prospective clients and attending trade shows. Currently, everything is being done by email, phone and video calls. “Being at home is getting a bit tedious now and I do miss the skies and the face-to-face interactions with my customers,” Narh Baawuo says. But the changes haven’t sapped sales; in fact the personal care industry is faring well in the current financial crisis. Hand sanitizer and hand soap, in particular, have seen a boom in sales.
Why should other PhD chemists consider a career in chemical sales?
It's fun especially if you’re an extrovert like me and enjoy meeting new people and working collaboratively to develop innovative and really cool products. I’m constantly using the troubleshooting and problem-solving skills and the scientific knowledge that I learned in grad school.
Where is your favorite location to attend a trade show?
New York City. The New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists hosts a suppliers' day each May, although it was cancelled because of the pandemic in 2020. The city has so much to offer; it’s so diverse.
What is your proudest career moment to date?
Last year, I was part of a team to help bring on a new supplier. Their product line has diversified our portfolio further and brought new sales opportunities also.
What's the worst thing about your job?
When travel goes wrong. When delays cause you to miss meetings or when your bags don’t make it. You learn to be more patient and tolerant about these things, but it’s still frustrating.
Do you have a mentor?
I have a lot. When I started, I would call more on those who have been in the industry for a while and see how they would go about things. Now, I have a few more peer mentors who are just ahead in their careers, but not so far ahead.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I want to still be doing something where I'm having fun and putting my chemistry skills to use to produce tangible results.
What’s your morning skincare routine?
It’s actually pretty simple. During these times that I’m home, I just cleanse and moisturize. If I have a video call, I'll have a light touch up with eyeliner and mascara to get camera ready. It’s different when I’m on the road, I try a little more to look the part.
What do you like to do to relax?
Being with family and friends, watching movies and having conversations over good food. Now that I’m not traveling for work, I also like taking a drive around and seeing what the sunset has to offer that day.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
Copyright 2020 American Chemical Society (All Rights Reserved)