Barrett Unger
Undergrad: DePaul University, Chicago, IL - Biochemistry
Track: Organic Synthesis
Internship: Unilever
Currently at Unilever

 

 


Barrett Unger always knew he wanted to work in science. Maybe as a marine biologist or a vet. Maybe a doctor. But when he enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago, he didn’t actually declare a major.

He was taking pre-med classes when he found himself in an organic chemistry class. One of the labs was synthesizing the flavonoid for banana oil. “The whole lab smelled like bananas,” says Unger. Raised with a love of cooking and eating, there was something appealing about working in a lab and cooking things up. “I always had a sensitive nose. I wanted to be a professional nose.” So, organic chemistry was immediately appealing.

Unger was actually lured out to Oregon for Oregon. “I always wanted to move out West, but didn’t have a good excuse. I applied to Oregon because it allowed me to get out there. The most attractive thing about the program is that it kept a lot of doors open rather than going down a pathway that had them closed. I liked being able to test the waters a bit and still have the option of coming back to do a Phd. sometime in the future.”

Unger actually landed his interview through a family friend with connections at Unilever, one of the largest consumer-goods companies in the world. Unilever produces personal care, oral care, laundry, food and beverage products and owns familiar brands such as Dove, Axe, Vaseline, Ben & Jerry’s and Knorr. Unger did his internship in Trumbull, Connecticut for the global skin packaging group.

“When I first came out here, I was open to anything. I was open to the experience. I thought it would be this giant company and there would be a plan for me,” says Unger. He soon realized that working in a large company, there was an expectation that you would see what needed to be done and figure out a way to do it; you had to be self-motivated to survive. “It was clear that I would have to decide what I wanted to accomplish and then find the people who could help me get it done.” He quickly found that he enjoyed coming up with new ideas and bringing them to the table. “The company culture is very supportive of innovation. The whole internship was a lesson in how to do things for yourself – and how to make yourself indispensible.”

Today Unger is a project manager on a global team in technology innovation, working across teams to build projects within a brand. He explores new packaging technologies and materials. He talks to engineers and people in the supply chain, purchasing and marketing teams before considering how the company might roll out a new product all over the world – and have it essentially look the same.

Since he started at Unilever in 2011, Unger has traveled extensively to visit suppliers and ensure production is going smoothly. His job has taken him all over the U.S. and to Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom. This spring he left for South Africa to spend a year working on a regional team in a developing and emerging market. He’s trading places with someone on the regional team, who will spend time in Connecticut cutting their teeth with the global team. And it’s a chance for Unger to check out life, the food, and the surf on the other side of the planet. - L. Ritzow