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Sika Schweiz AG
Sika
We are
Sika is a specialty chemicals company with a leading position in the development and production of systems and products for bonding, sealing, damping, reinforcing, and protecting in the building sector and motor vehicle industry. Sika has subsidiaries in 100 countries around the world and manufactures in over 300 factories. At this time we employ 25,000 people worldwide.
We offer
Creativity, innovation, customer-centricity, research and sustainability are dynamic components of Sika’s long-term success and future growth. We offer candidates the possibility to work on large-scale projects around the globe, that result in effective and original products for customers. We give you the opportunity to develop, for instance via collaborating with R&D teams in different countries.
We are looking for
At Sika we value courage for innovation, strength to persist, and pleasure in working together. You have the ability to perform combined with a high degree of social skills, an entrepreneurial spirit, respect for different opinions and working in diverse teams to achieve our strategic goals. Is it your ambition to perform, excel and be proud of your results? Then Sika is the place for you!
// Interview 2017
Dr. Sara Fornera
Scientist (R&D)

Education
BSc and MSc ETH Material Sciences (2002-2007)
PhD in Polymer Chemistry ETH Zürich (2008-2011)

Career
Sika Project Leader Automotive Trim (2011-2017)
Scientist (R&D) (2017)
What are your reponsibilities as a Scientist in Research and Development at Sika?
My main focus is the search for new ingredients for our formulationsm which are less environmentally harmful, but are still efficient. In cooperation with chemists and other scientists in our department, we are investigating the connection between molecular structure, theoretic models and empiric results. A successful example is our i-Cure technology, which is completely new generation of sealants and adhesives.
At which site of Sika are you working? Are you always in the same place or does your occupation entail a lot of travelling?
I am working in Zürich Altstetten. Depending on the project, we are working closely with our production site, our customers and our suppliers, which are all located in- or outside of Switzerland. Because of this, I am usually travelling one day a month. This is a good balance to telephone conferences and personal meeting and is a very important part of my job.
You started out as a project leader in automotive trim, what were your responsibilities at that time?
In my first 5 years at Sika, I was a project leader in R&D. I developed new adhesives for the automotive industry, supported the scale-up and in the end established the product with various customers. Development, product support, production support, troubleshooting with customers and leading projects were all part of my job then. Another task were meetings with various intersections such as suppliers, marketing, sales, purchasing and production. In this position, I was traveling a bit more often – about 10% of the time.
You studied material sciences – does Sika also employ graduates of the other 'HCI-disciplines' (Chemistry, Pharmacy, Material Sciences and Interdisciplinary Sciences)?
Definitely. The teams at Sika are very heterogeneous and we try to connect people with different education, so that each of them can shine in their own discipline. I work together with chemists, chemical engineers and scientists of all kinds of backgrounds on a daily basis. In my opinion for a successful collaboration, not only the field of study and the professional knowledge are important, it is also important to be curious, open and self-reflecting.
Are there possibilities to switch fields within Sika, e.g. from R&D into production or marketing?
Yes, this possibility is part of Sika and is supported. It can easily happen, that your former colleague from the office is suddenly an important stakeholder and your personal network within Sika expands into various different fields.
What made you chose Sika as an employer? Did you apply for an advertised position or was it a speculative application?
The application was semi-speculative… As a material scientist, I was specialized on polymers and wanted to go into industry. At the end of my dissertation, I asked some of my former colleagues, which were already at Sika, if they knew anything about an opening in R&D. Luckily there were two open positions in the adhesives department and one of them sounded like my dream job. 'Project leader in the automotive section with customer support'. Being fluent in Italian, French, German and English were listed as advantage. The very open and positive mood at the interview also convinced me to work for Sika.
Is there a way to get to know Sika first-hand - either via internships or collaborations with universities?
Yes, on average we employ approximately eight interns, which work in various different areas within research&development, usually during three to nine months. We also offer 'Traineeship' programs. These programs are aimed at university graduates, which are willing to spend some time abroad. They are being trained for a maximum of 12 months at Sika Switzerland and 6 months abroad, with the goal to take up a permanent position abroad afterwards.
There are also cases in which projects are carried out together with universities or FHs.
In your PhD-thesis you worked on immobilization of enzymes on polymers, on a first glance, this does not look very closely related to your current position. Were there anyways experiences from your PhD-work, which helped you at Sika?
My PhD-thesis was indeed very far from my current work! Nevertheless I was able to gather a lot of experiences during my PhD, which I wouldn’t want to miss. For me these three years were a time in which I learned a lot about myself, for instance how to motivate myself and where my mental and physical boundaries are, when it comes to work. My PA also taught me a lot about structuring your work and how to produce concise and clear reports or presentations in a short time. Some former labmates are today an important part of my private and professional network. For me the PhD was a fun, although also exhausting, experience, which prepared me for my later career.
How big was the change, when you came to Sika after your PhD? Does one work different in industry compared to university?
The change was very big. The decisions you have to make in industry, have completely different consequences, compared to a PhD work. A wrong 'yes' in production can easily cost 200’000 to 300’000 CHF. Another difference is that teamwork is much more important. The so-called 'soft skills' are an important part of you daily work. If you are lucky to have a good mentor and/or boss at work, this really a great asset and opens completely new perspectives.
Last question: What would your advice be for someone who recently graduated from ETH and is looking for a job?
I recommend a lot of honesty in your interviews and the probation period. Nobody benefits, if the wrong person is in the wrong position. Just because you studied chemistry, it does not mean that you have to work in the lab for the rest of your life. I also recommend a bit of humility, you can usually learn much more from an experienced lab technician, than from 10 ETH-books.
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