Careers are like stepping stones, and every experience provides a pathway to newer opportunities with only one condition, ability to learn and adapt !
Rajani Jha, our next pathbreaker, works with CPL Aromas as Senior Fragrance Evaluator, studying perfumery material on a daily basis with an eye on market trends and consumer preferences.
Rajani talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about developing interest in the fragrance industry at IFF (International Flavour & Fragrances ) and taking the opportunity to pursue a career in fragrances by fast tracking her learning.
For students, you might not have a fixed goal early in life and thats ok. But keep your eyes open to grab an opportunity that comes your way at any time !
Rajani, tell us about your background?
I was born in Sursand, a small place in Bihar and grew up in Baska district of Assam region. My father is a policeman & my mother is a homemaker. During my childhood, I used to participate in many extracurricular activities. I generally used to be interested in taking part in sports (Badminton ), acting in drama and fashion shows. In my childhood, I used to dream of working in a private organization at a higher post, and travelling the world .
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I graduated from Guwahati University and my first exposure to fragrances was as scent design support at IFF (International Flavor & Fragrances ), followed by joining a fragrance start up as Fragrance Development Manager in Springfield Aromatics and presently working with CPL Aromas as Senior Evaluator.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
My exposure to fragrances was at the initial stage of my career, when I joined IFF in a support function. I was attending a smelling session and evaluations with other team members, and thats where I developed my interest in the fragrance industry.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
I was working with IL&FS – facility management department when I was deployed at IFF on contract basis for 1 year. There I got to know about the fragrance industry and learnt about it. But I left IFF & ILFS in 2008 and joined Johnson Controls. Later in 2011, I got a call from IFF, they wanted to check if i was interested in joining IFF in Scent design support. I took that as an opportunity to pursue what I liked the most. That’s how my journey in the fragrance industry started. Initially i found it difficult to understand all the terminology and language. But I made my learning plan or you can say, training plan. I focused on the things I should learn to get the expertise and become an evaluator. As mentioned earlier, the most important thing was smelling and rest of my other training followed. My colleagues in IFF also helped me a lot in this journey.
I spent 6 years in IFF , where I learnt a lot about perfumery, how fragrance businesses work and about different departments. Apart from the evaluator role, I got exposure to all departments to get an understanding about all aspects of the business, starting from the application Lab- where I learnt about sample preparation, sample Lab- where I learn about compounding and raw materials, and consumer Insights – where I learnt about market study, consumer behaviour, and the different types of testing that are done in the market.
My next job at Springfield Aromatics was an opportunity for me to implement what I had learnt so far in IFF. I also learnt new things, like client interaction, managing teams, preparing business strategy, and category development.
Presently I am working with CPL Aromas, with wider responsibility and learning more about the business aspects, team management and enhancing my technical, market knowledge.
How did you get your first break?
Each of the experiences that I have mentioned above was quite overwhelming and has taught me a lot. But the opportunity to work in one of the top fragrance houses – IFF can be considered as my first break.
What were the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
In life you come across many challenges.
Coming from a family where a girl’s education is not appreciated, my parents stood against the family and encouraged me to study, which itself comes with a lot of responsibility. My parents/ teachers/ friends encouraged me a lot to complete my study and try to achieve my childhood dream.
As soon as I reached Mumbai, I realized that I have to work a lot on my communication and interpersonal skills to be competitive in the market.
Another challenge was to understand the basics of perfumery and learn from scratch. Daily smelling and reading about perfumery helped a lot to address this challenge.
Where do you work now?
Presently I am working with CPL Aromas as senior evaluator and managing the creative team.
What skills are needed for a job?
Key to being a good evaluator is to be good with smelling and having a thorough understanding about technical aspects. To develop this expertise, I usually start my day by smelling Raw Materials/ Fine Fragrances and re-visiting them on a daily basis. I also study raw materials and fine fragrances. I was trained under Senior perfumers and Evaluators to gain more knowledge about Raw Material/ Fine fragrance/Market products and understanding trends. I have access to a lot of perfumery raw material and I like to go back and study it every day.
- Ideally, to become an evaluator, you should have a perfumery/cosmetic degree. You should have a good smelling skill and better market understanding apart from being creative.
- I have enhanced my smelling skill with regular smelling and studying about perfumery – Raw material / Fine fragrance and market trend.
What is a typical day like?
I come in around 9: 00 AM , I start my day with smelling of raw materials and fine fragrances. I like to go study my perfumery material on a daily basis. Depending on which project I am working on my activity starts. I always prefer to complete my evaluation on the first half of the day, when my olfactory sense is heightened. I study the raw material notes , their interactions in the perfume and understand how it fits into the project. For example- If I am looking for an intense / seductive profile, I will pick up all the raw materials which would fit into the profile, understand the impact and how it is going to develop to fit into the requirement and design a perfume which will connote seductive emotions for the consumer. I also study the market trends for different categories to keep myself updated about what is happening in the market.
What is it you love about this job?
I am a creative individual and I love being in the creative side of the business. The role of an Evaluator is not monotonous, every task or project is different from other and this brings newness in my day to day work, which I like the most. To be active in the role, I need to be aware of the happenings in the market, which involves a lot of reading and interaction.
How does your work benefit society?
CPL has a perfumery college for blind students where I am involved in teaching blind students about perfumery. This will help blind students to be financially independent and get a job in the perfumery industry. In my team, I have an evaluator who has passed out from blind school.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you ?
There is nothing one in particular, I am still looking forward to the one
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Every student has a skill, in which he/she is best at. Identify it and work on it. I am sure you will achieve what you want to one day. Don’t be caged in fear of failure. It’s ok to fail. It will give you a better understanding to choose the right path. Most importantly , it is perfectly fine not to have a fixed goal of life at a young age. Your goal might change with your age and experience in life. So be flexible and decide wisely what you want to achieve as a short term/ long term goal and work passionately to achieve them. Grab your opportunity wisely, think for long term benefit.
I look forward to be involved in the perfumery industry and growth in the creative field.