The packaging that comes with our food remains in the environment long after the food has been consumed, ultimately ending up in landfills and creating toxic gases. 

Shivansh Naik. our next pathbreaker, Packaging Technologist at The Kraft Heinz Company (New Zealand), works on packaging related to a variety of food products (frozen meals, pet-food, dressings (sauces), jams etc), with a focus on creating sustainable packaging solutions to eradicate carbon footprint.

Shivansh talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about selecting New Zealand to pursue his masters degree in Packaging Technologies not only for their focus on environmental conservation but also for his passion for hiking in one of the world’s most breathtaking nature trails !

For students, your interests, mission and vision should be aligned together if you want to make the most of your career or your life, because that’s what matters in the long term !

Shivansh, tell us about your initial years?

I was brought up in the street-food capital of India – The Heritage city Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Soon after the completion of my 10th grade, my mother motivated me to opt for diploma in mechanical engineering instead of going for 11th/12th grade. The reason was she believed that gaining 3 years of in-depth knowledge regarding the same subject of my profession would help me embrace more technical skills. Hence, I opted for diploma in Mechanical Engineering (3 years). These 3 years not only developed my technical skills but also imparted me with the necessary soft skills through my involvement in managing and participating in various technical and non-technical events. As I did my 3 years of diploma in Mechanical Engineering, I got admission directly into the 2nd year of BTech/B.E. So, it’s just a myth that if we opt for a diploma then we may lose an year in our education. Along with Diploma in engineering, I also did my 12th grade simultaneously through open schooling (National Institute of Open Schooling) just for fun.

Engineering disciplines such as Aeronautics, Process, Automobile, Petroleum, etc. are all the hierarchies of Mechanical Engineering, so I chose Petroleum Engineering for BTech to explore more.

While studying Petroleum Engineering, I developed interest in sustainability through different blogs and videos. Thus, I wished to study Sustainability or Environmental conservation, by applying Engineering concepts. I therefore began my Master’s study in Packaging Technology.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I pursued a pursued Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and BTech in Petroleum Engineering. I then did an MTech in Packaging Technology from Massey University, New Zealand.

What were some of the influences that made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

Having pursued a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and BTech in Petroleum Engineering, I always wondered about the ongoing environmental crisis. And as an engineer/engineering student, I have always wondered how we can impact the world by mitigating environmental concerns. This has always been my vision. Therefore, I opted to pursue a Master’s in Packaging Technology. This study helped me in thoroughly acquiring theoretical and practical knowledge of sustainable packaging. To be more precise, it was mainly focused on packaging engineering and material science. 

As I described earlier, I wanted to pursue my Master’s in a subject related to sustainability, and New Zealand being the 2nd most beautiful country, was primarily focused on environmental conservation, which was the right fit for me. Also, since it has one of the best hiking spots in the world, I knew I could continue my passion for hiking while studying. I then started searching for courses related to sustainability in New Zealand. This search was a detailed search by going through the outline of various courses in the respective University websites. Luckily, I found a course named Master of Engineering Studies in Packaging Technology whose outline exactly matched what I was looking for and it was at that was the point that I decided and began preparing for my admission process to NZ.

Tell us about your career path

During my final semester of my master’s, I took up an industry-backed innovation project for Asaleo Care Limited (Essity) as a part of my master’s Thesis. Asaleo Care manufactures and markets Personal Care and Professional Hygiene products in Australia, New Zealand. 

The project “Quantifying compression deformation of toilet rolls to help optimize retail packs and palletization efficiency” was a blend of mechanical engineering and packaging science. Under the supervision of my professor Dr. Eli Gray-Stuart, the project helped me understand real-life engineering problems and the approach we should follow in order to solve them. 

The critical problem of the toilet roll is that a paperboard core (core over which a paper is wrapped around) often experiences permanent deformation due to the fact that toilet roll bundles are shrink-wrapped. Therefore, consumers complain a lot about the deformed core that they receive from the retail store. 

To address the problem (especially in an FMCG industry) and solve it, the first step is to have a consumer mindset through which we can begin the process of problem-solving. Once we have analyzed what a consumer thinks and needs, we can begin our technical approach to the solution.

Apart from my research in academia (during my masters in NZ), I had a short-term goal to work in Research and Innovation, for which I needed practical exposure. Hence, I gained industrial exposure for a year while working in a manufacturing environment. After having worked in manufacturing (pharmaceutical and packaging industry) and process engineering (dairy industry), I was confident enough to enhance my career towards my vision of sustainable development and circular economy. 

Most of my work in manufacturing companies was in the role of a production operator: running the machines, the plant and it’s daily maintenance. This experience gave me insights on how goods are produced. It was not exactly what I studied (Packaging Technology) but it was the base for my career in R&D and the manufacturing industry.

I therefore opted for a Packaging Technologist role in the Research and Development department at the Kraft Heinz Company. The role is very interesting and challenging in terms of solving complex engineering and packaging problems along with innovating sustainable packaging solutions for sustainability and circular economy. 

How did you get your first break?

As an inexperienced engineer, with just an engineering degree, I knew that no company would hire me. After visiting various linkedin profiles and interacting with engineering professionals, I concluded that I needed atleast 6-12 months of industrial experience to have a reasonable chance of getting into an R&D role. Therefore I gained as much technical knowledge and skills as I could while working in production. And through that I was confidently able to convince the manager to hire me for an R&D role. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Although all the three fields I studied (Mechanical, Petroleum and Packaging Technology) share a Mechanical foundation, they are very distinct from one another. Therefore, it was initially very challenging for me to understand technical stuffs quickly. But I always made sure to maintain my confidence and enthusiasm to learn things. I can guarantee from my life experiences that mastering these two attributes can lead us to our desired goals. Even though you haven’t studied a particular subject or not at all aware about a new profession you are about to enter, just believe in yourself, have confidence in yourself that you will definitely master it one day, and try to persistently learn new things with deep interest, and you will get there soon.

Where do you work now? Tell us about your current role

As a Packaging Technologist at Kraft Heinz, I work with different varieties of products: frozen meals, pet-food, dressings (sauces), jams, ketchup, frozen vegetables, ready meals, etc. With diversified varieties of products, we deal with almost all types of packaging formats except Aerosol cans. We deal with different packaging formats such as metal/steel cans, glass jars, flagons, plastic bottles, trays, poly bags, retort pouches, PCU (portion control units), etc. Apart from the aforementioned primary packaging, we also deal with secondary packaging like carton boxes/corrugated boxes, corrugated trays, etc. 

As an R&D Packaging Technologist, I undertake a number of projects such as change control, value engineering, ESG (sustainability), new product development and supply continuity. Each type of project has its own methodology and approach.

As a new technologist, I learn a lot from my senior technologists and managers. 

It’s not only about suggesting or innovating with a packaging solution, but also being involved in leading factory trials in order to validate that the innovation or solution is capable of being produced at scale before its implementation. The prime focus is to provide a solution for packaging that is either recyclable, biodegradable or compostable according to established standards. There is a lot of documentation and report writing involved as well along with research and practical work.

Though the role is challenging, it is very interesting. 

How does your work benefit society? 

My work eventually helps in reducing environmental concerns, due to waste created by non-recyclable packaging which ultimately ends up in landfills and creates toxic gases. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

I advise just one thing to all the young minds: UNLIKE SUCCESS,  LIVE a MEANINGFUL LIFE. 

In simple words, never work to gain success as success is an ongoing process, rather work and thrive towards making a significant impact on the world. Work such that it can be of some meaning that helps humankind as a whole.

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