Women in science & technology: Q&A with Florence Ong
11 February 2018
On February 11th, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we asked Florence Ong, Sibelco’s Technical Solutions Manager – Coatings in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia, to provide her inspirations for pursing a career in science and advice for women who aspire to do the same. In the Q&A below, Florence describes this as well as her background, the challenges of her role and her achievements at Sibelco.
Q&A with Florence Ong
What was your first paid job?
I first started as a chemist with a writing instruments producer. The technical manager left shortly after I joined and I found myself leading the QA & RND Department with whatever little experience I had. It was extremely tough for me because I was new on the job and had to deal with very seasoned production & engineering senior managers whom worked with the company for more than 20 years. But this experience trained me to be fearless, firm and objective when it came to making decisions.
What inspired you to take on a career in Science?
Since I was young, successful scientific inventors have always impressed me, especially those that have creations that help improve our way of living. To me, this is a job that demands a lot of respect and it was what inspired me to pursue my Bachelor Studies in Science with a major in Chemistry. Fate and opportunities have played a part in me developing my profession in coatings resins research and application performance studies. With Sibelco, I have learnt that mineral fillers, the most often neglected component in coatings formulations, can contribute to prolonging the usable life-span of coatings, which in turn helps in conserving resources.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to work in the field of science?
I feel that in order to enjoy and achieve success in our chosen field, passion is of utmost importance. The journey for a woman to work in science can be challenging. Graduating from university just equips us with the basic tools to start our journey. Additionally, dedication to the field of science is also necessary, it requires us not just to be persistent but demands a willingness to work hard and devote long hours on both theory research and practical experimental works. Be open-minded and proactive to learn, be bold to try new ideas and be fearless to learn from failure.
When did you first join Sibelco and what has been your career path with the company?
I joined Sibelco close to 11 years ago, and at that time, I was tasked with setting up the Paint Technical Centre and establishing the Coatings Technical Support for Asia. With the trust, support and help from my supervisors and committed team, we have generated many test data that prove the technical advantages of our products. This has helped to grow our business into new applications.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
Recognition from our colleagues, customers and company motivates me to come work every day. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction when I see how our technical input helps our colleagues and customers solve their problems. Of course, it is also motivating to see that Sibelco maintains a solid position in wanting to strengthen its Technology and Innovation capabilities as a Materials Solutions Provider. I view this as a key success factor for us to achieve long term sustainability.
What are some of the challenges you come up against in your role?
Time is money and time lost means money lost, so a key challenge that I face is providing effective technical solutions to customers in a quicker response time. A delayed response affects our reputation as a solutions provider.
What are some of your most memorable achievements at Sibelco to date?
Establishing the Paint Technical Support Capability from scratch, is my most memorable achievement at Sibelco. Today, I am proud to say that Sibelco’s Technical Support Capability on fillers is being viewed by our customers as one of the best in Asia.
In your opinion, what value does diversity bring to our business?
The coatings business in many applications are heavily influenced by the preferences of different ethnic groups and cultures between regions and countries. Having a diversified and inclusive team in these areas, puts us in touch with the local needs and helps us understand the unique requirements from their market so that we can work as a cohesive team to identify opportunities.
In your role, how are you contributing to Sibelco’s compelling culture?
Coming from the Technology & Innovation team, other than being competent, being able to deliver on promise play a major part in gaining our customers’ trust. I always put myself in customer’s shoes by listening and understanding their needs and how it impacts their business. With that in mind, we can explore possibilities within our capabilities, to find a right solution that can best meet the needs of the customer.
What are your favourite hobbies/what are you passionate about?
Work and family are a priority so that doesn’t leave me with much time for myself. When I do have the opportunity though, I enjoy doing some gardening, I find it therapeutic to be able to nurture something that adds to the beauty of the world. Nature is important part of my recharging process and the weekends are when I take long walks in the morning to enjoy its tranquility.