According to Fonterra Research Engineer Suwan Meng, scientists are a lot less boring than people might think. Aside from dairy innovation, one of the best things about her job is that she gets to work with a variety of people who often have hidden interests and surprising talents.
How did you get involved with the industry? What was your first job at Fonterra?
It’s not the world’s most exciting story, I’m afraid. My manager was on the lookout for a chemical engineer with a PhD, and I was on the lookout for a manager who was on the lookout for a chemical engineer with a PhD. And now here I am as a Research Engineer at FRDC.
What’s the best part about your job?
There are quite a few things I enjoy about my job. I like being able to drive change in the way Fonterra processes milk, seeing my ideas implemented on a large scale, and having the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve generated millions of dollars of revenue. But I’d have to say that the best part of my job is being able to get to work in five minutes every morning.
What are the people like who you work with?
I work with an eclectic bunch of people for my main project. On the surface, they are highly educated experts in their field, the kind of people you’d think would lead very normal, somewhat boring lives. But in reality, the application technologist is a national champion in Taekwondo, the principal engineer at the forefront of milkfat processing was once a radiographer, and our project manager operates a fully functioning farm. There’s never a shortage of life lessons to learn from.
What do you do in your spare time (when you’re not at work?)
Palmerston North is not the most suitable place for someone who is in their 20s, not studying, doesn’t have a family of their own, and is efficient enough at work that it hardly ever needs to be brought home. As a result, I have a ridiculous number of hobbies that I’ve accumulated in my three years here, including but not limited to: hiking, yoga, baking, painting, crochet, and woodworking. (Yeah, the last one surprised me too).
Do you like milk?
Awkward question for me as I’m dairy intolerant.
What’s your favourite dairy product?
Sometimes when I want to live life on the edge, I’ll go all out with Kapiti ice cream. I’d fully regret it later, forget about it, and repeat it all over again.