Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson May 22, 2019
UD grad successful in cosmetics industry career search
A few weeks shy of graduation in 2018, then University of Delaware senior Monique Michalec had no idea what would happen next. Her dream was to work in the cosmetics industry.
She majored in chemical engineering with minors in entrepreneurial studies and materials science and engineering. She was an engaged student on campus serving as president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, as an ambassador for the Horn Entrepreneurship and fundraising chair for the Society of Women Engineers and even joined Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority. But she still had no full-time job prospects in sight.
“There would be days that I would be crying on my bed after another friend had told me they secured a job,” Michalec said. “I’d genuinely be happy for them, but then be in my room, saying to myself, 'What’s wrong with me? Why can I not get hired?' ”
Michalec had completed internships with beauty brands during her years at UD and she hoped to have a full-time job immediately after graduation. When the full-time job did not materialize, she opted for another internship, with the skin care brand Erno Laszlo in New York. That is when the pieces began falling into place.
During that internship, she discovered contract manufacturing: Brand-name companies enter into a contract with another company to produce the product for them. Because of her previous internships in product development and global marketing, Michalec was more interested in working on the business side of brands. She began researching and found one of these manufacturers in Hamilton, New Jersey — her hometown.
Michalec now works as a sales executive for Advanced Beauty Labs, the sister company to Salvona Technologies. In her role, Michalec acts as a liaison between the clients (beauty brands) and her company’s laboratory. She serves clients in Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
As an example, she said, a client might be looking to add a moisturizer to its product line. The process begins with the client sending Michalec a description or wishlist of what the product will be and what it will be made of. This includes desired texture, fragrance and the appropriate chemicals. Michalec then works closely with the lab in her company.
“I work with the lab to develop samples for them,” she said. “I test the samples here, myself, before I send them to my client. Then my clients give me feedback and I go back and forth with the lab until we get to a product that they love and want to move forward with.”
The process is not always that simple. A huge trend in the beauty industry is to make products as “clean” as possible. That means non-toxic products mostly made with natural ingredients and more transparency about what is inside products from brands. This is why phrases like “sulfate-free” and “no synthetics” are highlighted on lots of products as you walk down the beauty aisles, Michalec said. Looking at sulfates, these are normally used to create the foaming in shampoos. Consumers have been taught that foaming equals clean, so the lab cannot just do away with it, she said.
This presents a challenge for the lab, as it is never a one-to-one replacement to replicate the response they are trying to get. Also, the alternatives are not always healthier, she added.
Michalec said she loves her job and credits both her chemical engineering major and her experience with Horn Entrepreneurship for laying the groundwork for her success.
“They could teach me how to talk to clients the best way and how to market the ingredients, but I needed to be able to understand the ingredients, the technology and the science and really be able to explain it to customers to sell it,” she said. “It was just an added bonus that I had experience within the industry, so that really helped me a lot, so did my entrepreneurship minor.”
Michalec recalled that at age 5 she was fascinated with makeup. Her mother wouldn’t let her wear much, but she was excited to paint her nails and wear clear lip gloss. Now she has tons of products and loves to research new ones. She has a 12-step nighttime skincare routine. Her dream is to one day start her own brand.
She said that she hopes other seniors in her position realize securing a job before graduation is not the end all be all.
“It’s okay to not have everything figured out before graduation, most of us don’t,” she said. “Then three months after graduation, I was starting my full-time job and my career and I’m super happy with where I am. I didn’t even know this job existed before I graduated. So you really never know where life will take you.”