Santiya P. is a recent hire at Kimberly-Clark Professional who is working as the Regional Skincare Category Manager in the Bangkok office. Although she is passionate about engineering and started her career in Research & Development, her new role is all about marketing. What made her choose a different career path? How does she use her degree in chemical engineering to her advantage in the new job? Read on to know her story. 

Santiya is Thai by ethnicity but being born in Boston, she is an American by birth. She was born and raised into a family of engineers. Her mother was a professor of food engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and her biological father had a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Santiya’s sister is also chemical engineer who graduated from MIT. Santiya too, was expected to become an engineer to carry forward the family tradition.  

Engineering wasn’t her first choice but “I love being an engineer,” said Santiya. Following her family’s footsteps, Santiya pursued a degree in chemical engineering from Tuft University in Massachusetts. Although, it was a tough path to take, “I am happy I did it,” Santiya said.  

While Santiya was pursuing her degree and her sister was working in Texas, her family relocated to Thailand. After a couple of years, with the desire to be closer to their roots, both sisters decided to move back to Thailand as well. 

Funny enough, at that time Santiya had no idea about where and what a chemical engineer could do if not work in the oil and gas industry. “It was not a career path I wanted for myself. In Thailand, I tried to find a job at local companies, but failed, as being raised and educated in the U.S.A. While I could speak Thai fluently, I still struggled with reading and writing,” Santiya explained. 

Little did Santiya know that being bilingual would eventually become a competitive advantage for her in finding a job. One of her friends advised Santiya to try to apply for a position with another company, an American company with manufacturing facilities in Thailand. Following her advice, Santiya applied for a local position at a facility in Bangkok, even though she did not know much about multinational corporations. 

Santiya recalls her first recruitment experience in Thailand- a “four-hour long interview with four directors!” The recruiters were so impressed by her performance that they considered her for a regional role of a skincare manager in their technical center in Singapore. Santiya spent ten long years there working as a Research & Development (R&D) skincare scientist.  

“I love working with skincare brands, as my chemical engineering background helped me a lot with researching and developing innovations. I became a skincare expert – which all my female friends find quite cool,” explains Santiya. She also says that her friends encourage her to start a blog and share advice about which products work best for what skin type and how someone can keep their skin healthy and glowing. 

But soon after, Santiya’s job requested her to relocate to China to work at the company’s skincare center of excellence there. However, Santiya decided to leave the role and move back to the U.S. She got a job offer from at another large corporation where she worked for 4 years in Wisconsin as the Research & Development manager in their air care category.  

But as fate would have it, the perfect snowy winter in Wisconsin turned out to be a nightmare for Santiya. She remembers her last winter there, “I was driving back home from work late in the evening, and I unfortunately hit black ice.” She couldn’t control her SUV and it hit a light pole, but the car kept going and finally stopped when it hit a huge tree. “All six air bags at the front were deployed as the engine slammed up to me against the steering wheel. I spent a month in the hospital. All by myself, as my family was in Thailand,” she recalls. 

“Just come back,” Santiya’s mom advised her. “And just like when she told me to study engineering in college, I had to agree with her, as she was right” Santiya said. After 13 years of living on her own, Santiya finally came back to Thailand to be close to her family. But now, Santiya had to rebuild her career. 

She joined a company as a marketer leading new product commercialization. With no marketing background, Santiya used everything she had learned at her previous jobs and could utilize her engineering background too. She gained experience working in consumer healthcare and found the world of marketing quite fascinating. “I liked what I was doing, but I wanted more than a paycheck. I wanted a place and a culture that resonated with my values and aspirations,” she added. 

Pretty soon, Santiya was thrilled to learn about a vacancy at Kimberly-Clark Professional. Everyone she knew professionally would tell her, 'This is the company where you can be yourself and people respect each other for their opinions. Where you can find true diversity and equity. Where you can be independent in your job and your boss values your contribution to the team.’ “This is the culture I wanted to be in and a company I wanted to work for, so I immediately applied for it,” Santiya explained. 

Santiya joined Kimberly-Clark Professional in September 2022 as a regional skincare category manager. “What I do have is a great team of peers, both regionally and globally.” she said. Together, Santiya and her team work on the regional category strategies for skincare, wipers, hand towels and bath tissue, and personal protection equipment. 

‘Influence without authority,’ Santiya quotes Karl H., her boss. This is Karl’s mindset while leading his team. Santiya says that she absolutely loves working with Karl. She further adds that the mutual goal of her team is to speak in a consistent voice to their customers and offer them the best products and services that would help them achieve their business goals, including both financial Key Performance Index (KPI) and sustainability targets. 

Santiya believes that her chemical engineering background helps her a lot in her current job in marketing. “I speak the same language with the regulatory teams; I can talk to manufacturing in their terms, and I can also justify the sustainability of our products from a scientific point of view,” she explained.
Engineering opened multiple opportunities for Santiya. “If anybody would come to me now and asked what discipline they should go into in college, I would say, ‘Take engineering. It is tough, and you might regret it a couple times along the way, but it is a good way to go because you will be able to start contributing to society early,” Santiya advised. “Applied sciences teach you to innovate above all and open doors to so many different things in life, including different career options", she concluded. 

Almost 20 years after her mom encouraged her to follow the same career path and become an engineer, Santiya feels ‘grateful’ to her mom. “Thank you, mom!” she said. 

It is so amazing to be a part of Kimberly-Clark, a company that values your diverse professional and personal background and is always eager to see what you bring to the table.