Derya Yilmaz (24) is a fresh face at Kemin Food Technologies EMEA. One you can come across in and around the lab, as an R&D assistant to Ines Colle. High time we got to know her better – don’t you agree?
Hi Derya, has the exciting world of biochemistry always managed to grab your attention?
In some way it has. I started out studying Industrial Sciences at first. Partly because of my natural interest in science, but also because of my father – an industrial engineer I never stopped looking up to. My childhood has always been one of discussing science with my dad. How does something work? What could be the mechanism behind it? Those are the type of questions we both tried answering. It proved to pave the way for a scientific career. I have big shoes to fill but that’s a challenge I’m ready to take on.
What did you end up studying in the end, if not Industrial Sciences?
I was definitely captivated by the course, but it couldn’t prevent me switching to biochemistry at the UCLL in Diepenbeek, Belgium. Besides science, food has always been a hobby of mine. Combine that with my curious nature and biochemistry is what you get. It proved to be the right decision, especially regarding my internship at Kemin.
How did you find your way to Kemin?
Through my internship counselor I got hold of a list of companies offering internships. Kemin in Herentals was one of them and they had room for an exciting assignment on antioxidants. That definitely grabbed my attention, so I reached out to Kemin Food Technologies and soon found myself being interviewed by Ines Colle. It was a great talk and I knew right away Kemin was the place for me. I was given the choice to work on one of two assignments. One surrounding vegan burgers, the other one about antioxidants. I knew which one to pick, naturally.
How did you experience your Kemin internship?
It was a great experience. Of course, I felt a little nervous at first but it didn’t take long before I started to feel right at home. It continued in how I got to put all I had learned into practice. From antioxidant testing to thorough guidance and feedback during and outside of my assignment, I felt part of the team – for real. It helps that everyone has an open mind and remains susceptible to new ideas. That’s what makes Kemin a great company, regardless of the stage you find your career in.
Any important lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Planning is key. At school I rarely stuck to mine – not an option in the workplace, believe me. I’ve been taught to work in an effective manner, reach out to others, follow up on emails and always remain professional. I even managed to improve my handling of Excel. This is the type of stuff you never come across in school, but vital when working full-time at a company.
Which projects are keeping you busy today?
Firstly, following up my internship research with the real deal. Next to these exciting ventures, I’m working on different products to be released in other parts of the world. Finally, antimicrobial substances make up a big chunk of my day-to-day activities. It’s all very exciting.
Any goals you’re planning to chase after – now or in the future?
Well, as of today I’m still somewhat of a rookie. Luckily, my manager pushes me to think of what lies next. Right now, I’m loving life in R&D but, who knows, maybe sales could be my next big thing? To connect exciting products with new customers sounds really rewarding. In the end, all I want is to make my mark on the world, contribute to making the world a better place – or a safer one, when we’re talking about food. I can’t think of a bigger goal to pursue.
How do you like spending your time outside of work?
You can find me playing the piano, hiking, shopping and discovering different parts of the world during the holidays.
Last but not least, this is your chance to dish out advice to all future Kemin interns. What do you have?
First of all: believe in yourself. Consider setbacks not failures, but opportunities to improve yourself. Stay positive, work hard, be assertive, dare to make tough decisions and see everything all the way through. Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret is something of a Bible to me. It teaches you to imagine you are where you want to be someday – right now. Give it a read, that’s how I did it.