Careers

Career Ladder: Vartika Joshi

Education and travel helped this chemist build her career in the chemical industry

by Laura Howes, for C&EN

1990s: An early love of science

Vartika Joshi grew up with her family in the city of Jaipur in northwestern India. She found her inspiration in her parents: science and technology from her father, a civil engineer who designed the state’s irrigation system, and dynamism from her mother, an economist and a national-level hockey player. In school, Joshi enjoyed both playing on the cricket field and learning about science in the lab. Eventually, she became “inclined more towards chemistry,” Joshi says.

Early 2000s: An appreciation for applied chemistry

Taking her cricket bat with her, Joshi went to the University of Rajasthan and studied for a master’s degree in organic chemistry. After graduation, Joshi taught in local colleges while she prepared for exams that would allow her to teach at national-level institutes. But after passing both the exams, Joshi decided she wasn’t quite done with chemistry. She enrolled in a second master’s degree, this time in polymer science and technology at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. “I wanted to get into the applications part of it,” she explains. For her degree, Joshi partnered with the leading plastics research company in India, GE Silicones (now Momentive Performance Materials), for an industry-academia collaboration.

Joshi presenting her research at an international conference.
Joshi presenting her research at an international conference.
Credit: Courtesy of Vartika Joshi

2009: Moving into management

After graduating, Joshi joined the application development division of Bayer MaterialScience (now Covestro) as a global management trainee. In 2015, marriage and a career change were both on the horizon for Joshi. Her new husband lived in Mumbai, India, and “one of us had to move,” she explains. Joshi took the plunge and started as a chemical and materials management consultant for the firm Frost & Sullivan, exploring how products are commercialized and why some products are successful while others aren’t. She got a broader overview of the chemical industry and business while adding knowledge about pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals to her previous experience with materials. She also took a 3-month break from work for a master’s program with the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. “Learning never stops,” Joshi says.

Joshi demonstrates a polyurethane application for a steering wheel while working for Bayer MaterialScience.
Joshi demonstrates a polyurethane application for a steering wheel while working for Bayer MaterialScience.
Credit: Courtesy of Vartika Joshi

Today: Focusing on the big picture

In early 2019, Joshi moved back into the chemical industry to work on corporate strategy at specialty chemical company Lanxess. Still based in Mumbai, she says her time as a consultant gave her an outside perspective that informs how she approaches her new job. “We have all kinds of avenues which are possible for the company’s growth,” she says; it’s her job to help decide which of those avenues to take. If she had one tip for chemists building a career, she says, it’s to “never let the quest for exploration inside you die. It keeps you going.”

Joshi has travelled widely with her husband, including to Europe.
Joshi has travelled widely with her husband, including to Europe.
Credit: Courtesy of Vartika Joshi

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