Ursula Oyer started taking polymer classes in college, which led to a co-op for Sherwin Williams. She said she enjoyed the industry and excitement for being involved in new departments.
"I was given the opportunity to manage my own projects, beginning with the development process and scaling up production to visiting OEM customers for approvals. It was an amazing experience watching what I had developed move to a manufacturing environment and then into the production of automobiles," said Oyer, whose first job was working in Sherwin Williams' automotive division developing coating and paints for plastic components.
Oyer has had the opportunity to work with companies like Sherwin Williams, AkzoNobel, Dow and now Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies in Plymouth, Mich., a joint venture between Freudenberg and Co. in Germany and NOK Corp. in Japan. It produces advanced sealing technologies for markets such as automotive, aerospace and agriculture.
"I am extremely grateful to have had the career opportunity from different companies, which gave me exposure to very different technologies and viewpoints. This exposure does give me an edge to look at every project from a different angle. I think outside the box and in my mind all is possible," said the senior chemist/specialist.
Oyer manages the physical testing laboratory, including project coordination for internal and external customers, and the adhesives laboratory, specializing in developing surface technology requirements.
"I have had so many exciting project opportunities as a result of my work developing industrial coating, sealants and adhesives. But I think my greatest satisfaction is still knowing my development projects have become finished concepts in new vehicle models. It is an unbelievable experience walking through a production/manufacturing facility and seeing the product I introduced solve a problem and fill a need," said Oyer, who graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a bachelor's degree in polymer chemistry. "It's a great feeling to know I have introduced something unique in the industry."
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Oyer: Finding balance to my life. I work on this balance every day. The idea that you go to college, finish your education and start your career has changed. I learn every day in my career, and I seek out new opportunities where I can build my skills and apply them to new projects and opportunities. I make this learning — this career building — a priority in my life.
At the same time, I prioritize my family and my role as a very involved mother in the lives of my children. So, I am not really breaking a mold as much as developing a new one for myself; one that allows me to remain very involved with my children and their activities while continuing my career by learning new things, interacting with our global team and having opportunities to experience other cultures and countries. All these experiences make me who I am: a dedicated mother and woman in the chemical industry.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Oyer: Enjoy the moment. Have no fear and watch where the next opportunity takes you. Be ready for change, embrace lifelong learning and always be willing to develop yourself.
Q: What is the most unexpected thing you learned from the pandemic?
Oyer: It was surprising to see that we could successfully hold global meetings that involved Freudenberg's technology experts from around the world. I am OK with a 2 a.m. meeting with our global colleagues instead of traveling internationally. We have learned to do things differently. The new virtual workplace also creates opportunities to attend technical meetings and presentations and exchange technologies that were previously not available unless we could attend in person. This is a real benefit.