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How I Got Here: Mecca’s Product Compliance Associate on not being afraid of what you don’t know

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“I think my constant curiosity has helped me continue to grow in my industry and role.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While it might look like smooth sailing, there’s no doubt been a heck of a lot of hard work involved in getting there.

So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to people who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week, we’re exploring the career journey of Alice Johnson, Mecca’s Product Compliance Associate. Alice’s career path has been far from linear and has included studying film, copywriting and dermal therapy, working in hospitality, childcare and leading a COVID-19 vaccine centre.

It’s these varying experiences and her insatiable curiosity (and undying passion for skincare) that make her the ideal fit for her current role. Anyone who’s ever felt like they have too many conflicting interests and are eager to explore a variety of different industries and interests will find comfort in Alice’s journey.

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

[I’m the] Product Compliance Associate at Mecca Brands. I wear many hats but my biggest, sombrero-sized one is ensuring all the products we retail meet both our company values and legislative guidelines.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

I originally started out studying film when I first finished high school (which turned out to not just be watching the entire catalogue of David Lynch films), before taking a six-month sabbatical to nanny in Italy (where I discovered children were not my future) and returning to Melbourne to get an associate degree in copywriting (which I did not utilise for career purposes, but I do think helps me but 0.5 per cent funnier in group chats).

I had many jobs in between from hospitality to leading a team in a COVID-19 vaccine centre. All the while as I tried to discover my ‘career path’ there were a few things that I always found myself drawn to and wanting to know more about, which were always science and skin (yes, skin). I racked my brain for what I could do with a skillset and passion for these things and decided to take my third attempt at uni and study a degree in dermal science.

 

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I am and always have been obsessed with society’s focus on balancing the aesthetic and health properties of our skin, and how we have created entire industries focused on it. There were many paths I could have taken with my degree but when I saw the opportunity for a compliance-based role in my desired industry, I thought why not combine my passion for rules (I’ve never had a detention in my LIFE) and talking about moisturiser…

I love the aspects of my role that allow me to explore and learn more about the cosmetic industry trends in product development, formulation and legislation while working among an incredibly motivated and smart team in a women-led industry.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

One big hurdle I have faced, and if I’m being honest continue to battle is my own ego. I took an entry-level role in my industry at 25, which by no means is a crippling old age, but at the time [I] felt like I should have had it all figured out by then. I’ve had to really sit myself down and think about why my age matters in the context of achievement.

There is a lot of societal pressure, especially from growing up in a small country NSW town, to pick something and stick to it. I used to be embarrassed about how long it took me to pick a degree, or how often I would want to try something new. I’ve been… [told] my whole life that changing your mind or trying something different is a failure when really the fact that I have the opportunity, and I suppose the courage, to make a big change is not only such an enormous privilege, but probably one of my favourite things about myself.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

It’s not all about aesthetics and looks. The cosmetic industry is one of the highest grossing and fastest growing industries in the world. What may have once been seen as a novelty or frivolous by some is now a groundbreaking, artistic, technologically advanced and financially astounding industry that’s starting to get the serious respect and notoriety it deserves.

What’s the best part about your role?

 

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Getting to talk to subject matter experts all around the world about mine and their favourite thing – skin, skincare and cosmetics! And it doesn’t hurt at all that I happen to work in what may be, by no bias at all, the most beautiful office in all of Melbourne.

What would surprise people about your role?

I think people would be surprised to know the high level of science and technology behind some of their favourite products. Good skincare shows results for a reason, and a long-lasting lip gloss doesn’t just stick around without reason! There are some truly incredible discoveries happening in the cosmetics industry’s formulations, the ingredients we use, and how to do it all with the planet at the forefront of our minds. I think we can all expect to see some truly cool stuff over the next few years – think futuristic and evidence-based skincare and makeup!

What skills have served you well in your industry?

I think my constant curiosity has helped me continue to grow in my industry and role. I am not afraid to ask questions or ask for more time to understand something. I truly am obsessed with that ‘Uh huh!’ feeling when you finally get something you’ve been wondering about or struggling with, so I chase those opportunities constantly.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

Who you know is everything, but maybe not in the way you think. It’s not a relatively small world out there, and if you want something you’ve got to make yourself known. Jump on LinkedIn and ask if you can take someone who works in formulation for your favourite moisturiser out for coffee.

Ask your friend for the number of their aunty’s best friend’s dog walker who works for a cosmetic manufacturer. Call up your facialists and ask them what brands they think will be making waves in the industry. It’s also never too early or late, so shoot for an entry-level role before you’ve finished uni if you think you’re ready. You would be surprised by how versatile your skillset probably is already.

What about a practical tip?

Somewhat in contradiction to my last point, slow down. Life experience will always be superior to career experience. In any industry or any role, but particularly something fast-paced and highly sought after, resilience, patience and understanding where others are coming from are truly virtues.

There is no rush to start something you’ll be doing for the next however many years, so take your time getting there. People will only ever respect you for wanting to take a break to learn more about yourself or explore the world and you’ll be better for it. A more specific tip as my friend’s resident skin freak is to set aside a few hours of your life to learn about ingredients, products and your own skin, to set you up for life.

Spend some time to find a great facialist, dermatologist, and your own resident skin freak, and pick their brains on your skin characteristics and needs, and how to read a product label. You wouldn’t buy medication for other major organs without understanding what it does, so treat your skin the same way (and sorry to be that gurl but wear SPF every single day and you will thank me later).

@chipsngravybaby

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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