From the boss's chair to the auditorium
For many, this is a professional dream: to sit in the executive chair of a large company. For Yolanda Raffay, this dream came true in 2019 when, as part of the "My Position is Top" campaign, she was given the opportunity to take over the management of the Covestro production sites in North Rhine-Westphalia for one day.
Since then, Yolanda Raffay has never lost contact with Covestro and her mentor at the time, Daniel Koch. And so her path recently led her back to the Covestro headquarters in Leverkusen. A story: From the school desk to the executive chair – and now to the lecture hall.
Yolanda, four years ago you said goodbye with the words that you would like to be back on the mat at Covestro tomorrow. Is this the comeback you've been hoping for?
Yolanda Raffay: [laughs] Almost. I wouldn't quite call it a comeback yet. Because it's only one afternoon and I still need some time for my studies, it's not done overnight. But if it's up to me, I'll be very happy to come back. But then for more than just one day.
Chemistry was one of your favorite subjects at school. What happened to you after school?
The fascination is unbroken. I then chose chemistry as my field of study and, despite the occasional challenges, I do not regret this decision to this day.
Is the subject as you imagined it, or were there any unforeseen challenges that you had to overcome?
Partly, partly. Compared to school, you have to organize a lot yourself during your studies. The early days were a bit of a shock, but as soon as you get used to it, you find your way. The content of the course itself is exactly what I had hoped for – especially thanks to the support of fellow students.
To what extent did your practical experience at Covestro influence you?
Even before that, I had the intention of studying chemistry. However, my participation in "My position is top" encouraged me to go into industry later on. Before, I was unsure whether I wanted to work in research or industry. So this experience helped me. During my studies, I was particularly interested in technical chemistry. It's an area that's very close to industry, which only reinforces my inclination for practical application.
Are there any specific topics in chemistry that you are particularly excited about for your future work?
I haven't decided on a specific topic yet. There are many areas in chemistry that interest me and where you can really make a difference. And I'm not just thinking about big questions. There are also many small processes that can be optimized, for example, in such a way that less energy is consumed or fewer by-products are produced. I would therefore like to explore different research groups to see which topics fascinate me the most.
What advice would you give to other young people who are thinking about studying chemistry or starting an apprenticeship in this field?
You just have to dare. It's a lot of work, of course, but I really enjoy doing it. Standing in the lab and dealing with practical issues is something special. Chemistry is an absolutely fascinating science.
And what plans do you have for the future?
I will now first complete my bachelor's degree and then tackle the master's degree. If possible, I would like to go abroad for a research project. In any case, I would like to explore the world in my life – if possible, also in my later professional life.
... and then back to Covestro?
[laughs] If that happens, I'll be very happy to come back. But of course you can't plan everything in life, so I let things come to me.