Name: Nicole McCardy-Miller
Number of Years in the Field: 9
Specialized Training/Education: Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Science
Who is Nicole McCardy-Miller? Hello! My name is Nicole McCardy-Miller, and I am a Cosmetic Chemist. My academic background is in Chemistry (B.A.) and Pharmaceutical Science (M.S.). I work as a Senior Scientist in new product development for an international brand(s) that develops products for the cosmetic, personal care, and pharmaceutical industries. Along with that, I am also a Science Communicator, Content Creator, Small Business Owner, and Speaker!
How did you choose to pursue this field? I’ve always enjoyed classes like math and science, and I’ve had an affinity for it since high school. My mother was a chemistry teacher, so she certainly played a role in why I understood and enjoyed the sciences! When I went to college, I decided to major in chemistry but had no idea exactly what I wanted to do with it. I always had an interest in reading the ingredients on the back of product bottles, and a professor at the school was able to introduce me to the cosmetic science field.
Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?
My mother was certainly an inspiration for my pursuit of this field. She wanted to enter the research field herself after college, but the scholarship she had required her to come back to the Bahamas (where we are from) and teach. So she has a genuine interest in my job and loves to discuss the day-to-day with me! Also, a chemistry professor at my university was pivotal in my decision to pursue cosmetic science. She asked me what I enjoyed and I told her how I would read the ingredients on cosmetic products, and later introduced me to the field. She even drove me to a graduate school for a visit, which I later got my Master’s degree from!
Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers? This was my intended field! I did have a few backup ideas just in case, but I didn't end up having to explore them.
What do you love most about your job? I love the innovation. Working in research, every day can look different, and I like the investigative nature of it. I also love being a part of a team that brings a product from the lab bench to the store shelf.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career? I must say, it’s truly rewarding to see a product you worked on for years sitting on a store shelf. Not every product gets there, so it's truly special! Also, I love being a part of the process of bringing a product from a concept to a reality!
What things would you change about your job? I think it would be interesting if R&D was able to contribute a little more to the product concept. That is often the responsibility of the marketing department in many companies, which makes a lot of sense since they have the data, training, and analytics. Sometimes, when you work in the lab, you can see all the product possibilities, so you get a little excited!
What has been the most difficult or disappointing aspect of your job? Every job comes with its challenges. Anyone who works in a lab can relate to expecting the unexpected. We never like to call a project “easy”, because somehow that project will have the most unexpected issues! Also, being a chemist comes with a lot of manual labor. You spend a lot of time washing dishes, cleaning equipment, and lifting and moving raw materials. However, I wouldn’t say that these are disappointing aspects of the job, just tiring at times!
How have you combated the stigma of being a "woman of color" in STEM? Being a woman of color in this industry has definitely been a journey. I’m originally from the Bahamas, and I moved to the States for college. Adapting to cultural differences was certainly a challenge, one I still navigate to this day! Also, in many spaces, I would often be the only or one of the few women of color in the room, which can come with a variety of challenges and emotions. Throughout my career, I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome, insecurity, micro-aggressions, and assumptions. There was always a feeling to prove myself, and I would often give myself no room for failure. I am working on giving myself grace!
Also, I do my best to make changes when I can. A small one I was a part of recently was suggesting larger hair nets for people like me with textured hair. In manufacturing you wear hair nets, and I have thick, natural hair and for years I would use as many as 3 just to do my job.
In addition, the cosmetic and personal care industry has not always done the best job of including products for women of all shades. Working in the industry, you see strong evidence of it. When I formulate, I try to make a product that my entire family could enjoy, which consists of a multitude of skin tones. I will evaluate prototypes on anyone in my house who will allow me to!
What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession? I would say to start by studying a science! I’m partial to chemistry, but I’ve seen a few different degrees end up in my field, such as biology, forensics, and mathematics. I would also say if you can, to reach out to someone in the field for perspective and feedback. There were also a few helpful resources that helped to guide me in pursuing this industry, for example, https://chemistscorner.com.
What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a "woman of color" working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field? You might be surprised, but the cosmetic industry was, and is still is in a lot of ways, a male-dominated industry. When I did research in graduate school at a major brand, the team I would present to was predominantly men, and mainly white men. Although it has become more even in terms of men and women working in the industry, many if not most of the leadership positions are still men. In fact, Global Cosmetic Industry magazine reported in 2022 that
“more than 65% of executive committee seats in the beauty industry are held by men. Of respondents, 51% have no ethnic diversity on their executive committee and 48% have no ethnic diversity on their board of directors.”
So, if I were to give advice to my younger self, I would say that you are qualified to be in this space. You belong here, and your diversity and experience are important. I would also say to advocate for yourself know who you are and be confident in that.
Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice? Science can be hard but you can do it! Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help! There is also a ton of variety in STEM, so find the corner that you like and can see growth and a career in.
What is your favorite Quote? How do you apply this to your life? I love quotes! One I like to think about is
“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation”.
It’s crazy to think how someone can have all the opportunities in the world, but if they are not ready or prepared, it may mean nothing. In addition, we live in a world where, unfortunately, opportunities are not given out equally. We also live in a world where not everyone has the same access to the tools to be prepared.
For me, I was very fortunate to have support and an opportunity to study science, and later have a professor invest in me. I was prepared (enough) to take the opportunity to see the graduate school, although I had no idea what I was stepping into and no promise of actually finding a place in this industry. I guess that’s where faith stepped in.
What are your future goals related to your career? I hope to continue with science communication and grow my social media presence. I also hope to grow my small business on Etsy! I’ve been speaking more lately, so I am excited to keep pursuing opportunities for that. I also am working on a business to help guide potential small brand owners on their journey and help them find the right lab for them.
What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share? I love God and try my best to be a woman of faith. I also am a Bahamian woman and am proud of where I come from! My favorite hobbies are singing, eating good food (I consider myself a foodie), and spending time with the people I love.
What are the best ways to reach you if anyone has further questions? You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on social media @the.curlychemist (Instagram, TikTok, and Threads)
Are you available for speaking engagements? Yes
Links to your website and social media: