Legos to the Lab - Heather Day '05

As children, Heather Day and her friends clearly had different interests. They carried around dolls; she had a Lego set. Day had an early attraction to science, math, and engineering. Specifically, it was the problem-solving aspect that drew her in that direction.

“I think it was something that was inherent and ingrained in me growing up and I’ve stuck with it,” Day ’05 said. “I’ve never really wanted to step away from the field of science.

“I really enjoy answering questions with data. That is what makes me happy at the end of the day.”

She is now in her sixth year as a research and development scientist for The Clorox Company, specializing in cleaning product development, and has been with the company since graduating from Saint Mary’s.

In her time at Clorox, she has helped to develop several versions of everyday products like PineSol, cleaning crystals, wipes and created the formula for, her “baby,” Clorox 2.

Developing cleaning products was not something she envisioned and the original plan was to be a doctor. She was a biology major at Saint Mary’s and worked in an emergency room for a summer but found that the work didn’t make her happy enough. As her senior year began to wind down, she had a decision to make and sought the advice of her professors.

“I had a couple of job offers and decided to take a job that was offered here at Clorox on the recommendation of one of my professors, Margaret Field,” Day explained. “I knew I didn’t want to interface with solving people problems, like disease, but I did want to solve problems and she thought that would be a position that would offer instant gratification.

“Here, I’m able to complete things a lot faster and get that gratification faster. I learned a lot from my professors that there was more to the field of science and engineering than the medical field.”

The repetitious experimentations fit with her drive to solve problems and “the more I can experiment, the more questions I can answer.”

“Do ‘Experiment 1,’ figure out what I learned from it and immediately do ‘Experiment 2’ so I can get to my results a lot faster,” she said. “I don’t like to sit on my results for very long because I want to continually develop and make those formulas better to answer questions.”

Day’s department takes queues from the marketing department based on consumer behaviors and has had to make products as hassle-free as possible.

“A lot of times in our field, we’re developing products that people don’t necessarily look forward to using,” Day said. “Millennials are so different from previous generations. We’re trying to make products that work well but also don’t assume that they are enjoying the process… That is a challenge to innovate in that space because you are trying to please someone who may not necessarily want to do what they’re doing.”

While it was never part of Day’s plan to end up in a lab experimenting on cleaning products, it was to be in a place where she could experiment, problem-solve, and be comfortable in her environment.

“This company completely changed my trajectory,” she said.

“I never thought that I would enjoy this kind of work but I’m glad I pursued it because it really is a perfect for me and my career gives me an opportunity to grow my talents but gives me a work-life balance.”