This Women’s History Month, ICL is honoring some of its most valuable contributors. Women like Manon Aggenbach are a key part of ICL’s leadership and innovation, and ICL is proud to have them on the team.
Manon is the Project Management Officer of Research and Development Specialty Fertilizers. Based in the Netherlands, Manon brings experience in the publishing industry and in regulatory affairs to her role where she leads a team working to support ICL as a manufacturer of specialty fertilizers.
Can you tell us about your experience in R&D and PMO for specialty fertilizers?
I started at Everris in June 2011 as a label coordinator creating packaging and labels for all products. After a year as a regulatory affairs officer and 7 as team leader Labels/DTP, I successfully applied for the PMO position, a very exciting new challenge. So, the experience is rather new, but I enjoy every minute of it.
How have you seen the industry change since you started your career?
I haven’t been working in the industry prior to 2011, but in that time the biggest impact would have to be the Fertilizing Products Regulation. The new regulation in Europe calls for a biodegradable coating for controlled-release fertilizers.
What unique perspectives do you bring to the table as a woman in this field?
Not sure if these are specifically women’s traits, but I’m a good listener, I try to see everyone, help where I can, and try to enable others to do their job with as little distraction as possible.
How have you overcome any challenges or barriers you faced as a woman in the industry?
I think the challenges or barriers for women are not exclusive to the industry but are general issues. We face all kinds of setbacks, like not being heard as clearly as men are, for instance I know a lot of women experienced this: you propose something at a meeting, but no one takes notice. A male colleague says the same and all of a sudden, it’s a great idea.
A woman demanding, or even, asking for top-notch work is often considered bossy and not likable. A man acting the same way ‘knows what he wants’ and people look up to him. Unfortunately, women in the workplace are still perceived differently compared to men. Yes, there is a difference, but we want to be judged on our capabilities, and our accomplishments, not our gender.
Can you discuss any initiatives you’ve led or been involved in to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
I’m a member of the “Female Leadership Employee Resource Group Europe.”
“This group is for all women and women supporters who don’t see glass ceilings, only open space to move on and up. We will share and discuss learnings, experiences, and thoughts to lift each other up and push each other forward. Unapologetically, we gather to reach our own potential and support others to do the same!” We encourage men to become members as well, you can find the group via ‘WeGrow’.
As a Works Council member, I’m part of a workgroup about transgressive behavior, also not a topic exclusively for women, but important for everybody.
In your opinion, what advancements in specialty fertilizers have had the greatest impact on the environment and sustainability?
For me, that would have to be the coated fertilizers, such as polymer-coated fertilizers or resin-coated fertilizers. These innovations, like Osmocote, were already a sustainable solution because you need less of them compared to non-coated fertilizers. With biodegradable coatings, such as the new eqo.x and eqo.s products, controlled-release fertilizers are even more sustainable.
How do you prioritize and manage project timelines and resources in your role as a PMO?
As PMO you oversee all projects, but it’s up to the project managers to keep track of timelines and resources. I will check with them if it looks like there hasn’t been any progress on a project for a long time, but R&D projects have very different timelines compared to label creation (what I used to do). Each project has its own pace and can take up several years before they are completed.
Can you describe your approach to problem-solving when facing obstacles or setbacks in R&D projects?
As PMO, I’m not working on projects as a project manager would, so the obstacles and setbacks are usually on the ‘administrative’ side of a project. I try to help if people have questions about our system, Innova365, or the budget process and guide them through the administrative process of both.
As a woman in a leadership position, how do you support and mentor other women in the industry?
We can all benefit from support, from being seen and heard. It is so important to know that you can discuss what is on your mind, what is bothering you, getting tips about how the other person dealt with things. I will always support my colleagues in any way I can, from just listening to sharing similar things or speaking up when needed.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in R&D and PMO for specialty fertilizers?
Go for it! It’s an interesting, ever-changing industry. I can promise you it will be a very long time before things get boring.
As a specialty fertilizer manufacturer, ICL is highly supportive of women in the sciences and manufacturing. Innovation, like the ideas and science behind polymer-coater fertilizer and resin-coated fertilizer, comes from collaborative teams of diverse employees sharing their thoughts and knowledge. ICL is dedicated to diversity and inclusion and works to elevate women in their roles within the company to reach their true potential.
More on the subject:
Women of ICL – Resilience and Engagement: An Interview with Ana Araujo
Women of ICL Making an Impact – Rescue Efforts in Turkey
Women of ICL – Contributing to SDG2: Zero Hunger Worldwide