Growing as a Grad: Dilhan Jayawardena

Six months after joining BASF ANZ’s GROW graduate Dilhan Jayawardena reflects on his adventures, and key learnings, to date.

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Dilhan on the road with BASF's Agricultural Solutions team during his time as a GROW graduate

Lockdowns? Yes. Border closures? Many. Masks in the office? You bet. These were just a few of the curveballs that were thrown my way during my first six months in BASF’s GROW Graduate Program. But before we get to that, let’s go back to the beginning…

After completing a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne in 2020, I felt I was left with three choices:

A)     Commit to further study

B)     Attempt to find a graduate job, uncertain of what my interests truly are

C)    Wallow in self-pity that my six-month European holiday had now been cancelled

Little did I know, there was also an option D – BASF’s GROW Graduate Program.

For me, the appeal of the GROW Graduate Program was that it challenged the common preconception that graduates have their careers mapped out from the beginning. How can someone with little experience know what job suits them, and then repeat this for the rest of their life? They can’t. And it may be paradoxical, but I’ve always believed that your true passions emerge when you’re not necessarily looking for them.

So how does the GROW Graduate Program prevent pigeonholing you may ask. Simple, it encourages you to retain your curiosity.

As a GROW Graduate, the objective is to complete multiple business projects across a range of business operations and functions to gain a broad understanding of the business in Australia and New Zealand. This can include - but is not limited to - areas encompassing manufacturing, supply chain, customer service, sales, marketing and technical support.

A previous GROW grad captured this with an excellent analogy: “A lot of companies offer a one-size-fits-all graduate program or a ‘traditional’ graduate role. The career’s fair seems as though it only has one world available to explore. Que BASF’s entire park pass - the GROW Graduate Program.” 

So this has been my journey so far:

My first rotation landed me in BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division, an area I admittedly had little prior knowledge about. After completing a Bachelor of Commerce I never thought that I would be picking beetroots out of the ground, but such is the beauty of BASF – a new experience is always just around the corner!

During this rotation, I had the opportunity to travel to Adelaide and Cairns, shadowing three of our most experienced Sales Reps on their customer visits. These trips opened my eyes to the worlds of broadacre and horticultural agriculture – drawing the dots from ‘seed to sowing’ and showcasing all the work that goes on inbetween. By 2050, it is estimated that food production will need to increase by 70% to feed the population of the planet – and through the diverse range of agricultural solutions that BASF offers, they are certainly playing their role in meeting this cause.

My second rotation was with our Automotive Refinish Coatings team. This business unit has a diverse portfolio of products – ranging from car paints through to digital consultancy programs. My induction into the Coatings team was one I will certainly remember. With the team being primarily based in Sydney, while I’m located Melbourne, the plan was for me to fly interstate to get ‘hands-on’ experience whilst meeting the team, learning about the industry, and even spray-painting a car!

That was the plan, however a week prior to this going ahead, the NSW border was closed, and my induction was now made to be completely virtual. Did it make it harder for me to assimilate within the team? Absolutely not. My calendar was now filled with plenty of Microsoft Teams meetings, with everyone eager to share their knowledge and experience with me – whilst also ensuring that I felt supported along the way.

Concurrent to the rotations that I was completing, I was also fortunate enough to be included as a part of BASF’s ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Council. The D + I Council at BASF is an initiative that I am incredibly proud to be a part of, as it is the amalgamation of people with real passions contributing to making a real difference. The D + I council extends across a range of diverse areas - creating conversations around the topics of Mental Health, Everyday Sexism, Pride, Indigenous Peoples and Women in BASF (WIB).

One thing I quickly learned, is that BASF places a great emphasis on sustainability, and this is not done through a lens that may be viewed ‘greenwashing’ – instead, the focus is on how to invest time, resources, and money to make a difference to the industries that BASF operates within – whilst also extending this reach of influence to communities and broader society.

It feels incredibly empowering to work for an organisation that reaches far beyond the scope of industry.

A common question my four-year old cousin often asks me is: “Dilhan, so what do you really do at work? Do you work in an office and eat McDonalds for lunch?”

While he’s not wrong, there’s a little more to it than that. Some of the other tasks I’ve also undertaken as a GROW Graduate at BASF include:

-        Market research and analysis presentations

-        Net Present Value evaluations

-        Supply chain forecasting

-        Customer testimonials

-        Corporate philanthropy initiatives

-        Creating consultancy reports

-        Marketing presentations

-        Creating digital platforms

What is my next chapter? I had a great experience with my first two rotations on the GROW Grad Program and am saddened to see it come to an end – however I am now very excited to move into a permanent role within BASF’s Automotive Refinish Coatings team - as the Business Solutions Specialist & Digital Officer. I am certainly looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead and I am sure that the skills that I have learnt during this time will serve me well.

Finally, I will leave you with a quote that still holds resonance with me to this day, and I hope going forward, for you too: “Education is what’s done to you, while learning is what you do to yourself.”

With that, I sign off. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience in the GROW Graduate Program. Please reach out to me if you are interested in hearing more of my experience at BASF - you can connect with me on LinkedIn here.

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BASF ANZ's 2021 GROW graduates Dilhan (left) and Molly (right) during a visit to BASF's Cheltenham site.