AAP Member Spotlight: Ashaki T. Wilham
Principal Scientist, Flavor Research and Development,
The Coca-Cola Company
AAP: Tell us about your role at The Coca-Cola Company and how you impact the company’s strategic goals.
The Coca-Cola Company is an industry leader in the beverage category and is one of the most recognized brands worldwide. I lead the Global Flavor Research and Development team which focuses on flavor development in the areas of continuity, innovation and productivity for The Company. Our work ensures that there is continuity of supply for strategic agricultural ingredients. We provide customized flavor solutions enabling innovation and growth. My team has supported productivity initiatives which help generate savings that are reinvested into the business. We also support strategic reformulation initiatives to reduce sugar in core company brands.
AAP: What suggestions could you offer to an individual interested in pursuing a career, such as yours?
Food Science is a very broad and diverse field of study offering many diverse disciplines, one of which is Flavor Creation. Becoming a Flavorist takes years of careful training and is a role that requires diligence and perseverance. Flavor Creation allows you to explore your technical side while tapping into your creative side in order to curate an experience that consumers will want to enjoy time and time again. Although it is not a widely known career choice, it is both lucrative and rewarding. The tangible nature of the work offers the satisfaction of seeing your finished product in the local grocery, restaurant, or convenience store shelf.
AAP: Tell us about your experience at the AAP Day of Service last year when you operated a booth at the S.T.E.A.M. career fair last summer.
When I was in the 10th grade, I had a phenomenal biology teacher that instilled in me a passion for science. I was always curious and loved science in elementary and middle school, but she helped make it fun and relevant to me. Once I decided to pursue science as a field of study, I initially wanted to be a doctor, not realizing that Flavor Chemistry even existed. Since I’ve been in this industry, it has been a passion and purpose to share careers in Food Science with our youth from kindergarten through college. I believe that children of all ages are like sponges who, once exposed to knowledge, will soak it up. It gives me honor to provide that exposure. S.T.E.A.M. events energize me, and I am always overwhelmed by the sense of engagement and inquisitiveness that the students display.
AAP: Who is your favorite trailblazer that serves as an inspiration to you?
The trailblazer that inspires me is Dr. Mae Jemison. She began studying at Stanford at 16 years old, received her doctorate in medicine from Cornell University, and orbited the earth 126 times as an astronaut. Dr. Jemison didn’t stop there, she also found ways to give back by first volunteering with the Peace Corp and later founding the Jemison Group, an organization that encourages the pursuit of science. Her passion for science, quest to be the best and to offer a hand back makes Dr. Jemison a truly motivating force.
AAP: Why is philanthropy important to you? How do you give back to the community?
Philanthropy, defined as the desire to help others, through the donation of money, time or skills, is integral to my core value system. I take pleasure in serving others, using my gifts and talents to make things better in the communities where I live and work. It is also important to me that I model the behavior for my children, taking the opportunity to create a family culture of compassion. My favorite ways to give back include performing random acts of kindness, supporting the First Impressions, Children’s and Cleaning Ministry’s at church and educating children about the field of Food Science.
AAP: What is your favorite quote?
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you. ~Mother Teresa