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Product Stewards Society > Blog > Posts > My Path to Product Stewardship: Kathleen Murphy
My Path to Product Stewardship: Kathleen Murphy
My Path to Product Stewardship is a new series highlighting ​professionals' career path to product stewardship. If you would like to share your path to product stewardship, please let us know!

My career started not-at-all related to product stewardship. I started as an industrial hygienist, worked for OSHA as a compliance officer, did private consulting and worked in heavy manufacturing. 

I joined an organization called AES, which was later fully acquired by ExxonMobil. At AES, I was responsible for industrial hygiene and environmental health and safety. Then I was asked to take over the product stewardship organization, in recognition that many of the skill sets are the same.

I knew it was going to be different but I also had the advantage that they were asking me to take over for someone who was retiring. That gave me several months to work side-by-side and understand what I needed to learn.

That was the first time I had product stewardship as a responsibility. As an industrial hygienist, I relied on toxicology studies or physical studies in order to select control methods and personal protection equipment to protect employees. That’s probably the first point of entry in developing that kind of information for most industrial hygienists. 

Now I was thinking about customers and populations that are not workers. For the most part, we were taking other people’s raw materials and creating a new product. It meant compiling the information that was available for all the raw materials that we used and then working with our development chemists and others when we created something brand new to assess whether we had to develop additional toxicology. 

I was on a steep learning curve and needed to talk to very different people than I had as an industrial hygienist. I spent a lot more time with sales and marketing, to know what we were selling and how it would be used, what the potential exposures would be and what kinds of warranties we needed to develop. I also became much more embedded in product development. 

Depending on what kind of business you’re in, product stewardship looks very different. As you move from industry to industry, the types of regulations that apply are very different. One characteristic I see in good product stewards is that they’re inquisitive. You have to be. You can’t make assumptions. And you have to like engaging with people.


Kathleen Murphy is global director, regulatory affairs at The Sherwin-Williams Company.


Supplier Development Manager - Supply Chain Solutions, 3E Company

Kathy,  You are an inspiration to me and many others.   I thought you gave a very interesting perspective of not only your past, but all of our futures.  In some parts of industry it can be rare to have a Product Steward work for another Product Steward who really understands what the challenges are and how to overcome them in order to improve the products and the business.  You were one of those rare and inspiring people to work for in my past.  I look forward to connecting again in the near future.
 on 3/7/2017 10:56 AM

Thanks for sharing your story and your perspective about product stewardship.

Hi Kathleen, very happy to read your story in this beautiful morning. I agree with you that inquisitive is the key for product stewardship. We always gain further understanding through raw material suppliers, our R&D, sales and distributors. All the effort come together to build a more complete picture of a product, and benefits our communication with customers through documentation or emails.
Industrial hygiene and product stewardship, regardless the name, the philosophy is the same. Transforming the technical/regulatory knowledge into communications about what is the right thing to do.
 on 3/23/2017 9:14 AM