As soon as she arrived in New York she signed up for an English course at La Guardia Community College. Finding a job proved difficult: Zarkov had studied chemical engineering at the University of Belgrade, but New York was dominated by service companies, she found. She was offered a position teaching math and science to teenagers at a high school, but felt it wasn’t the right thing for her.
Instead, she moved to Allentown, 150 kilometers away. Here she started out in 2001 at Air Products, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals and gases. Parallel to her job, she completed a Master’s degree in polymer science at Lehigh University to boost her academic qualifications. Zarkov is a beacon of optimism: “If I want something, I find a way.”
When the acquisition of Air Products by WACKER was on the cards in 2007, she took a more pragmatic approach. “A lot of my colleagues were very worried, but I was not.” Experience has taught her that change could also mean opportunity. Having said that, she of course was also relieved when she learned the Company decided to keep the Division Polymers business in Allentown. She says today that the acquisition was good for the company: “WACKER invests in and grows the business, and the customers are satisfied.”
The acquisition also paid off for her personally, as she finds now there are better opportunities to show what she can do. As a connecting link between R&D and production she is responsible for getting new materials out of the lab and into mass production. She discusses the processes with her colleagues and ensures that quality and safety are top priority. That means teamwork. “I wear a lot of hats,” Zarkov says with pride. She only mentions in passing the fact that she is the only woman in the team. “I’m used to it – I’ve got a husband and two sons.” The only time she can’t keep up is when the conversation switches to football, she admits laughing.
She has not forgotten her native country. Zarkov misses her parents, and every visit is bittersweet. But now her home is in Macungie, Pennsylvania and her work is at WACKER. “This is where I belong.” She has long since mastered English. Time for a new challenge: Zarkov has now been learning German for several months.