Imaginative Teaching Resources & Inspirational Career Ideas from the Chilled Food Industry
Danielle Hibbert works at Natures Way Foods (in Technical Compliance Support). Her route into chilled comes via customer services, and her lack of a food science degree is not holding her back.
What did you study?
At college I studied psychology, sociology and media studies at ‘A’ level. After completing these, I took a U turn and decided to complete a course in travel and tourism with the dream of being able to see the world.
Whilst at college, I worked part time at McDonalds where I got involved in training staff and food safety. This was my first experience of the food industry. I then left food to work in customer services for an electronics company. I spent four years there but it didn’t feel like a career so I began looking around and spotted a customer support vacancy at NWF.
I didn’t go to university because at the time I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career and I certainly wasn’t aware that jobs such as the one I have at NWF even existed.
What made you apply to NWF?
When I researched the company I found I really liked the look of them. Their values were communicated greatly through their website and I just had a good feeling about them. I figured I could use my customer services experience and also the food safety knowledge gained in McDonalds – something I never imagined I’d need!
What does your job involve? Is it fun, interesting?
NWF are very good at giving staff opportunities to develop. When I first started here, my role was as part of Customer Support – dealing with complaints, responding to customers, liaising with the technical team and benchmarking our products. Since that time, I have been supported and mentored in many different areas of the department and business which has helped to enhance my technical knowledge and food safety understanding.
So what am I doing now you ask? Well, I can proudly say that after application, and some tough interviews, in June 2017 I was offered the role as a Compliance Auditor (still within the Technical Compliance Team) – and of course I accepted!
I really enjoy the work, I’m part of a team that ensures quality and food safety compliance across our products and ingredients. These range from fruit and vegetables, Ready to Eat recipe dishes, sauces and breads through to the packaging used. I’m also involved in training colleagues on allergen awareness and food safety.
I also get to travel (remember that dream of seeing the world?), visiting suppliers in Italy, Poland, France, Belgium, Turkey, Greece, the Maldives, Thailand and the list goes on. It’s hard work and certainly keeps me on my toes but I absolutely love it. I feel very lucky to have found this role almost by accident but now I cannot imagine being anywhere else.
Does not having a science background affect your work?
I studied some science at school (mainly microbiology) and there is always lot of support here, so I never feel out of my depth. NWF put so much focus into their employee training and progression, whether that is sending you on an external course or something which happens in house.
Did you have a career goal in mind when you were at school?
Not at all! I remember changing my mind on what I wanted to do countless times.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I had no idea that this sort of job even existed. I didn’t see any advertised nor was it highlighted as an option when we were at school. In my experience science qualifications usually took you into medicine.
What are your long term career plans?
I am now considering doing a degree in Food Science or another job-related subject but I would want to stay with NWF to do this. For me, I’m happy all the while I am learning, progressing and improving. So, for now – I am just going to go with it and see where this exciting role leads me.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about Food Science as a career?
It’s a fast moving, ever-changing environment with pressure but the rewards are worth it. I recommend it 100%! I enjoy seeing the products on the shelves knowing I’ve been part of the process.
I’ve been with NWF for two years and I still feel the same excitement as when I started – there’s no Sunday evening feeling for me, I don’t dread work I look forward to it. There’s a saying that if you find a job you like then it doesn’t feel like work at all – that really does sum up how I feel.