Imaginative Teaching Resources & Inspirational Career Ideas from the Chilled Food Industry

Kirsten Webster

Kirsten studied Food Science at the University of Reading. She found her placement with 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG) at their Cavaghan and Gray site (Cavray) hugely rewarding and hopefully putting her on the route to her ‘perfect’ job.

What are your career aspirations?
I’m still thinking about my long term career options but am already forming ideas based on my placement experience. I’d like to continue to experience as much as I can. I’ve had the opportunity to hear a lot of successful people speak about their career paths, and found that they tend to have one thing in common; experience in a wide range of sites and departments. This breadth of knowledge has allowed them to go further within their careers.

I consider myself a very driven individual who likes to solve problems, and so would love to make a career one day which includes elements of continuous improvement, best practice projects, and auditing. One idea I’m strongly considering is internal consultancy, as it would allow me to see a wide range of environments and problems, and work as a team to find solutions.

Food has always been a passion of mine. However, I did not consider this as a career option when looking at universities because the profile of food centred on chefs and cooking. I started a Chemistry degree at Oxford, but was disappointed by the heavily theoretical content; it was not applied enough for me. I researched further and decided to switch to Food Science, which combined both my passion and skill.

Why did you choose 2SFG and Cavray for your placement?

Looking at placement websites, I first noticed 2SFG because the job description focused on food safety, something I was keen to learn more about.  In both my interviews, I was impressed with how genuinely contented my interviewers were in the company.  This was because of a focus on internal development, which made me more confident in my decision to work for 2SFG.

I was pleased with the challenge of being placed at Cavray, as it is one of our largest chilled sites, with a customer who challenges and motivates us. My placement has another key benefit; travel to our other chilled sites is encouraged, to share improvement ideas.

What work are you involved in at Cavray?
I work in the Technical team, focusing on innovation and best practice ideas. We problem solve, review customer complaints and develop risk assessments to minimise incidents of foreign bodies in our products.

How are you applying your course experience to your placement?
The microbiological side has always been interesting to me, and is very relevant to my technical role.
I sit in the Hygiene office but have been able to move around and see other departments. This experience is taking me beyond the text books, and I am learning so much more in a hands-on practical way.

Is the experience making you more or less keen to pursue a career in chilled food?

I’d definitely say more. My favourite element of my job is problem-solving, and I love the challenges this fast-paced sector brings. The speed at which everything operates has helped me fully integrate into the industry, and the variety of products, people and sites means I never get bored.

What are the best bits?
There’s a huge sense of achievement in my placement!  I’m enjoying the sense of not knowing what’s coming next or where you might be. I am really being stretched, one day I’m doing a presentation to customers, the next day I’m at a meeting in London. People who know me tend to remark on my increased confidence.

What are the less enjoyable elements (if any)?
I am learning the importance of keeping the bigger picture in mind, and being determined. With so many priorities within the business, sometimes there is the need to persistently justify your ideas.
This can be very rewarding when progress is made and you can see the positive impact you have had. However there are also times when you have to accept that a project is not going to go any further.

Any advice to others considering their placement options? 
Be open-minded and look at the bigger picture. Even if you don’t see your “ideal job” being advertised, I’ve found that many roles over-lap heavily with the different departments, so you’re likely to still get some experience in each role. You might even find yourself going in a new exciting direction you hadn’t thought about!

And finally – any advice to employers re how they work with their placement students?

Define a clear set of targets for your student before they join you. Set and manage expectations as Cavray did for me. A list of key contacts to help you find information as you’re settling in is also really helpful.

2SFG have students at various sites across the country, but they’ve brought us together a few times to discuss our successes and challenges. I would recommend this as I’ve found it helps me to focus on the bigger picture, and we’ve also had the chance to share new ideas across the sites.

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