Jenny Hayes

Which company do you work for?

Saladworks (Samworth Brothers)

What is your job?

NPD Technologist

How easy/challenging did you find searching for a graduate job?

I found the prospect of applying for jobs a lot more daunting than the actual applications themselves. There was a strong temptation to spend a lot of time and effort applying for every job under the sun. Instead, I chose to only apply to jobs that I thought would be best suited to me and that I would actually be excited to accept should I get to that stage of the application process. In total, I think I applied for 4 jobs, because of the small number I applied for I was able to focus my full attention on each application which I think was beneficial to me.

Is your job the kind of job you anticipated doing when you left university?

I studied nutrition and food science at university which is very relevant to the job role I’m working in now. I had a module during my final year on product development which I really enjoyed so yes, I did expect that I might end up working in this sort of position.

Are you earning more or less than you expected, or about the same?

I am earning about the same as what I expected for the first couple of years as a post graduate. It’s more important to me to be in the right role and gaining the best experience possible than going for the highest paid roles.

Tell us about your experience of starting work

I’ve been really lucky that in all my placements in different companies across the group, I’ve always had a really supportive team around me and therefore starting work has been a really positive experience for me. Initially in the first few weeks it was really nerve-wracking because everything was very new. There was a complete shift in my routine and I was living in a new town and obviously working with a lot of new people which was a little unsettling. But with the support of my team, I was soon up and running.

Did it differ from what you expected? If so, how?

If I’m honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. I secured my job on the graduate scheme a couple of weeks before I graduated then was straight into my job so didn’t have a lot of time to think or worry about what it might be like. I would say that the main thing that I wasn’t necessarily expecting was the amount of support that would be given to me. I thought that I would almost be expected to know everything but that wasn’t the case. I was given great opportunities to learn and the more experience I gained, the less support I required.

What have you learnt in your first 6/12 months?

The main things that I have learnt from the first year was mainly surrounding the way the business works, the different departments it includes and their different roles and responsibilities within the business. I’ve also learnt the most effective and appropriate methods of communication at work, as my roles have involved communicating with people from a wide range of backgrounds and job roles. This is something that I initially found challenging. I’ve now worked across 4 different sites in 4 different roles which has allowed me to learn technical knowledge across several disciplines.

What was the steepest learning curve for you?

My first placement included spending a lot of time in the factory where there are obviously a lot of rules and regulations regarding behaviour and personal protective equipment (PPE). Whilst all of the site rules and procedures are second nature to me now, it took a while to get used to them!

What support have you had along the way in terms of training/development/mentoring etc?

I was given a peer mentor at the start of my scheme who was great to talk to about different questions and things I didn’t feel I could go to my manager about. I’ve also been put on a management training course which is helping to give me theoretical knowledge behind management which will hopefully help me in future roles.

What do you enjoy most about work?

I really enjoy the pace of working and variety in my tasks. I, of course, have key responsibilities which are often of a similar nature, but there are always projects and sometimes very random tasks to complete which I’m able to get involved with. It’s Impossible to get bored in my role. I can honestly say that no two days have ever been the same. I love the level of responsibility I’m given and freedom to plan my own work load within reason.

What do you enjoy the least or find the hardest?

I would say for me the hardest part of my job is sometimes the amount that needs to get done. In the role I’m in, work can land on us with no warning and often tight deadlines. I like to get things right and do things properly which can be challenging when the turnaround is so tight.

Do you feel that school/university prepared you for work?

I thought that education would have prepared me more, if I’m honest. There are some more technical things that I have learnt, particularly at university that are relevant. However, I would say that most of what I’ve learnt has been through hands-on learning on the job. I learnt core skills through my education which are applicable to work such as self-organisation and self-motivation.

Take us through a typical day in your role as an NPD Technologist

I would say there is no ‘typical day’ in this role. My standard working hours are 8.30am to 5pm, but there is often a lot of flexibility required around this. The sorts of things that are included in my core job role are costing new recipes to ensure there are feasible commercially, running benchmarking sessions with our products against the market, completing paperwork for customer submissions, organising customer samples, assisting with customer visits, working with purchasing to ensure that we are sourcing the correct materials for new products and researching the market in response to customer briefs.

What would your advice be to students or recent graduates who are looking for a job?

I would definitely say it is very important to look for jobs that really match your skill set and interests. Going into the wrong job (especially as your first graduate role) can really knock your confidence because the work might not be something that you excel at or are suited to. This could leave you feeling like you’re not good enough and questioning whether you are suitable for any graduate role. I also think that it’s important to remember that when you go to interviews, that it’s not just about them determining whether you are right for their company, but for you to decide if their company is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

How would you describe the culture at Samworth Brothers?

For me, the culture at Samworth Brothers is one of the things that really makes my job great. Generally, all the people are really helpful, friendly and supportive which has helped me to settle in to the business. The senior management team make themselves really open to all employees and this really makes you feel valued.