FoodGrads Podcast Ep 11: How to market yourself for a job as a student/graduate with Dr.Amy Proulx Professor and Academic Program Coordinator of Culinary Innovation and Food Technology at Niagara College

Welcome to episode 11 of the FoodGrads podcast. The podcast where we explore the fascinating career paths of professionals in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. I am super excited to share this week’s podcast because I am talking with Dr. Amy Proux the Academic Program Coordinator of Culinary Innovation and Food Technology at Niagara College.

I am a huge fan of Amy and everything that she does, so I was excited to sit down with her for an hour and listen to her story. She is a wonderful person who cares so much about the industry and students that she teaches. She is one of those super networkers that seem to appear in almost every industry conversation because people love her so much.

In this episode we learn about Amy’s career path from undergraduate degree and PhD and how she “made” her own job position during the 2008 Recession period in Canada something that somewhat mirrors what we are going through right now. Using that as inspiration I thought this was a great chance to ask Amy about what students can do to get a job. Finally we talk about networking and all the wonderful opportunities which can come from joining associations like CIFST if you are student.

Students this a must listen episode because Amy gives so much tangible advice that you can use at every stage of your career.

Show Notes

Hamid Aliee

Canadian Food Institute of Food Science and Technology

Can you talk about your story about how you became a professor at Niagara College?

Amy grew up in rural Ontario and when she got into high school she wanted to be a chef but her guidance councilor told her to become an engineer. So Amy applied to the University of Guelph because they had just started their food engineering program. She hadn’t heard of food science in high school.

Afterwards, she worked at Agriculture and Agrifood Canada as a technician for a period. When doing a product development course during University she had Don Murray at the time was the CEO of The Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC). When talking with some of her friends room mates who were in Biochemistry and they were working on a protein. She thought it was cool and tried to use it in her product development course. The protein ended up being soy leghemogloblim. The Soy Utilization fund ended up opening at the same time and she was able to use that to fund her research because she wrote a grant for her product development course. Her supervisor for her thesis at the time was Kakuda, Yukio.

Afterwards she did her PhD in Food and Nutrition Science. She was able to do this project because she had presented her work at a conference and after the session. It ended up being it was Larry Johnson the president of American Oil Chemical Society.

When she graduated from her PhD she became a mother and she stayed home to be a mother. This is when 2008 happened because this was when the economic downturn happened. She was applying to a lot of jobs and they started to not exist anymore because of the climate.

She ended up working as an NESRC Research fellow during the Listeria crisis. Though she felt that this wasn’t the place for her but felt she a serial entrepreneur. During a networking event she met Jeff Stewart, Anita Stewart‘s son. Her son Jeff Stewart said that she should co me down with him to write some proposals for Niagara College. She ended up becoming the first food scientist at Niagara College.

  • We talk about having focus with your goals. You need to have a balance of having goals to have direction but not to much that they are limiting you and disappointing yourself.
  • Amy reflects on her journey. The manufacturing industry is so important to the Canadian Market. We need to think about the school we go and there are many factors which aren’t always academic which really fit for you. There are so many different pathway.
  • “You can’t be a good food scientist if you are not a good human today.
  • Amy talks about your path really comes from your own hustle and your own drive to succeed. There are students who come into the college in many cases they have come from many alternative paths. Rebecca Griffin for example had come from Niagara College she had actually completed her culinary degree and was working as a cook. She was a mature student that had so much hustle that this led them to hire her as Research Assistant at the Niagara College Research and Innovation Centre. She had her co-op at McCain. After the end of her stay she joined a Cannabis start-up called molecule

On LinkedIn Nicole posted a question about graduating with a master’s degree that she was having difficulties finding a job. Amy had posted that she should create her own role like you did. Can you explain what you meant?

  • Nicole’s post
  • When you apply a job you have to market yourself with benefits and values. You should have a portfolio it is many things around you and you have to repackage things. For example, have you written a plain language article about your research. Kristry Nudds at Food in Canada is always looking for really good content with a balanced piece of writing showing the science and comparing to the trades.
  • Your master’s thesis makes you good a project management. Is there anything that you can compliment with it.
  • Take a look at the companies are looking for. Many people look at Legacy companies. A lot of the places looking for R&D specialist at these smaller companies. Looking at the Venture capitalists can tell you where the money is going. A master’s and PhD are robustly trained that they can lead be leaders because they are trained to do so. Many times these investments from larger companies isn’t to buy the technologies but the teams.
  • Amy is a big fan of Maple Leaf Foods because a lot of their innovations come from acquisitions especially in the plant based space. Taking the team is what leads to innovation.

How would would find these jobs in these spaces? What would be the steps for a new graduate?

  • Reach out but don’t just go in with that classic resume and cover letter. Walk in with a business mindset. Have a video, portfolio stand out these places are already use to that mindset. Instead of just doing the classic resume really think like the people you are trying to work for. They are use to the pitch. Act like that this a business transaction. Walk in with a clear opportunity
  • I always caution students that if you are doing pro-bono work make sure there the is true value transaction. Sometimes people are off loading risk so that their consultant group doesn’t take the risk. Always check the net benefit. How much of your time are you gambling
  • Don’t take shifts if you are physically working in a facility
  • Writing for trade magazines depend on you. For some people this is worth while others might think the total opposite

Can you tell me more about CIFST and what they are doing for students?

  • Has a long history in Canada. It is one of the oldest in Canada. It originally was created after post WWII. They noticed how science and manufacturing was important to the future. They wanted to share knowledge to encourage the knowledge transfer
  • It’s members are individuals so they come together. It is not on behalf of companies.
  • So CIFST normally would be doing competitions but right now they are pivoting to doing online webinar. Currently there is a webinar series about different commodities.
  • Normally, they are known for networking events and table-top events. Manufactures showcase their products and it is like Halloween for a food scientist. You name the technical ingredient you can find it there or you can find someone you can find it for you.

Amy talks about the sense of community despite being competitors. Everyone knows everyone.

What advice would give to students who want to go into the food industry and a career like yours?

  • There is so much diversity and jobs that are out there. You can be a food scientist that works on food safety or innovation. You could be working in the trades doing welding. You could work in automation. There is a need of general laborers
  • Craig Youdale
  • John Mcgrizlo
  • Jeff Stewart
  • Dan Patterson
  • Use the values approach can you create your own job

Where can people find you?


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