FoodGrads Ep 09- Improving Quality and Efficiency in the Cannabis Industry with Aylene Peter, QA/RA Liaison at Canopy Growth Corporation
Welcome to episode 9 of the FoodGrads podcast. This week on the podcast I have my first ever podcast guest who works in the Cannabis space- Aylene Peter the QA/RA liaison at the Canopy Growth Corporation. Canopy Growth Corporation, is a cannabis company based in Smiths Falls, Ontario. They have a huge brand portfolio with products that include both recreational and medicinal marijuana products.
In this episode, Aylene teaches me about the Cannabis industry and the quality side behind these products and how Canopy Growth ensures that these products are safe when getting to consumers. We also talk about her mentors, the challenges she faced when trying to find a job, her love for auditing and how great the people in the Cannabis space are.
Aylene is just a such a warm person that has shown me that even if you don’t know what you want to do out of high school or even college that that’s okay. If you keep showing up, connect with people, stay positive and most of all having confidence in yourself things will eventually fall into place. This conversation has really shown me that the Cannabis sector is an exciting place work and maybe individuals interested in a career in the food and beverage industries should also consider a job in the cannabis sector as well. There is a lot to be learned.
Now onto the show
Can you tell me more about Canopy Growth Corporation and the role that you have there?
- Started working there 2 years ago started as QC technician. She currently works in Smith Falls
- As a QA/RA liaison she works with Operations and works on a huge range of products like dried flowers, oils and gummies
- Everything happens so fast in this industry
What kind of testing would do in quality control and how has that changed to what you do now?
- QC role in making sure the product is safe. Microbial testing, lot releases are correctly occurring and following regulations properly
- QA/RA more working with operations managers. Trying to elevate everyone in their role. Working on standard operating systems, working instructions, making sure everyone knows what they are doing. Trying to get everyone to work more efficiently.
- Sometimes it is difficult to work with operations and asking what you need from a quality aspect can be difficult to communicate. This where being a liaison comes into place.
What would be something when something is going wrong from a quality standpoint? What is something that is not up to quality what would be an example of that?
There are lot of different aspects that make up quality so there is also a lot of different teams for example you have:
- Lab techs in the lab which do tests like looking for pesticides, metal levels anything that you can test for.
- The quality lot release team who looks after documents
- Quality production team – They work on the floor doing things like ATP testing.
- Quality Control Technicians test THC and CBD content.
The cannabis industry is highly regulated because it is a fairly new
What quality systems are there in the cannabis industry?
It is a separate entity in away. there is a lot more progress that needs to be made. Good production practices which Health Canada has put out.
Good Manufacturing Practices. You need a system in place that if you have a recall that you can get everything back.
How are learning about Cannabis when it is such a new industry?
- My bosses. I have been really lucky and my first boss was the strongest and amazing person. She taught me so much
- She has had many strong women bosses.
- Constantly reading especially in the Cannabis industry
Can you give a more break down in what your day to day job duties look like?
- Lately, I have been busy with meetings for cross-functional teams
- All of your processes and equipment need to be validated
- I get to work with multiple teams
- Working on corrective actions are in place, non-conformance’s, updating standard operating procedures
- Updating HACCP plans
- Elevating operations and ensuring that we are complying to regulations
- I get hands on everything and get to see every line and how it works. I can assist with all the teams.
What type of patients does the Cannibals space help with?
- Multiple Sclerosis
What do you love about your job?
- The people
- This job has given me a lot confidence in myself because you have to give a lot presentations and talking with tons of people
I wanted to know how was the transition between college and your full time career. Was there anything that you did to be successful in getting a job?
- It was hard.
- A lot of jobs expect too much for a junior position.
- I ended up connecting with Victor asking if he had any jobs available. I ended up becoming an external auditor for SGS
- I signed up for every training session that I could. However, the commute was crazy so I ended up for tons of positions in Niagara and eventually, I found a QC job in the region
- It was a good transition for you handing in assignments to doing something that you love
- Follow your passion
- Niagara College SGS Hazard Analysis, HARPC, Hazard Assessment & Risk Based Controls for Human & Animal Food
- Victor’s Podcast Episode
- Victor’s blog post
- Victor’s Risk Optimization Training
What does an external auditor do?
- I worked as a independent contract with SGS
- I would audit at facilities to see if they were in compliance with CFIA
- Prepare reports and tell them if they had any major or non conformances
- I would follow up to see if they needed any help setting up programs
- I love auditing and it is something I could see myself doing more in the future
Can you talk about any specific challenges you faced early on in your career?
- I never really did well in high school academically. At a college career fair I met Amy Proux she told me to apply and just go for it. She asks me if I like food and science then I would like this program
- I had no idea what I wanted to out of high school.
- My program elevated me as a person. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not done this program
- You need to talk with people to help move you along
How were actually connecting with people?
- Going to every food and cannabis industry event
- Talk to vendors,
- Understand what they do and their business
- Connect with your professors
- I am a big believer about talking to people
Do you have any podcasts, books or people should check out?
Why is the Cannabis industry a great place to work?
- The people – my team has turned into my family
- There is always continuous improvement
- The products
What advice would you give to people wanting have a similar career journey to yourself?
- Have confidence in yourself
- Believe in yourself and don’t give up
Where can people find you?