Learning the Hard Way- Lessons I have Learned Working in QA

If you have ever seen my name around the FoodGrads blog you will know that I was chemistry graduate and recently obtained a job as a quality assurance technician at a snack food company. Well this snack food company is David Roberts Food Corporation, a food manufacturer of nuts. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts- you name it. If it is a nut we work with it.

When I say manufacture I mean that we create oil/dry roast using a process unique to our facility. As well, praline nuts in small batches to create perfectly candy coated nuts. However, the company also supplies non nut products like fruits, candies and other yummy goods.

At the point of writing this article I have been working there four months. I will be open with you, it has been a challenging few months but as time goes on things are getting easier. New challenges are there but they are a little less overwhelming then they were before.

Today I wanted to share with you lessons I have learned working as a QA at David Roberts. Hopefully what I have learned will help you in some way!

Working at a small company is a lot different then working at a large one

David Roberts is a small company with only one facility with and my department is composed of just three people including myself. The best part about working at a small company is that I know every single person in production and the office. I really enjoy that because feel closer to my co-workers.

Another thing about working in a small company is that your roles merge with other more defined roles in larger companies. My department doesn’t just do QA things but also QC, regulatory and sometimes we help on the floor is things are a bit hectic. I really feel this has accelerated the rate at which I learned.

When I started at first this was overwhelming coming from a non-food background but when I learned more things became easier. My manager, co-workers and the plant manager are always open to questions and I never feel awkward asking. Working at small company you really feel as though you work as a team. I love that about my job.

Working at small company you really feel as though you work as a team. I love that about my job.

You bring new ideas

When you graduate school, it is easy to get the idea in your head that you don’t have a lot of experience. This might be true but that doesn’t mean you don’t have experiences which could help improve a company. I never had a formal food safety background, so I didn’t know what improvements I could make. Well it turns out there are many I could make.

For example, my company has a product deck of over 400 products, this is not an exaggeration. Every product as their own nuances and shelf life dates. When I first started there is was no list of best before dates as the staff worked there for long and had them memorized.

In beginning, I had to keep asking for the best before dates because I simply did not have knowledge. This was frustrating because I wanted to stop asking. The solution? I went I decided to go all of our retention samples and make a database based on that. A new idea of something I brought to the table with my experiences.

When you get in an interview it is easy to get in the trap of believing about what the company can do for you. You have to look at it the other way around. Just because you are new doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Sometimes being there with a new mind set is all the company needs.

You will have hard days

There were days when I came home and start crying. I made mistakes that day and I just felt I wasn’t cut for this line of work. Many times all that was needed was a good night rest and needed to relax with a good back. I think deep down looking back you can tell whether or not you are up for the job. If it is just time you need or if it really isn’t. Mistakes happen as long as you know what they are, talk to someone about them as they can give you great insight.

Communication is key

In the place I work I perform shift work between two different shifts- days and nights. That means myself and another quality assurance technician will work at different times. One of the most important times of the day is at the end of the day shift and the beginning of the next. We always take the time to identify key issues and successes we encountered by the outgoing shift. Next we leave notes to each other on the computer so we can quickly.

Our consistent communication is something I have learned is so important for the job. A lot of inefficiencies are cleared up simply by doing this. Furthermore, I find it helps to build relationships and increases understanding between staff.

Author: Veronica Hislop Veronica is a recent FoodGrad working as Quality Assurance Technician at a snack food company. She graduated with a Chemistry degree at Ryerson University and has a passion for bringing awareness to sustainability in the food industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavours you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.

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