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Great learning opportunities for starting out in my career

Callum O'Neill, NPD technologist, Linwoods Health Foods

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TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

I recently graduated with a degree in Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition from Queen’s University Belfast, and have been working at Linwoods for just over three years now. I started here as part of my placement year during my degree and thankfully have continued working here since.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?

I’m not sure there are too many ‘typical’ days. I generally try and start by listing out all of the day’s tasks, which could include anything from carrying out sensory analysis on potential new products, overseeing a trial on the factory floor, or researching a new ingredient or trend. With many different projects running at once it can be important to prioritise different items to the to-do list and focus on moving these forward each day.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

The launch of either our Multiboost Milled Hemp or Crunchy Seed Clusters ranges would probably be the highlight so far. These were the first projects I was properly involved in during their development, and it can be very rewarding to see a product you have worked on sitting on the shelf of your local supermarket.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

Every day presents different challenges, which provides great learning opportunities for someone like myself just starting out in my career. The NPD role encompasses many different aspects of food production from technical to marketing and commercials, so there is always a new lesson to be taken from any given situation.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?

Definitely trying to juggle the many different projects at their different stages of development. It can be difficult to continue to progress each area and not let one fall by the wayside. I find taking time on a Monday morning to plan out what each project needs for the week ahead to be invaluable in this regard, allowing me to keep on top of things. We recently had a handful of projects all come to launch at the one time which proved to be quite stressful!

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

I recently saw a quote which read ‘If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?’ which I found very interesting. Having that extra attention to detail in the short term can prove to be a great time-saver down the line – this is something I’m trying to work on at the moment.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST GRIPE?

Negativity or pessimism. If a problem does arise, I like to accept the fact and then start to look at how to rectify the issue instead of looking back wondering what might have been if I did XYZ instead.

WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?

I’ve sat at many a party/event and thought it would be great to be able to play guitar. I played some musical instruments in my childhood but interest soon faded. Sometimes I wish I had kept it going.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS/AMBITIONS?

I’m not exactly sure. Whilst being able to spend more time at home has been very enjoyable over the past two years, I am starting to get an itch to see some more of the world, so maybe some travelling in the near future. I’ll not think too far beyond that just yet.

WHOM DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?

I’ve recently gained a higher level of admiration for my mum. I always think I don’t have enough time for things, but then I look at her and wonder how she manages her own busy job, keeps a house running and finds some time to eat in between things – all without so much as a whisper of a complaint.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE?

A local beach Shelling Hill. Whether it is for a cold dip or just a nice walk, it is always very enjoyable to head down for some peace and quiet.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD PRODUCT?

I find it hard to beat a nice sirloin steak when out for dinner, unless it is accompanied by a pint of Guinness. A summer spent in America made me realise the quality of Irish produce that we often take for granted.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?

In my spare time I play GAA for my local club St Laurence O’Tooles Belleeks. Going to training in the evening works wonders at clearing the head, and there are always great laughs had amongst teammates. A thick skin is definitely needed!


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