Charley Nightingale_Tesco poultry technologist

Charley spends most of the week travelling around the country to visit Tesco suppliers. Good thing too, she says, as she’s really not an office person

Name: Charley Nightingale

Age: 25

Job title: Poultry Technologist

Company: Tesco (Welwyn Garden City)

Education: BSc Honours Exercise, Health and Nutrition, Coventry University


Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two).

I am responsible for ready to cook poultry, Christmas turkey, all year round turkey and eggs from a technical perspective. This involves leading on regular supplier visits, developing strong relationships with my supply base, maintaining accurate and active specifications, being responsible for the artwork sign-off process, ensuring all new and existing product developments are launched on time from our approved supply base, as well as putting a real focus on the quality of our products to ensure our customers get the right products every time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

One thing I love about my role is that every day is different. Our head office is based in Welwyn Garden City, but I am only there about once a week, which I love because I’m really not an office person. I spend most of my time on the road travelling to my suppliers across the UK.

The recent fipronil controversy must have been interesting for someone in your role.

Things such as this fipronil issue seem to come out of nowhere, but I love the challenge and learning about something different

I was given the egg category when I first started in technical back in October 2015 and, as an outsider who hadn’t worked in the food industry before, I thought the category would be relatively simple and easy to manage. After looking after it for just under two years now, I am actually shocked at how much is involved in getting an egg to our shelves in store. Things such as this fipronil issue across poultry farms in the Netherlands seem to come out of nowhere, but I love the challenge and learning about something different. I was the main point of contact across the technical function within the business, so I had a number of queries from our senior teams. However, luckily all of my shell eggs come from British farms and therefore were all unaffected.

Tell us about how you got your job at Tesco. What was the application process?

After my degree, I applied for the graduate scheme with Tesco. There were three stages to the process, and I was terrified. Before working for Tesco, I was a completely different person. I was very introverted around new people and would struggle to show off my skills without getting nervous. I passed both the online reasoning tests as well as the telephone interview, and was invited to an assessment centre. The day was so intense and I think I was so nervous because I wanted the role so much. I struggled with the group exercise as there were some very dominant individuals who were very confident and I just let myself get pushed into the background. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, but this didn’t knock me back. I managed to get a temporary role through an agency in the quality team at Tesco HQ, where I was quickly made permanent. I was over the moon!

What’s the best part about working for Tesco?

The people and the culture are what keep me going and push me to be successful. I have such a big responsibility in my role, and the trust I get from my boss and technical team make it all worthwhile.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about working for a big retailer?

 I get a lot of customer queries on the way we treat our animals, but the time and effort we put into ensuring the highest standards really is something else.

I don’t think people realise how much work goes on behind the scenes to get a product to launch in our stores. Tesco have been hit really hard over the past few years across the media. I get a lot of customer queries on the way we treat our animals throughout the supply chain, but the time and effort we put into ensuring the highest standards really is something else. Customers can be unaware of how much Tesco cares, but I feel as a business we are starting to showcase this more.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into a career in grocery?

If you are really into your food and have a relevant degree in food science, I would 100% recommend you look at pursuing a role within the food industry. Even after just under four years within the industry, I know it is where I want to stay. There are so many opportunities as well, especially working for a major retailer like Tesco. If there is a role you may not be keen on, I guarantee you will find the perfect role somewhere else within the business.

What’s your ultimate career dream?

I always struggle with questions like this, not because I am not ambitious or want to be successful, but because long as I remain in the food industry working my way up and learning about new categories and different supply bases, I know I will be happy.

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